On Wednesday 10th June 2009, I’m giving a conference at the Centre d’Estudis Jurídics i Formació Especialitzada, Justice Department of the Government of Catalonia (Spain). It is framed in the Web Sessions series to debate about the changes and impacts of the Information Society. My conference is called Darwin a la societat de la informació: adaptació (i beneficis) o extinció (Darwin at the Information Society: adaptation (and benefits) or extinction).
As the presentation shows, the speech is made up of four parts or general ideas:
- The industrial era — or the industrial economy — is based (among many other things) on two main issues: scarcity and transaction costs. These two limitations have shaped the world as we know it, especially institutions: schools, parties and governments, firms, civic associations… When shifting towards a knowledge based economy, both issues of scarcity and transaction costs fall down into pieces. Will institutions, and intermediation in general, follow?
- Second part is an overview on some of these institutions, and how their models and, sometimes, their sheer survival is threatened by these radical changes on costs and scarcity. Some will violently disappear, some will just fade, some will suffer adaptations along the following years. All in all, it’s about the risk of exclusion from society — not digital exclusion —, the risk of becoming worthless.
- Thus, there might be a need for new (digital) competences to face the present and the nearest future. These competences (to be acquired both by individuals and institutions) will be necessary to interact with each other and rebuild how we learn, work, or engage in politics or everyday life.
- To foster the acquisition of these competences some policies to foster the Information Society will have to be put to work, and the role of the government seems to be a crucial one
I will conclude that it all is a matter of bringing on changes while making sense of them.
I want to heartily thank Jordi Graells for giving me the excuse — actually, to push me — to sit down and put together some ideas that had been rambling on my mind for some time. The title is his and it was great inspiration that helped me in weaving those ideas together. Not surprisingly, his work with the Catalan e-Justice Community (Compartim) is a most inspiring one too.
Last May 14th 2009 I imparted a seminar entitled Measuring digital development for policy-making: Models, stages, characteristics and causes. The role of the government in the framework of the Internet, Law and Political science research seminar series that take place at the School of Law and Political Science, Open University of Catalonia (Barcelona, Spain)
Though I had previously presented part of my phd research in public, this is officially the first time that I present final results.
The presentation only shows a brief introduction to Part II (quantitative analysis) and partial highlights from Part III (quantitative/statistical analysis), which makes most slides quite cryptic without a speaker (more cryptic, I mean).
Put short — very short —, after defining a conceptual framework (the 360º digital framework) the research draws 4 stages of digital development (after cluster analysis), the three of which are but different levels of a similar digital development path, and the fourth of them a completely different digital development model: leapfroggers.
These stages of digital development are characterized (a profile for each of them is described), and some determinants (causes) for this digital development (or underdevelopment) are calculated by means of logistic regressions.
The research shows the huge importance of governments in framing and fostering digital development, which is more important and should be more direct the less digitally developed is a specific economy.
It is important to note that government action should be, firstly, focused in framing and give incentives to the real economy, entrepreneurship and innovation; and secondly, to foster the digital economy by means of providing it with an appropriate policy and regulatory framework but also by means of “pull” strategies.
Thus said, the findings show that digital development is compatible with both liberal and Keynesian policies, and that supply-side policies and direct intervention are only worth applying below a minimum threshold of infrastructures. After some infrastructure is installed, policies should especially focus to trigger demand (not to increase the aggregate demand, which is a completely different thing).
This goes against the belief that the government should subsidise computers or content; but it also goes against the belief that the government should just care for the regulatory framework: public policies are a determinant of digital development.
What policies then? Fostering digital services, both private supplied as public e-services, as these services will pull de demand more effectively than other kind of policies.
- Basic development (income, health, education, equality) accompanies any other kind of digital development, which means that it has to be addressed first hand and, indeed, be the target itself where to apply the benefits of digital development.
- Leapfroggers show that another model from the previous one is possible. It is my concern, nevertheless, how a model based in a powerful ICT Sector aimed towards international trade will impact the domestic economy beyond an eminently direct level. In other words, policies fostering a domestic digital development will have both direct and indirect multiplier effects, the latter being the most powerful ones and, maybe, absent in a leapfrogger model.
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