شکاف دیجیتالی: درک اقتصاد از فن آوری اطلاعات و ارتباطات نوین در اقتصاد جهانی
|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||تعداد صفحات مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی|
|16436||2003||27 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید|
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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Information Economics and Policy, Volume 15, Issue 2, June 2003, Pages 173–199
The digital revolution is engendering a global digital divide because of composition effects. Composition effects stem from the interaction between the direction of technological change and relative factors prices and are necessary to understand the comparative economics of new information and communication technology in the global economy. A comparative approach makes it possible to assessing the gaps among countries in their ability to take advantage of the new technologies, in terms of profitability of adoption and their impact on total factor productivity growth and global markets shares.
The digital revolution is engendering a global digital divide. It is more and more evident that the introduction of new information and communication technology (ICT) in the global economy parallels widening and ever increasing asymmetries among countries and even regions within countries. Such a new gap is worth a detailed analysis, which the tools elaborated in this work, might help. ICT can be portrayed as a locally neutral general purpose technology, which consists both of a radical shift in the production functions of a large array of goods and a significant bias, at least for adopting countries. ICT in fact can be stylised as a non-neutral, capital and skilled labour intensive technology for most countries. Clearly it is a technology which exhibits significant bias effects when applied outside of the original context of first introduction and implementation, the US (David, 2001; Jorgenson, 2001; Quah, 2001; Brynolfsson and Kahin, 2001). Much attention has been given in the economics of innovation tradition of analysis to the rate of technological change. Much less analysis has been focused upon the direction of the new technologies being introduced and to the structural characteristics of the economic systems into which the new technologies are being introduced. As a matter of fact the direction of technological change and the context of introduction interact in many ways and affect in depth the actual effects of technological change. When technological change is biased, the context of introduction plays a key role in assessing the effects in terms of total factor productivity growth. When a new technology is biased, in that it favors the more intensive use of a production factor, the effects in terms of productivity growth will be stronger, the more abundant and hence less expensive the production factor. This dynamics has major effects, in terms of emerging asymmetries among firms and regions in the global competitive arena. Such asymmetric effects are reinforced and amplified by the dynamics of relative prices. When, with a given biased technology, relative factors prices, as distinct from absolute factor costs levels, change, average costs also change. Specifically all reductions in the costs of the most productive factor have direct effects in terms of a reduction of the production costs. Such changes in production costs, even if are not accounted by total factor productivity measures, have powerful effects upon the competitive advantage on global markets of rival firms based in heterogeneous factors markets. Much current analysis of the effects of the new wave of technological change seems to miss the necessary systemic understanding of the structural characteristics of the economic system into which the new technologies are being introduced. More generally, too much attention has been paid to assessing the effects of the rates of technological change. Too little analysis instead, has been devoted to understanding the effects of the direction of technological change. Even more obscured has remained the issue of the interactions between the rate and the direction of technological change in a dynamic and complex context, one where factors costs are allowed to change in time and in space (Antonelli, 1995, 1999). Such omissions are especially negative for the economic analysis of the effects of a new technology when it has all the characteristics of a general purpose technology: that is a technology with a large scope of adoption and application, with high levels of pervasivity and fungibility. The pervasivity of ICT is high because of fungibility. Applications of this general technology can be found in almost all economic activities. The applications of ICT engender a systematic growth of total factor productivity and reduction in costs with respect to a great variety of regions and products. Its scope of profitable application is confirmed in a great variety of products and factors markets. ICT is a superior technology worldwide in a great array of products and factors markets. The extent to which this new technology is superior and its consequences in terms of productivity growth however vary across regions according to their endowments and relative prices. The global character of ICT and its worldwide and horizontal scope of application makes the analysis of the interactions between the structure of the economic systems and the direction of technological change all the more relevant. Here in fact the relevance of an analytical framework able to assess the chain of interactions between the global scope of application of a single technology, characterized by well specific characteristics in terms of the marginal productivity of the basic production factors, the variety of specific factors markets where adoption is nevertheless profitable, and the single competitive arena for the products manufactured and delivered with the new single process technology, finds a compelling evidence of application. When such an