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Saturday, March 31, 2007

You're Only Stealing from Yourselves, Russians

The Moscow Times reports that the chickens of Russian contempt for legality in general and copyright law in particular are coming home to roost:

The low level of intellectual and other property rights protection in information and communication technologies is holding Russia back compared with many ex-communist countries, Global Information Technology said in a new report.

The report, covering 122 countries, ranks Russia 70th in its assessment of "the impact of information and communication technology, or ICT, on the development process and the competitiveness of nations for the year 2006-2007."

Russia rose two places from last year, when it placed 72nd, partly due to its high capacity for innovation and more widespread Internet use by business.

The authors of the report, which was released Wednesday, define the rating criteria as the degree to which a country is prepared to participate in and benefit from information and communication technology.

Despite a series of official pronouncements about Russia's quantum leap in the IT industry, the country fared relatively poorly next to some other former Soviet countries, especially the Baltic states. Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, the Slovak Republic, Hungary, Slovenia, Poland and Romania all placed ahead of Russia.

Estonia, which ranked 20th, stands out for the impressive progress realized in the space of a decade in networked readiness as well as general competitiveness, driven by an efficient government ICT vision and strategy, the report said.

For the first time, Denmark topped the rankings, followed by Sweden and Singapore.

The report's authors ranked countries based on 67 criteria, which were divided into three components -- environment, readiness and usage.

Russia placed 82nd in terms of its market and political, regulatory and infrastructure landscape; 75th in openness toward new technologies; and 73rd in usage rates. The report shows that Russia's IT industry suffers from a high level of government regulation and limits on press freedom, and that it spends little on staff training.

Russia scores relatively well in the quality of its math and science education and the amounts businesses are prepared to spend on research and development. It also performs well in the time that it takes to enforce a business contract, clinching a surprising fifth place in a country known for bureaucratic delays.

Recent government efforts to boost and diversify the economy are reflected in the report, with the country ranking 50th and 60th in an e-government readiness index and e-participation respectively. The report went on to chide the government for assigning ICT a back seat in its vision of the future, however.

Physical infrastructure also registers some improvement, with both telephone lines and electricity production receiving a boost. The country still lags behind in the availability of telephone lines, where it is ranked 90th, while its high-speed and public Internet access leaves much to be desired, the report said.

One conspicuous drawback of the latest report, however, is the absence of up-to-date data on Russia's ICT infrastructure. The data on phone lines, electricity production and the tertiary environment are two to three years old, making the overall assessment incomplete.

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