The World Isn’t So Flat After All

I’ve heard a lot of librarians refer to Tom Friedman’s best-selling book The World Is Flat this year. I got about half way through it but after he said “global supply chain” for the 15 millionth time I couldn’t take it anymore. Today, the Wall Street Journal$ previewed a report by Insead that includes a “Global Innovation Index.” Not only does the United States come in first by a full point, but the next five countries on the list are Germany, the UK, Japan, France and Switzerland. According to the WSJ, the index used the following categories to rank the countries: “institutions and policies; infrastructure; human capacity; technological sophistication; business markets and capital; and a nations’ knowledge, competitiveness and wealth.”

So much for the idea that Windows, the Internet, and cell phones allows cab drivers in Shanghai to compete with countries that have had centuries to accumulate and solidify their domination over the rest of the world.

Surely, the proprietary information held in or made electronically available through a country’s academic libraries figures into the calculation for measuring “a nations’ knowledge.” Would the world be “flatter” if more of this information was available through open access or the public domain? Would humanity in general be better off? Is this a digital divide issue on a grand, global scale?

Posted by Marc Meola

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