The Past, The Present, and the Future of the ICT Revolution

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					2007 School Seminar Series




   The Past, The Present, and the Future of the
    ICT Revolution: Theory, Measurement and
                      Policy
                                      Friday, 4 May 2007
                                       1.00pm – 2:00pm
                                             SG.02

                        Associate Professor Kenneth Carlaw
                         University of British Columbia, Canada

Abstract
For some decades now we have been living through a period of revolutionary change induced by
what is commonly called the information and communication (ICT) revolution. This term refers to
the economic, social and political transformations currently being driven by a cluster of
technologies centered on the electronic computer and the Internet - what we have labelled the
general purpose technology (GPT) of programmable computing networks (PCN). The economic
experience of these decades has been punctuated by two significant observations - the so called
productivity slowdown (roughly 1973 - 1995) and the bursting of the dot com bubble early in the
21st century. Many observes (mainly economists) argued that the productivity slowdown was
evidence that modern ICT was not the great technological engine of growth that electricity and
steam had been in earlier eras. And later, many observers argued that the dot com crash marked
the end of economic and social change in general and of new economic opportunities in
particular that had been generated by modern ICT. This presentation will draw on the book
Economic Transformation by Lispey, Carlaw and Bekar and a recent paper of the same title as
this talk by Carlaw, Lipsey and Webb that evaluate the contentions of these observers.

Our conclusions are:
i. that the productivity slowdown was actually evidence of the significant status of the modern
ICT revolution in relation to historical revolutions centered on steam and electricity, and
ii. that PCN is still the process of acceleration through its development trajectories of efficiency
and applications, with no foreseeable end in sight for the latter.

Presenter: Kenneth Carlaw
Email: kenneth.carlaw@ubc.ca