Friday, March 11, 2005

Singapore tops list for technology usage

IHT: "Singapore is the world's most efficient user of information technology, the World Economic Forum found in a study published Wednesday, just beating three of the Nordic countries to the top spot in a ranking of 104 nations. The United States, which had topped the poll since it began three years ago, fell to fifth place.

The Global Information Technology Report assigned countries scores by looking at how well positioned they were to take advantage of information technology to develop their economies. Singapore, a Southeast Asian island state with a population of four million, ranked first in a number of categories, including quality of math and science education, affordability of telephones, and the government's efforts to promote information technology.

Singapore came in second over all last year. Singapore, whose tightly controlled government offered tax concessions in the 1970s to attract investment in high-technology industries, is viewed as a model by many developing nations.

Iceland, Finland, and Denmark followed closely behind Singapore, underlining the Nordic countries' strong tradition of innovation in technology, the study said. The region, home to mobile telephone giants like Nokia and Ericsson, often beats larger European nations in terms of number of U.S. patents filed per million of population, which is a barometer of innovation, it added.

Germany, the largest European economy, placed 14th in the study, underlining a need for improvement ahead of the CeBIT technology trade fair, which began Wednesday in Hannover. Of the non-Nordic European countries, Germany was beaten by Britain and Switzerland. Estonia was the top Eastern European country, in 25th place.

Other Asian jurisdictions also did well: Hong Kong, a rival to Singapore in the financial, shipping, and technology sectors, moved up to seventh position from 18th last year. Japan was ranked eighth, and Taiwan, which is the base for some of the world's largest technology manufacturers, was 15th.

China, which is the world's fastest-growing economy, jumped 10 places to 41st, just behind India, at 39. Latin American and African countries filled most of the bottom positions, with Chad in last place.

The number of patents filed under an accord that lets companies apply simultaneously in as many as 126 countries reached a new record last year, with sharp increases from Japan, South Korea and China, a senior UN official said Wednesday, The Associated Press reported from Geneva.

Some 120,100 patents were filed last year under the Patent Cooperation Treaty, said Francis Gurry, deputy director general of the World Intellectual Property Organization.

Patent filings through the organization, known as WIPO, have been rising steadily since the treaty system began in 1978, with a total of one million applications since then. In 2003, there were 115,142 filings. The United States consistently dominates the applications.

Last year, U.S. firms filed for 41,870 patents, up 1.9 percent from 2003. Japan held its second place with 19,982, a rise of 15 percent, followed by Germany, France and Britain. South Korean firms posted a 19.3 percent increase, filing a total of 3,521 patents.

The most impressive growth, however, came from China, where patent filings rose 37.8 percent to 1,782, Gurry said. Although this represents a tiny slice of total global applications - and of the 250,000 domestic patents filed in China last year - it is a clear sign that Chinese companies are going global, he said."

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