approach is elaborated, the strong effects of the international diffusion of a global and horizontal, general purpose technology, such as ICT, as a causal factor of major asymmetries among countries, and hierarchical stratification of the productivity levels across the world, can be fully appreciated. This is the end result of the composition effects: the consequences of the variety of relative prices of production factors upon the distribution of the actual levels of total factor productivity effects of a given and single new technology, with a wide spectrum of application, according its bias. The (mis)matching between the local system of relative factor prices and the composition of the marginal productivity of the production factors has powerful consequences on the actual effects of the introduction of a new technology. Like previous radical technologies, such as the railway, the dynamo, the fordist mass production system and the plastics and the petrochemical industry at large, ICT is the result of a bundle of both product and process innovations which apply to a wide variety of activities and reflect the characteristics of the innovating countries and emphasize their structural characteristics. Their international diffusion is pushed worldwide by their strong effects in terms of profitability of adoption and rates of increase of total factor productivity. The consequences of their adoption, however, are far from homogenous across countries. The actual rates of increase of total factor productivity differ systematically across regions and countries, according to their idiosyncratic characteristics and the specificity of their endowments, with respect to the characteristics of the innovating countries (Freeman and Louca, 2001). Sections 2 and 3 of the work provide a systematic analysis of composition effects, i.e. the effects of the direction of technological change and of relative factors prices on the actual rates of total factor productivity growth and on average production costs. Section 4 applies this analytical framework to the case of ICT and elaborates the understanding of the digital divide. The conclusions summarize the results.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
The general characteristics of ICT are the results of a long standing process of sequential introduction of systemic innovations, guided by relevant complementarities and interdependencies, mainly elaborated in the US in the last decades of the XX century. As such new information technology reflects the idiosyncratic endowments of the US economy in many respects. This is true both at the aggregate level in terms of abstract input intensities and more specifically at far more disaggregate levels in the fabric of specific applications which have been elaborated in the vertical systems of relations among different fields of application, that is different industries and firms. The introduction of ICT has made it possible a substantial increase of total factor productivity levels in the US, far stronger than that of direct competitors because of the appropriate structure of relative prices. The further reduction in relative prices of most productive inputs obtained in the US economy through the nineties has had further strong effects in terms of competitive advantages based upon the general efficiency of the production process and the even higher differentials of productivity growth of the following sequential wave of incremental innovations characterized by a similar structure of output elasticitites. After the oil shocks of the seventies and eighties and years of stagnation in the total factor productivity levels the US have in fact experienced a significant increase in the last decade of the XX century. At the same time the relative decline of the US economy in the international markets has been contrasted. US based firms regained significant competitive advantage and huge flows of foreign direct investments have been attracted by the US economy. The notion of composition effects, the distinction between shift and bias effects in understanding technological change and the analysis of the effects of relative prices upon production costs can provide here important insights to grasp the foundations of the economics of the vitality of the US economy both in absolute and relative terms. ICT exhibits a strong bias not only in favour of university-based human capital and specific forms of fixed capital, consisting of telecommunications infrastructure, but also an array of intermediary products and especially services which have been sequentially introduced in the US with successful results. At the same time, the general shift effects made possible by the adoption and adaptation of ICT are such that almost no country or specific region can resist the new technological opportunity. Adoption, as a consequence, is widespread and diffusion rates are relatively fast with respect to other previous important technologies. The shift effects provide large opportunities for catching-up: laggards and backward countries can take advantage of the new highly productive technologies reducing the gaps with most advanced countries. The bias effects however, built into ICT, are such that important differences in actual total factor productivity levels resist over time, because of the differences in the structure of relative prices in imitating countries. The significant requirements in terms of infrastructure and skills act as a major source of barriers to imitation and to entry for most developing countries. Relevant features of the US economy in this respect are a relatively large endowment of academically skilled human capital, a large infrastructure of advanced telecommunication infrastructure, a large and competitive supply of advanced telecommunications services and software (Madden and Savage, 2001). High levels of variance characterise most countries in the rest of the world both between and within, that is with respect to the US and among themselves, in terms of key relative prices such