Tuesday, September 11, 2012

New Web Index - Sweden, US, UK tops

The World Wide Web Foundation has released a major study of global Internet use.  The million-dollar study, funded by Google, used surveys and existing data from 61 countries around the world. 
The study evaluated countries' performance in three broad areas - Infrastructure, Content and Use, and political, economic, and social impact.  The study's being touted as an "unprecedented look at how Internet use and effectiveness vary across the globe."

  Sweden came out on top of the overall rankings, finishing among the top five in almost every measure (the exceptions were in Web Content and Use, due largely to the small amount of Web content in Swedish).  The U.S. dominated the Institutional Infrastructure and Content categories, but trailed a number of Northern European countries in terms of citizen use.  The U.K.'s performance largely mirrored that of the U.S., but with slightly lower rankings.
  The report found a strong correlation between Web Index rank and gross domestic product (GDP) per capita - no surprise there, as GDP is historically found to correlate with telecommunication and media measures.  Looking further, the study found strong GDP correlations with Infrastructure and use,  but only weak links with respect to impact and effectiveness.  That might be a reflection of how impact and effectiveness is measured by the study, which seems to hold up the concept of a collaborative, open, Web as the ideal that measures are compared to.
In the report, (Tim) Berners-Lee explicitly criticizes Internet use that violates open tenets: "When people go on social networking sites today, they often connect with … people who aren't very different from themselves. As a result, they can unknowingly demonize other cultures without even being aware of their own inhumanity."
The Foundation, in releasing the report, acknowledged that the data it relied on was sometimes incomplete, and that measures and methods may change in the future as the Web continues to evolve. It also hopes that this study, as well as future updates, can provide background data and insights that could inform current and future policy debates about the structure and operation of the Internet.

  As there are local and international political moves challenging the Internet's historic open and collaborative structure, I hope the Foundation's successful.  Regretably, I think that most of the current movements towards formalizing and revising Internet structures and operations are driven more by states seeking greater political power and control, rather than concerns over the social and economic benefits of an open Web.

Sources -  Sweden, U.S., U.K. Top First-Ever Web Index, Information Week
Web Index 2012 report, World Wide Web Foundation

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