Of internet and the
division of labour
Information and communication technologies (ICTs) and the
basis they sharehave been at centre stage at least since the 1980s. In the mid-1970s clear signs of heavyrestructuring processes became visible in what used to be called industrialised countries.Restructuring meant deindustrialisation-cum-tertiarisation. Structural change wasleading towards a new techno-economic paradigm whose core technologies were thoseof the computer industry, by which we mean hardware, software and the combination of the two which led to the creation of the present networks which include governments,universities, producers and consumers.The transition from the old industrial to the new ICT-dominated tertiarised economy issymbolised by the increasing relative importance of the ICT firms in the
annual report published by the
. Despite more than three years of fallingequity prices, in 2004 one can find five ICT firms among the top sixteen world firms interms of market value. Microsoft – whose stock went public in 1986 – competes withGeneral Electric at the very top of the list (the former was first in 2003 and second in2004). In 2004 105 out of the 500 biggest companies of the world are in the ICTsbusiness.What we have just said would lead one to think that a clear-cut revolution has occurred;indeed a revolution has occurred, but one which was not easy to understand, particularlyin the 1980s and early 1990s. Internet, the computerised economy and ICTs in generalhave put a strain on economists’ categories of thought. In 25 years, we have beenthrough various waves of pessimism and euphoria.The 1980s were characterised by many studies dealing with a crisis in productivity, themantra – usually referred to as Solow’s paradox – being that computers and theconsequences of them being adopted could be seen everywhere except in the field of productivity statistics; restless structural economic dynamics was leading towards moreand more tertiarised economies affected by a
– at least that was the vision.Then, by the mid-1990s the climate changed radically at first in the United States,followed by Europe and then the rest of the rich world: the catchword became
. The party had continued for a long time, particularly in the United States –whereas in Europe the Maastricht criteria, aimed at creating the conditions which wouldenable the common currency to be introduced, meant tight fiscal and monetary policies.