Today, the World Economic Forum has launched The Global Information Technology Report 2008-2009. The report, sponsored by Cisco and produced jointly by the World Economic Forum and INSEAD, provides an excellent opportunity to take stock of where countries stand in this race to harness the potential of Information Communications Technology (ICT) in general and broadband in particular, which forms the foundation of a nations knowledge economy.One element of the report that generates a lot of interest, is the Networked Readiness Index (NRI) league table, which examines how prepared countries are to use ICT effectively. This year, Denmark and Sweden once again lead the rankings and are followed by the United States which is up one position to number 3. Singapore (4), Switzerland (5) and the other Nordic countries together with the Netherlands and Canada complete the top 10. While the changes in the rankings are eye-catching, the report is particularly interesting because it contains information, which can help countries assess the stage of ICT development and chart a course forward to take advantage of ICT to improve their competitiveness and welfare.What’s clear is that countries with solid ICT foundations (both infrastructure investment and effective government policies) have made big advances in broadband penetration. Leading countries have particular strengths underpinning their excellence, such as a focus on education, a supportive business climate and a stable geopolitical context. It’s important for all countries to couple their investment in broadband infrastructure with a concerted effort to create the right environment (economically, socially and politically) in order to gain the maximum benefit from ICT. It’s interesting to note that connectivity is not solely determined by income levels – good quality broadband connectivity can make it possible for lower-income countries to ‘leapfrog’ the wealthier nations in ICT development and start benefiting from improved connectivity. Ubiquitous, high-speed Internet connectivity opens the door to the enormous possibilities enabled by Internet communications, which can help grow economies and improve the lives of citizens. Countries, cities and corporations that understand the power of quality broadband networks and seize the moment to drive penetration will see their competitiveness improved immediately and sustainably.Cisco has contributed a chapter to the report that provides analysis and commentary on the results, including a ‘typology’ of Internet stages, a map to place countries’ IT development in perspective and a framework for developing ‘net strategies’. The ‘net strategies’ consist of six areas that we believe countries should focus on to enable rapid spread of quality broadband networks. The stages and ICT Map underscore the importance of balancing infrastructure investments with improvements in the ‘ecosystem’ (notably ICT policies and market regulation) in order for countries to improve their ability to harness the power of ICT. For more information, please visit: http://www.weforum.org/gitr.