as the costs and the quality for telecommunications services, software products and most importantly the relative wages of skilled manpower with specific competence in ICT. The new gaps in international productivity levels and the increased competitive advantage, as experienced by the US economy in the 1990s, can be explained substantially in terms not only of a sheer advantage based upon lead time in the introduction of a new technology, but also and mainly upon the widening gap between actual and potential productivity growth, determined by the specific bias of the ICT and the sharp difference, with respect to the US, of most competitors in terms of relative prices of key intermediary inputs, human capital and capital goods. This hypothesis suggests that the shift effect can be compensated by the imitative adoption of followers in the short term and as such cannot provide but a transient competitive advantage to the US economy. The differences in the structure of relative prices, associated with the bias for adopters of the new technology, instead do provide a major scope for a long lasting competitive advantage for the innovating economy. Only a major effort of followers not only to adopt, but to adapt ICT to their structure of skills and endowments can reduce such a widening gap. The introduction of localized technological innovations which build up the competence and experience accumulated in learning by doing and learning by using the techniques in place, reduce the switching costs that are necessary to adjust to the new equilibrium techniques and make the best use of the local endowments, provides major opportunities to take advantage of the new technological system and yet contrast its ranking effects. A parallel effort to change the structure of relative prices and to favour the prices of the most productive inputs, as they stand in the technological system, may help reducing the production costs and reduce the spread between actual and potential total factor productivity growth. Because of the complexity of the new system and the tight fabric of requirements in terms of complementarity, interoperability and interdependence among the different technological components, changes in the structure of the technological system are difficult and can take place only in a long stretch of time. As such the introduction of incremental and biased technological changes in following countries in order to increase the local fitness to the domestic endowments of production factors, seems most difficult. In turn the change of the structure of relative prices seems a long lasting and complex process which can last a long time interval and requires a sophisticated and articulated long-term policy implemented by high quality policy makers. A large part of the economic history of the last years of the XX century has been shaped by the attempts of followers not only to adopt the ICT and possibly participate into the elaboration of the technological system, but also and in some cases mainly as the deliberate attempt to reduce the differences of the structure of relative prices. The array of privatization and liberation in the telecommunications industry can be considered as the most impressive process set in motion by the advent of ICT in the US and be the attempt of followers and perspective adopters to reduce the differences in relative prices of new key inputs. The specific design of the digital economy as it emerged gradually in the US in the last decades of the XX century, privileges the role of advanced telecommunications services as the backbone of the new economy. The provision of an array of dedicated, advanced and low costs communication services is a fundamental condition for the digital economy to spread into the system and for adopters to implement the sequential array of specific tailored incremental innovations which make the system more and more effective. Divestiture in 1983 and the following Telecommunications Act in 1996 are the basic institutional changes, which have paved the way towards such a process. The low prices and high quality of telecommunications services are key conditions for the technological system to keep emerging and for the economy to keep increasing total factor productivity and output growth. The Microsoft case can be considered in a similar vein an important step to reduce barriers to entry and hence market prices for essential key inputs such as software and in general data processing service and products. The international diffusion of ICT, made fast by the sheer shift effects, pushes the rest of the global economy to try and reduce the differences in the structure of relative prices with respect to the leading innovator. Privatization and liberalization of the telecommunication services industry has become through the nineties almost a prerequisite for competitors to enter the new race. The support of Universities in the provision of skilled human capital should become the basic policy tool implemented by adopters to reduce the gaps between absolute and actual total factor productivity levels. Systematic efforts of imitating countries to increase the fungibility of ICT can play an important role in this context. The introduction of contingent technologies able to implement the new higher levels of total factor productivity with a new distribution of output elasticities, more consistent and coherent with the local factors endowments can reduce the asymmetric effects of the introduction of the new general purpose technology. Such a contingent technological change can take place if firms, in now peripheral countries, are able to apply ICT to existing production processes and to existing products, so as to reduce the need to change the techniques, defined in terms of factors intensity, and yet change the technology. The focus on technological blending, based upon the high levels of fungibility of ICT can be an important contribution to elaborate both a technology strategy at the firm level and a technology policy at the country level.