The Web Index (PDF), compiled by Tim Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web Foundation, reviews the impact of the Internet in 61 countries and makes use of 85 indicators to determine just how much the Web affects a country. The index also deals with factors such as Internet access and infrastructure.
Indicators are grouped into three sub-categories: Web content and Web use scores; communications and institutional infrastructure scores; and political, economic and social impact scores.
Viewing the Internet as an “accelerator of development,” the World Wide Web Foundation essentially wants to address the gap between those countries that move faster in Internet infrastructure and those that struggle.
“We hope that the Index will help deepen and broaden our understanding of the impact of this most powerful tool on humanity,” says the study.
The study used two different types of data in compiling the results: existing data from other data providers and new data compiled with a multi-country questionnaire. Sources of data included the CIA factbook, the World Bank, the World Economic Forum, and the International Energy Agency.
Of the 61 countries in the Index, Sweden leads the way. Sweden tops the list for the overall impact of the Web, but it is only 12th in terms of the “use and breadth of the Web.” According to the Index’s data, 91 percent of Swedes use the Internet.
The United States is second, although it has somewhat lower rankings for political, economic and social impact scores. In infrastructure, the U.S. is also ranked lower. Interestingly, the research indicates that Americans have a lower percentage of households with computers than other industrialized nations like Canada, Japan, Norway, and Ireland.
In third place is the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom has a higher proportion of households with computers and boasts a faster average of Internet speeds than the United States.
Canada “slightly outpaces” the United Kingdom in overall impact of the Internet, primarily in terms of its social impact. In terms of Web use and Web content, Canada is in third place overall – ahead of Index-leading Sweden. In terms of infrastructure, Canada predictably sits below the Index’s top 10. Canadians have comparatively slower Internet speeds and comparatively low mobile phone subscriptions per capita.
Rounding out the top five is Finland, renowned for the high quality of its communications and institutional infrastructure.
Indexes like this can illuminate our telecommunications shortcomings so that progress can be made. In the midst of Canada’s oligopoly, however, it can be hard to imagine things improving much on some sub-indexes. With sustained lack of competition and the consequential lack of choice for consumers, one has to imagine that Canada’s World Wide Web access limitations will persist indefinitely.