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Home > Nanotechnology Columns > Pearl Chin-Seraphimaventures.com > "US 'no longer technology king' "…Really? Sort of…Kinda….Maybe.

Pearl Chin
Managing Director
Seraphima Ventures

Abstract:
In this article we offer an example of why due diligence is important regarding widely available public information and news even from widely regarded trusted sources of news information. In particular, we look at a recent BBC article that reports that the U.S. leadership position in technology in the world has fallen significantly and how Europe seems to have taken the lead based on a newly available report put out by the World Economic Forum.

April 20th, 2007

"US 'no longer technology king' "…Really? Sort of…Kinda….Maybe.

Actually, contrary to what the title implies, this article is actually more of a follow-up article about the importance of due diligence.

A March 29, 2007 article by the BBC says that according to the World Economic Forum, the United States (US) has lost its position as the world's primary engine of technology innovation. The US dropped from first (1st) place to seventh (7th) on the measured impact of technology on the development of nations. The BBC article said that Denmark is now regarded as the world leader in technological advancement, with its Nordic country neighbors Sweden, Finland and Norway claiming second (2nd), fourth (4th) and tenth (10th) place respectively. "Countries were judged on the integration of technology in business, the infrastructure available, government policy favourable for fostering a culture of innovation and progress and leadership in promoting the usage of the latest information technology tools." "A deterioration of the political and regulatory environment in the US prompted the fall".

This seems to be the first indication of what many Americans have feared possible about the U.S. losing their reputation and position as leaders in technology and technological innovation. I could almost envision the panic among my fellow Americans. From a technology and nanotechnology investment perspective, this could confirm that there may be more cutting-edge research and technologies outside of the U.S.

The BBC article does make it sound that from this particular report , the U.S. has pretty much fallen apart in terms of technology as a whole, which would include bio- and nanotechnology, compared to the rest of the world but given brownie points for effort still for maintaining a strong focus on innovation. As much as I respect the BBC, they are still part of the media world and much of what is written by the media should often be taken with a grain of salt. I thought it sounded a bit too cut and dry, so I decided to take some of my own advice and do a little due diligence on the matter.

First of all, I went to the World Economic Forum (WEF) website (www.weforum.org) to try to find their original press release and report. Since there was no mention in the BBC article about which specific report was referenced, the search was rather difficult because WEF does so many reports. I spent at least 10 min going through the WEF site to find the web page on the report, at which point I almost gave up, thinking the BBC had made the whole thing up. I realize that most people would have given up at 30 sec. Just maneuvering around the site was not that easy and I found it by accident and realized that if I had typed in "Networked Readiness Index", the report would have shown up second on the search list. However, still not knowing the name of the actual report, it was still not clear if I had hit pay dirt until I investigated further. Finally, I found the web page for the report to which the BBC article was referring. Also the press release for that day was for some reason neither on their list of ‘Latest Press Releases' nor the ‘All Press Releases' pages which seems to have been an oversight on the part of the web page manager. Funnily enough, from the report web page, I managed to pull up the missing press release. The web pages are listed at the end of the article so you can compare for yourself. However, the link for that press release is still missing from its list.

I then started to read the WEF press release and realized there may have been a misunderstanding, so I checked to make sure the BBC article and the press release were talking about the same report. The WEF press release describes a report on Denmark's new lead position in a WEF report called "The Global Information Technology Report 2006-2007". Technology in a broad sense as used in the BBC article is not the same as Information Technology. I checked to make sure I had not mixed up the reports with the WEF's "Global Competitiveness Report 2006-2007" which I also found that sounded similar but was released in September 26, 2006 and where Switzerland, not Denmark, was first (1st) had the U.S. dropping from first (1st) to sixth (6th) rather than to seventh (7th). This other report takes into consideration all technologies (not just IT/ICT) in addition to productivity and other key factors of the country's economy being evaluated. It also said the US is falling behind with regard to its economic strength and ability to grow. Hence, there was no mix-up on my part although this other set of WEF country rankings were distressing as well.

In addition, the author of the BBC article for some reason did not decide to differentiate between the terms technology and information technology (IT) or similarly information communication technology (ICT) in its article, not mentioning directly the latter two terms in the article. This may have been an oversight and also technology and IT/ICT are often confused by non-technical people to be the same thing. There may be some argument that the Networked Readiness Index (NRI) does imply information technology because of the word "networks" but IT/ICT is only a subset of technology in general.

As you can see, it is just by chance that this time the BBC article is only accurate by accident. The article is vague leaving out relevant information possibly in an effort to create controversy or was just sloppy work or just a mistake. If deliberately vague and they had reviewed the correct report, they would not have had to go to such lengths to be selective about what information to put forth to make a certain point. BBC is a trusted source of information and reports should be cited even if the article is short.

All speculation aside about the why and how of these omissions, this example further demonstrates that just because news and claims are printed or publicized in any media, does not make it anymore credible than news that is not publicized. This also applies to all statements and information, required or not, put out by businesses via marketing press releases or even financial information filed with the SEC as the information need not be approved by the SEC themselves before being filed. This also includes all business information widely available to the general public online. Business decisions should not rely on public statements and due diligence needs to be done to confirm any such claims. Just because information seems to be coming from a trusted and reliable source, does not mean it's true or accurate. Everyone does their best but we all make mistakes and there are not enough checks and balances.

Due diligence has a lot to do with trusting your own antennae and does not have to be complicated. Sometimes conducting due diligence is as simple as confirming claims this way or just picking up the phone and calling an expert you trust. Other times, it can get more complicated. Typically the more money that is involved, the more or more deeper due diligence is required but not always.

However, this BBC article is still a warning shot across the U.S. technology bow and should be heeded if this position is valued. Technology knows no boundaries. The days when the US dominated technology innovation through the power of its industrial and financial might, is passing. The growth of the global economy and the ease of communication through the internet have made the world a smaller place, and technology does not respect geographical boundaries. The U.S. position in technology and in general is falling as perceived by the rest of the world and will continue to be a problem if we do not do something about it now. As a result, most of the interesting nanotechnology investment opportunities may or will end up outside of the U.S. Case in point, even as an American, both my current cell phones are Nokia (and no, Nokia did not pay me any money to mention this.) If this is important to you, then you should contact your local Congressmen/women about ensuring that the US has the right regulatory and political environment to regain their position.

WEF "The Global Information Technology Report 2006-2007" can be found at http://www.weforum.org/en/initiatives/gcp/Global%20Information%20Technology%20Report/index.htm

WEF "Global Competitiveness Report 2006-2007" can be found at:
http://www.weforum.org/en/initiatives/gcp/Global%20Competitiveness%20Report/index.htm

WEF "The Global Information Technology Report 2006-2007" press release can be found at:

http://www.weforum.org/en/media/Latest%20Press%20Releases/gitr_2007_press_release

The short BBC article in question for the reader's convenience can be found at
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/6502725.stm

© 2007 Pearl Chin - All rights reserved.

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