The United States is a veritable slacker when it comes to the adoption and use of new technologies.
Those are some of the findings of a study from the World Economic Forum. It looked at 138 countries that comprise 38.8 percent of world GDP, using indicators ranging from patents to access to business telephone lines.
The US came in at an underwhelming number five. Number one was Sweden. Singapore, Finland and Switzerland also led the pack.
The top 20 also included Taiwan, South Korea and Hong Kong. As for China, it was 36th; India ranked 48th.
The biggest laggards: Burundi and Chad.
Why the unimpressive score? The US ranked low in a number of key areas, including mobile phone subscriptions (76) and percentage of homes with a computer (48).
The ranking has major implications. According to the World Economic Forum, it's technology that holds the key to competitiveness and innovation. So coming in at just fifth place-not even winning the bronze-doesn't bode well for the future.
But it doesn't have to be that way. The report makes clear that two key factors in raising a country's adoption and use of technology are the level of the educational system and government efforts to support technology. For example, Indonesia soared to 53rd place, thanks to those factors. And the report also suggests that the US should take an active role in the development of broadband.
Certainly it's ludicrous that the home of Google-Google!--ranks behind Sweden and Finland in technological adoption. And it seems to be one of those cases where government moves to support innovation and adoption of important technologies-and to provide incentives to boost math and science education-are what's needed. Probably not a popular philosophy among many quarters these days, but that doesn't make it any less urgent.