Growth of Information Technology Is Changing the Face of the Economy
S&E Indicators '98 Says IT Likened in Scope to Industrial Revolution
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The impact of new information technologies (IT) has been pervasive on society but productivity benefits are more difficult to pin down, according to a new National Science Board (NSB) report to Congress, Science and Engineering Indicators 1998.
The NSB report notes a tremendous upward demand for employment in computers and data processing across a wide range of industries. These skills are increasingly in demand by manufacturing, service and other industries that are modernizing their processes.
The report also notes recent studies indicating that the impact of IT is mixed, saying there are measurable payoffs in productivity, but that IT has diffused unevenly throughout the economy. Its effects, therefore, are often difficult to measure precisely.
Highlighting the challenge, says the NSB in a special chapter on IT, is the difficulty in tracking the rapidly developing and changing technologies that are permeating all sectors of the economy.
Nevertheless, the use of IT is widespread, says the report, and is contributing to the retooling of the U.S. economy.
"We've entered a new era. Information technology is shaping our economy and many elements of our society," Claudia Mitchell-Kernan, NSB chair of the Science and Engineering Indicators subcommittee, explains. "Our high-speed, high-volume information systems need to enhance our international competitiveness, global research capabilities and our personal well-being."
Indicators reports that in education, there has been a large jump in the use of computers and related technological tools. However, schools with a large percentage of economically disadvantaged students have one-third to three times less access to these technologies than schools attended by primarily white or nondisadvantaged students. In addition, disadvantaged students can't compensate in their homes for this lack of access in schools, the report points out. African Americans and Hispanics had (in 1993) about half as much ownership of home computers as whites. Research, meanwhile, indicates that when the "informationally disadvantaged" are given access to computers and the Internet, they use these resources effectively for self-empowerment.
The URL for the web version of Science and Engineering Indicators 1998 is:
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