Information and communication technologies (ICT), which are often presented as vectors of a new industrial revolution or new economy, have experienced a rapid spread especially in the last fifteen years.
In fact, the increasing role of electronics and computer facilitates communication and processing of all kinds of data. The emergence of the Internet as a preferred medium of information, communication and exchange has been the source of deep confusion in the world. To talk only about the economic field, there has been a change in production and consumption styles.
There is astonishing technical progress observed in the industries producing these technologies and the countless possibilities it opens up. Some have fueled any speculation of economic cycles.
The bursting of the speculative bubble that marked the end of the last century did not soften this excessive enthusiasm and this irrational outburst. But the role of ICT in modern economies remains a burning question. The clear leader in this field, the United States, has shown remarkable economic performance over the past decade.
Should we see a causal relationship? To what extent should we see it?
For many other industrialized countries, notably Europe, the diagnosis of the delay in the diffusion of ICT needs to be improved. This is of primary interest for the definition of economic policies.
In the last decade, an enormous amount of economic literature has been devoted to this topic. The aspects in which this object is studied are very diverse: measurement of their productive performance as well as supply and demand for ICTs, the effects of production and distribution of ICTs on productivity and growth, etc.
These themes include national or sectoral macroeconomic data in studies that concern one or more countries. A multitude of these studies address issues of growth, the organization and nature of work, lifestyles, trade exchanges, and the international division of labour.
At the macroeconomic level, highly accommodating diagnostic guidelines emerge from all work devoted to information and communication technologies.
First of all, ICT production activities and ICT as a production tool should be disseminated. It appears to be more developed in the United States than in other major industrialized countries.
Then, the apparent acceleration in labor productivity observed in the United States in the 1990s seems to be explained by two dimensions: the production and diffusion of ICT.
In other large industrialized countries, by contrast, there was a general slowdown in productivity observed during the 1990s.
The production and distribution of ICTs has indeed contributed to the acceleration of productivity there. However, this effect, which was weaker than in the US due to the less availability of ICTs, was offset by a very sharp slowdown in non-ICT capital.
Diagnostic elements that were still very schematically restored can now appear intact. The most modest purpose of this post is to shed light on some aspects that remain problematic.
More specifically, four questions are addressed here:
- Could the difficulties of measuring ICT affect the macroeconomic diagnosis mentioned above?
- Has ICT become the main source of productivity gains in industrialized economies?
- Are the differences in ICT diffusion between countries due to different price elasticities of ICT demand?
- Should the conduct of monetary policy be affected by the emergence of ICT?
There are international comparisons of measurement problems and their production and use of ICT, as well as productivity. This gives a detailed overview.
This shows that measurement problems sometimes lead to traditional elections between countries in two respects.
First of all, certain expenses are shared between intermediate or end uses. The agreements accepted for this sharing affect the measurement of output and thus productivity.
The best-known example of these deviations from traditional choices concerns the split between investment and intermediate consumption of company spending on software.
A second type of difficulty concerns the volume-price allocation of certain expenses. Agreements accepted here can still affect metrics. This challenge relates to considering the performance gains from ICT investments in the volume-price split.
The authors say that the first difficulty significantly influences their evaluation of efficiency in terms of level. However, he underlines that the latter affects both. This finding calls for caution in international comparisons.
Finally, the authors say, statistical institutes of many industrialized countries should have common standards on occasion for future changes in accounting fundamentals.