All of the data was then put through the model - which weights different elements - to come up with the final scores.
What was the result?
In first place was Sweden, followed by the US, UK, Canada and Finland in that order. But taking into account margins of error, the four after Sweden are really not much different from each other. At the bottom, were Yemen, Zimbabwe, Burkina Faso, Benin and Ethiopia.
What does it mean to be the top country or even the bottom country?
That is the question isn’t it? The idea is that if you are at the top, then the people in that country are - according to this index - getting the most value from the web. And at the bottom they are getting the least value. The index is a tool for leaders and policy makers so that they can use the web much more effectively to improve people’s lives, be it economic, social or political. For example, a policy maker sitting in Iceland or Italy may look at Sweden’s ranking and ask why does the web seem to serve the people of Sweden apparently better than it does their own people... and therefore what can we do about it to make our citizens better served by the web?. They can zoom into the indicators and see how they can change their country’s performance. Similarly, Ghana might ask why Kenya ranks higher than it does. The lower you are in the rankings, the more indicators you may want to change to affect the lives of the people in that country.
Some people may look at the index and see countries like China in 29th place ranking higher than they might expect, and countries like Japan and Korea [in 20th and 13th places respectively] ranking lower than you might expect. Can you explain this?
The web index is an average number calculated from lots of underlying indicators. A country could therefore do relatively well in one or more area, say economic impact, but relatively poorly in other areas, say political impact. So, on average, it will score not so badly, but not so well either. In fact, China scores relatively poorly in the political and institutional components, but middling in all other areas. Hence, overall, on average, it ranks in the middle. Also, we need to keep in mind that rankings are always relative to how other countries are doing. They do not just reflect that country's own performance, but its performance relative to how the others are doing.
Why were there only 61 countries included?
One of the reasons was getting consistent and comparable data. But to be honest, we were also limited on resources. Google kindly gave us the initial seed funding, but it is expensive to do this kind of thing, particularly collecting your own data. And so we ended up being able to choose close to 65 but we had to leave out a couple because we weren’t too happy with the results. We had to get a spread of countries across the different continents. So it wasn’t an active decision for instance to leave out Denmark or Saudi Arabia. We just needed to make a decision given the resources and the time limitations we had.
The whole thing is framed in a very positive way, as if the web only has positive impacts. But there are also negative effects, like cybercrime and censorship. Did you take these into account?
The negative impacts are a very important aspect to include. The problem was that there is so little data. There is anecdote and sometimes there is country specific data, but, as far as we could see, there hasn’t been much work done on that. For example, to what extent has criminal activity increased as a result of the web? We could not actually find any data for a large enough country sample for multiple years to be included. So, all we could do was put in a few questions in our own data survey. We have two questions – basically to what extent do you think that the web is making it easier to undertake criminal activities in your country and then the other side which is: are there laws against cybercrime in your country. So in answering that question, any expert needs to consider: do those laws exist and how effectively are they implemented.