The Impact of Information and Communication Technologies in Latin America
Edited by Mario Cimoli, André A. Hofman and Nanno Mulder
and synthesis Mario Cimoli, André A. Hofman and Nanno Mulder Information and communication technologies (ICT) are spreading fast across Latin America and the Caribbean. Despite an overall persistent digital gap with advanced economies, where ICT diffuse at even higher rates, mobile phone penetration is approaching levels of some advanced countries and an increasing part of the population is using the Internet. This phenomenon has brought about profound economic and social changes in the region, which so far have largely gone unmeasured. Indeed, policy-makers, entrepreneurs, scholars, political parties and other social actors have raised concerns with regard to the real contribution of ICT to economic growth and productivity in the region. But, can a significant economic impact of ICT be expected in a context in which most countries in the region are only ICT users and few produce these technologies? And if there is an impact, how does it relate to that in other parts of the world? Common intuition suggests that there should still be some impact of the use of ICT as a source of innovation, encouraged by the high penetration rate of some aspects of ICT. ICT represent a major breakthrough as a general-purpose technology (GPT) or a techno-economic paradigm (TEP), boosting productivity and economic growth (see Chapters 1 and 2; Helpman, 1998). A GPT or TEP are well-structured bodies of knowledge that are progressively modified and improved over time, with at least one artefact driving the entire technological process through successive price reductions and technical improvements. Technological...