In the study, known as the IDC/World Times Information Society Index (ISI), the US slipped from second place in last year's index to fourth this year, allowing two more Nordic countries, Norway and Finland, to take the second and third spots. Denmark, the UK, Switzerland, Australia, Singapore and the Netherlands filled out the top 10.
The ISI ranks countries according to their ability to access and absorb information and information technology. The index tracks data from 55 countries that collectively account for 97 per cent of the global GDP (Gross Domestic Product) and 99 per cent of IT expenditure.
The rating is based on four infrastructure categories: computer, information, Internet, and social infrastructures. The weighting given to a country's Internet infrastructure has increased this year, as the Internet had almost 100 million new users in 2000, IDC said.
This weighed against the US, whose Internet infrastructure was rated 10th in the world. The top three countries in this category, based mostly on numbers of Internet users per head of population, were Sweden, Singapore, and Australia. A relatively high proportion of US citizens still do not have Internet access, and this is dragging down the country's total ISI rating, according to IDC.
The US has the highest score in the computer infrastructure category, followed by Singapore and Australia. Computer infrastructure measurements are based on computer shipments, numbers of installed computers and hardware and software spending.
The countries with the strongest information infrastructure are Taiwan, the Netherlands, and Denmark. Information infrastructure is a measure of factors such as radio, TV, fax and cell phone ownership, cost of a phone call and phone network error rates.
Norway, Hong Kong, and Japan have the strongest social infrastructure. The social infrastructure category measures civil liberties, newspaper readership per capita, press freedom and secondary and tertiary school enrolment.
As the Internet moves away from a PC-centric model, countries that are advanced in other access methods, particularly mobile phones, will begin to improve their ISI rankings, according to IDC.
The UK improved its ISI ranking from 12th in 2000 to sixth this year, largely on the strength of its rapid cellular phone adoption. South Korea and Malaysia also got a boost from their cellular phone use, IDC said.