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The Economics of the Digital Society

Edited by Luc Soete and Bas ter Weel

This important book presents a unique body of research into the economics of the digital society. It questions how modern economies have been transformed as a result of digital goods and markets, and explores the policy implications and challenges of this revolution.
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Chapter 14: A digital society for us all: 'old' and 'new' policy reflections

Chris Freeman and Luc Soete


14. A digital society for us all: ‘old’ and ‘new’ policy reflections* Chris Freeman and Luc Soete 14.1 INTRODUCTION The 1990s have witnessed a great proliferation of reports and papers on Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) . . . The objective of this report is not to add one more document to this already over-subscribed field. Rather, it is to transcend this discussion from the outset, by making a separation between data and information, and by distinguishing between the notion of information and the need for knowledge. It is necessary to separate out the transmission of data from communication between people, and the acquisition of knowledge. Most present-day telecommunication systems are still systems of transmission of data. In this report, we focus our attention on ways in which information can be converted into useful knowledge, so that the ‘information economy’ may become a ‘knowledge-based economy’. The underlying ICTs provide the potential for great increases in productivity and many new and improved products and services. However, history shows that the ability to convert this potential into actual gains in productivity and improvements in living standards and quality of life depends on a prolonged process of learning and institutional change. (HLEG, 1996, p. 1) These are the first, introductory sentences of a policy report written 10 years ago by the two of us as part of a so-called European ‘High-Level Expert Group’ (HLEG) on the social and economic implications of the information society. The report written in 1995 and entitled ‘Building the European information...

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