I want to point everyone toward a couple of March stories that haven’t gotten the attention they deserve. First up is the 2004-5 Global Information Technology Report from the World Economic Forum (WEF), a nongovernmental organization that works closely with the United Nations. The highlight is that, for the first time ever, the United States is not the world’s leader when it comes to exploiting information and communication technology development, which the WEF measures through a variety of criteria including quality of math and science education, government prioritization of information technology, and affordability of Internet access. We’ve dropped to number five. The top four are hardly a who’s who of economic powerhouses. Singapore tops the list, followed by Iceland, Finland and Denmark. Japan is eight, England 12, India 39 and China 41. What’s more, the press release that accompanies the report (you need to pay for the report itself) qualifies its own finding:
However, the loss in rank is less due to actual erosion in performance with respect to its past history and more to continuing improvements by its competitors. The United States maintains global leadership in the business readiness component of the rankings as well as in variables such as the quality of its scientific research institutions and business schools—which have no peer in the world—and the availability of training opportunities for the labor force as well as the existence of a well-developed venture capital market, which has spurred innovation.
Caveats aside, it is hard to feel good about this, especially in the context of slashed federal research budgets, the outsourcing of corporate R&D, and all the other issues that dominated this space last month. So yes, while we may not be moving backwards, we aren’t moving forwards either.
The second story won’t surprise regular visitors to this space either. The President’s Information Technology Advisory Committee (PITAC) just released a report on the state of cybersecurity and it has the word crisis in the title, which is never a good sign. Cyber Security: A Crisis of Prioritization, which PITAC took more than a year to prepare, says that “Fundamentally different architectures and technologies are needed so that the IT infrastructure as a whole can become secure.” It goes on to say that there is virtually no long term research being conducted to try to find these technologies. (Watch for my article on this in the April 15 issue of CIO magazine.) Anyway, Peter Harsha at Computer Research Association is all over this in his blog, and he pulled this quote from a recent NY Times article (registration required) that I’ll include here too:
“The federal government is largely failing in its responsibility to protect the nation from cyberthreats,” said Edward D. Lazowska, chairman of the computer science and engineering department at the University of Washington and co-chairman of [PITAC]. “The Department of Homeland Security simply doesn’t ’get’ cybersecurity. They are allocating less than 2 percent of their science and technology budget to cybersecurity, and only a small proportion of this is forward-looking.”
Peter knows a lot more about this stuff than I do so go read his blog.