Which country is the best at putting the Web to use?
That would be Sweden, according to a new report spearheaded by Tim Berners-Lee, the guy who basically invented the World Wide Web (and who had a role in the opening ceremony of the London Olympics).
The United States came in second place on the much-anticipated study, which was published online Wednesday by the World Wide Web Foundation.
Called the Web Index, the first-of-its-kind report ranked 61 countries across seven categories, including communications infrastructure, Web use, Web content and the political, social and economic impact of the Internet in those countries.
The group, in collaboration with Oxford Economics, collected five years of data from other sources and spent a year conducting surveys to arrive at its conclusions. The report was funded in full by a $1 million grant from Google.
Yemen, the violence-plagued Middle Eastern country, ranked last on the list, behind Zimbabwe and Burkina Faso, both in Africa.
Overall, one in three people worldwide use the Internet, according to the report. But Web use is uneven. Only one in six Africans use the Web.
Sweden beat out the United States on the ranking in part because a smaller percentage of Americans are online. About three-quarters of American are Internet users, compared with about 90 percent of Sweden's population. Meanwhile, "the U.S. has a lower percentage of households with personal computers than a raft of countries, including Canada, Ireland, Japan and Norway," the report says.
The United States "also offers slower bandwidth per Internet user than a range of countries, most notably Iceland, Sweden and Singapore."
The United States is No. 1 in terms of access to Web content, which the report measures in terms of the number of Wikipedia articles in a particular language as well as "the type of data and information that is accessible on the Web in each country."
Iceland topped the list in terms of its Internet infrastructure and Web use. Nearly 96 percent of people in that country use the Internet, according to the report.
Singapore has the world's fastest Internet, and Ireland's economy benefits the most from the Web. Internet and communications-related exports accounted for 15 percent of its gross domestic product between 2007 and 2010, which the report says puts it "exponentially ahead of any other nation."
Barriers to Internet use, of course, remain.
"The Web is a global conversation. Growing suppression of free speech, both online and offline, is possibly the single biggest challenge to the future of the Web," Berners-Lee said in a statement.
He added that cost also keeps many people from accessing the Internet.
"The high price of connectivity is stopping billions of people from achieving their rights to knowledge and participation. Costs have got to come down dramatically."
Internet access, while described by the report as a luxury for many people in the world, is also increasingly seen as a human right -- a necessary tool for full participation in modern society.