The U.S. still ranks first in the IT industry competitiveness index, but the lack of a broadband infrastructure and tightened immigration policies could threaten its lead, according to an annual studysponsored by the Business Software Alliance (BSA).
Finland, Sweden, Canada, the Netherlands, the U.K., Australia, Denmark, Singapore and Norway follow the U.S. as the 10 most competitive nations in the IT field.
The study takes into account factors such as supply of skilled workers, technology infrastructure, intellectual-property protection and a government that promotes technology and allows market forces to work.
Some things could be improved on an international scale. For example, in Asia IT training would benefit from greater investment in business studies and language skills. Governments in Europe and North America must work with companies to encourage more young people to choose mathematics and science-based subjects at universities, according to the BSA.
Also, protectionist instincts only prevent more innovative IT firms from being able to compete, and can cause long term harm, it said.
Several reasons helped the U.S. come out on top, including a large pool of qualified IT workers, a good research and development (R&D) environment and a strong legal system, according to Denis McCauley, director of global technology research at the Economist Intelligence Unit, which conducted the study.
But there are areas that could be improved. The U.S. dropped from second to seventh place in the infrastructure category because some parts of the country need better access to high-speed networks, the BSA said.
U.S. competitiveness could also be improved by easing immigration restrictions, according to the BSA.
Finland and the Netherlands made good progress compared to last year's study. Finland's approach to R&D, the study's most important category, helped it move from 13th to second place. An improved broadband infrastructure helped the Netherlands jump five places to the fifth spot.