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updated 3/28/2007 2:04:00 PM ET 2007-03-28T18:04:00

European countries and Singapore have surpassed the United States in their ability to exploit information and communication technology, according to a new survey.

The United States, which topped the World Economic Forum's "networked readiness index" in 2006, slipped to seventh. The study, out Wednesday, largely blamed increased political and corporate interference in the judicial system.

The index, which measures the range of factors that affect a country's ability to harness information technologies for economic competitiveness and development, also cited the United States' low rate of mobile telephone usage, a lack of government leadership in information technology and the low quality of math and science education.

But Thierry Geiger, one of the Forum's economists responsible for the 361-page report, said the U.S. market environment remains the best in the world in terms of how easy it is to set up a business, get loans and have access to market capital.

Nordic countries — traditionally strong in all surveys conducted by the Geneva-based Forum — dominated the top of the rankings. Denmark edged Sweden for the top spot, while Finland was behind in fourth.

Singapore, which topped the poll in 2005, was the top Asian nation in third. Rounding out the top 10 were Switzerland, fifth; Netherlands, sixth; Iceland, eighth; Britain, ninth; and Norway, 10th.

The report covered 122 countries, with Chad, Burundi, Angola, Ethiopia and Bangladesh at the bottom.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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