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special issue: The economic contribution of information technology: Towards comparative and user studies

  • Economics


By what process does technical change in information technology (IT) increase economic welfare? How does this process result in increases in welfare at different rates in different countries and regions? This paper considers existing literature on measuring the economic benefits from information technology, emphasizing comparative issues and user studies. Following Bresnahan and Trajtenberg (1995), we call the invention associated with customizing the technological frontier to the unique needs of users in particular regions "co-invention", placing emphasis on understanding how its determinants vary across users in different regions. We develop a framework for understanding the processes behind value-creation, demand-side heterogeneity and co-inventive activity. Then we discuss why these processes make measuring the welfare benefits from advances in information technology particularly difficult. We highlight the metrics currently available for measuring the economic pay-out of the IT revolution and identify which of these vary meaningfully in a comparative regional context. Finally, we finish with observations about further areas of research.

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