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News Release 98-035

Growth of Information Technology Is Changing the Face of the Economy

S&E Indicators '98 Says IT Likened in Scope to Industrial Revolution

July 1, 1998

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

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:

For other press releases about S&E Indicators, see:

  • PR 98-34 Upswing in Industrial R&D Creating Positive Economic Benefits: New data released in S&E Indicators 1998

  • PR 98-36 Science and Engineering Indicators '98 Survey Shows Americans' Interest in Science Grows: But actual understanding of scientific terms and concepts still lags

Media Contacts
William C. Noxon, NSF, (703) 292-8070, email:

Program Contacts
Jennifer Bond, NSF, (703) 292-8777, email:

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2017, its budget is $7.5 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 48,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards.

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