Denmark is the best place in the world for e-commerce with its Nordic neighbours not far behind, an Economist Intelligence Unit report has found.
As the price of new technology drops, the more businesses use it
The UK ranked second this year, up from third in 2003. The US slipped to sixth.
The research company also believes that the outlook for the technology industry is better than it has been for a while.
It points to increasing global demand for mobile phones and faster internet connections, as well as cheaper and easier-to-use products and software.
All these factors are combining in many countries to make it less of a hassle for companies to use the Internet, the EIU says.
A vital ingredient in future developments, however, will be the role of governments.
TOP 10 E-READY COUNTRIES
1. Denmark (2)
2. UK (=3)
3. Sweden (1)
4. Norway (7)
5. Finland (6)
6. US (=3)
7. Singapore (12)
8. Netherlands (=3)
9. Hong Kong (10)
10. Switzerland (8)
2003 rankings in brackets
To speed things up even further, firms need to co-operate with local governments, the information and communications industry and businesses, the EIU says.
This already has happened in Nordic countries, helping push four of the region's states into the top five places in the e-readiness rankings.
What sets it apart according to the EIU "is the extent to which the Internet has reshaped business transactions".
Another boost was "the eagerness with which citizens have incorporated Internet usage into their daily routines and the extent to which (the region's) governments have driven developments".
This is also evident elsewhere in the world.
The EIU, for example, singled out Singapore as a world leader in offering broadband Internet connections, and highlighted the close links between the government and industry.
Singapore ranked seventh in the EIU's survey, posting the survey's biggest gain with a surge of five places.
The younger generations will be a key driver of Internet demand
Elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region, Hong Kong moved up one slot to ninth, while South Korea was placed at number 14.
The role of government also can prove particularly effective in so-called developing countries where infrastructure may be lacking.
The EIU identifies Mexico and Romania, respectively ranked 39th and 50th, as two countries where "proactive governments and smart businesses can use the Internet to improve services and create new opportunities".
Look at India, South Africa and Bulgaria, the EIU says, which have managed to develop what it calls "niche" industries based on software production and the outsourcing of services.
In fact, an initial lack of infrastructure can act as a catalyst for growth by prompting an immediate and rapid roll-out of new services.
In Estonia, set to join the European Union on 1 May and included in the survey for the first time this year, "the majority of Internet users are broadband subscribers and all public schools have broadband access".
Getting wired quickly can have a significant effect on growth
All the accession countries included in the survey - eight of the 10 set to join - had a "decent" infrastructure and e-business environment, the EIU said.
Ironically, the introduction of faster Internet connections seems to be benefiting the developing countries more than their better established rivals.
According to the EIU, "for most countries - particularly the top-ranked ones - the change has had a dampening effect... because broadband adoption is still very low".
The US, for example, slipped to sixth in the survey from joint third a year earlier. The Netherlands dropped to eighth, while Switzerland fell to 10th, Canada 11th and Australia 12th.
"In a digital world, new technology will constantly move the goalposts," the EIU said.
The EIU has compiled this survey since 2000 in conjunction with IBM's Institute of Business Value.