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The Handbook of Service Industries

Edited by John R. Bryson and Peter W. Daniels

Service activities are now acknowledged as key players in economic development, societal change and public policy worldwide. This exciting Handbook not only contributes to ongoing conceptual debates about the nature of service-led economies and societies; it also pushes back the frontiers of current critical thinking about the role of service activities in urban and regional development and the important research agendas that remain to be addressed.
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Chapter 7: A Global Service Economy?

Peter W. Daniels


Peter W. Daniels* Introduction Traditionally, most services have been ‘non-tradable’ in that they require buyers and sellers to be in the same place at the same time. Dental treatment, for instance, is impossible to deliver across a distance. Services that centre on the exchange, storage, processing and retrieval of information broadly defined do not, however, necessarily require physical proximity. They have been non-tradable because some types of information (such as music before the discovery of recording media) could not be stored, other forms of information incorporated in bound documents (books, reports, atlases, censuses) could be stored but could not be transmitted easily or economically, and by custom and habit some information such as that associated with accounting, design, or marketing activities was processed by firms in-house. Information and communication technologies (ICTs) have removed many of these traditional practices and constraints to make many services much more tradable. All kinds of information can be digitally stored, much lower cost and faster telecommunications allow the instantaneous exchange of digitised information with voice communication almost anywhere around the globe where the infrastructure is in place. Companies and individuals are beginning to use electronic media to produce, access and to consume services that have previously involved face-to-face or some form of direct contact. In addition, because knowledge can be codified, standardised and digitised, it allows greater disaggregation (or fragmentation) of the service production process. Opportunities are then created for the location of these fragmented production processes in geographically disparate places to take...

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