The modern economic development is largely dependent on the investments in new media technologies. New media technologies, ICTs, convergence, and digitisation are seen as the new engines of economic growth for many countries from the perspectives of labour transactions and trade.
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The digitisation together with technological convergence era have marked a new era for economic development through alteration of the traditional approaches to organisational governance, production systems, forms of labour organisation, and alterations of means of surveillance coupled with business counter surveillance strategies.
One of the peculiar advantages of new media and digitisation convergence akin to boosting economic development of many nations is attributed to the capacity of new digital communication developments. The argument is the capacity to make it possible for media organisations and or individuals to deliver various audio, text, and even video materials over the same wired, fibre optic, and or wireless connections to a myriad of destinations within seconds or fractions of seconds.
This way, the technological developments of the twentieth century have made it possible for multiple products to be merged together to one product that carries the advantages possessed by all other products. However, as argued in the a paper, although these changes have been instrumental in the propagation of many countries’ economies in terms of effectiveness and efficacy in the management of organisational communications systems, there are still dominant challenges that are associated with any form of convergence.
Such challenges include increased risks to which an organisation can be susceptible to among them being cyber security threats. With this challenge and many others notwithstanding, the main focus of the paper is to discuss and analyse why new media technologies, ICTs, convergence, and digitisation are seen as the new engines of economic growth for many countries coupled with offering an explanation of how countries have responded to the challenges.
New media technologies, ICT, digitisation and convergence as engines of economic growth
ICT encompasses a myriad of services coupled with networks, which facilitate the accumulation without negating the flow of both private and public crucial information.
With regard to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (2004), ICT involves “internet service provisions, telecommunications, and information technology equipment and services, media and broadcasting, libraries and documentation centres, commercial information providers, network- based information services and other related information and communication activities” (p.11).
Scrutiny of this definition for ICT reveals that it is quite similar to the definition offered for information technology (IT). Chowdhury (2000) also notes this similarity but further makes a distinction that ICT comprises technologies, which capacitate the process transfer of a myriad of information such as data, audio, and textual.
Akwani (2005) notes the importance of ICT in the economic development using case example of Nigeria by claiming, “The fastest growing employer of labour in Nigeria is the telecommunications industry” (p.45). Growth of the telecommunication industry underlines the growth of other sectors of economy by virtue of the fact that telecommunication is an enhancing tool for ardent inter and intra- organisational communications and information sharing.
Researches on how investments in ICT and new media technologies can boost economic development have been advancing over the last two decades (Awoleye 2012). In 1950s, Lau Tokutsu (1992) argues that the economic development recorded in the US is widely instigated by technological changes as opposed to factors such as capital and labour.
Guided by this perception, several studies have also been advanced in the developing world to determine the implication of technological changes on economic growth. Such studies present contradictory findings since, while some people find positive correlations between investments in ICT and economic growths, some others record a negative correlation between the two.
For instance, Berndelt et al. (1998) conducted a research on the implication of ICT capital investments on the productivity growth of selected industries of the US. He found that a negative relationship existed between the two. These findings were reproduction of similar findings by Parsons et al. (1990) who argued that, in the Canadian context, “banks did not yield good benefits from their ICT capital investments” (p.23).
From the US context, Morrison (1997) reported that ICT investments had minimal implication on economic growth of the US-based organisations. However, Chowdhury (2000) contested these findings by claiming, “Many sceptics have not seen the roles of ICTs in the efforts intended to alleviate poverty and bring food security to developing countries” (p.425).
Nevertheless, the author acknowledged that the challenges of alleviating poverty are incredibly complex. However, he insisted that, for this to happen, nations must invest in efficient production systems. Investments in the ICT infrastructures are one of the noble strides to put up such systems.
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Despite the negative relationship between economic growth and investments in ICT findings, many countries have not brought to a halt their efforts to invest in the ICT capital. The justification for this endeavour is pegged on the positive findings in the relationship between ICT and new media communications with economic development.
For instance, Lau Tokutsu (1992) investigated roles of investments in ICT in the economic growth of the US between 1960 and 1990. Among the contributors of the growth listed by the scholars, “nearly half of the growth aggregate national output in the US was attributed to ICT investments than the non-ICT or labour” (Awoleye 2012, p.25).
Schreyer (2000) who sought to study the effects of investments in ICT on productivity of G7 nation’s labour echoed similar findings. By employing samples from nations such as Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, the United States, Japan, and Canada, he found out that the tremendous growth in the labour productivity of the nations registered between 1990 and1996 was attributable by large proportion to the investments in the ICT infrastructures.
On a more general scale, Poh (2001) sought to know how investments in the ICT influenced Singapore’s productivity in overall. His findings indicated that investment in the ICT capital produced substantive rates of economic returns in the end.
Kim (2003) sought to confirm the validity of these findings though he based his research on the Korean context. According to Kim, “ICT capital contributed 16.3% to the output growth of Korean economy and has had strong positive effects on the growth of labour productivity in the long-run” (2003, p.57).
Although the findings are based on research conducted a decade ago, they are significant in the discussion of the current impacts of digitalisation era on economic growth of nations.
In fact, the advents of social media have created an immense opportunity for organisations to reach large numbers of potential consumers who would otherwise be impossible to reach using the conventional forms of media. Surprisingly, the operational platforms for these new media forms are principally rested on ICT and information technology developments.
Many nations, both in the developed and the developing world, have been implementing policies emanating from such research findings discussed above with the noble aim of ensuring that their countries keep at pace with new technological developments in the effort to raise their GDP.
Availability of digital-enhanced connectivity is an essential factor that investors consider in the making of decisions to make investments in any country especially the developing nations. Broadband technology being one of the means of interconnecting digital computers across the globe is a major engine that drives economic growth of many nations especially in the era of offshore business, technical support, and manufacturing outsourcing.
Awoleye (2012) contends with this argument by further maintaining that developing nations, which have better ICT infrastructure, are better placed to secure outsourcing, foreign investments, and or off shoring business (p.28). In this sense, internet connectivity is a major enhancing factor for fostering globalisation.
With regard to Paltridge (2008), internet interconnectivity enhanced through broadband is “beginning to have a fundamental impact on how economies work and on the global allocation of resources especially in the developing countries due to their greater integration in the global value chains than ever before” (p.13).
In the same extent, governments in many nations have hiked their investments in the internet and web-based service delivery in the public sector through an endeavour termed as the e-governance. The goal of investments in the e-governance is aimed at ensuring cost effective, efficient, and reliable service delivery in the public sector with noble objective of increasing attractiveness of e-business environments for both local and foreign investors.
E-governance fits within the theory on ICT systems, convergence, and new media technology theory on economic development since it is a tool for boosting economic development through the provision of integrated data centre, shared operation networks, and business processes coupled with one stop service delivery centres to all public consumers.
Another important facet for economic growth tied within the paradigms of the rapid development in the information communication systems developments recorded within the last two decades is the E-commerce. E- Commerce has boosted economic growth of many nations by enabling them to achieve higher levels of development through the creation of a fertile investment climate, which is an incredible catalyst for economic growth.
From national levels, studies, for instance, of Indjikian and Siegel (2005) show that e-commerce can create diverse and valid revenue streams to the governments through the development of new markets and products to trade in the markets. Meeting new challenges for propelling economic growth requires channels for information sharing.
This argument infers that organisations whose growth is influenced by the developments in ICT and new media communications systems deserve to be largely knowledge based. The implication is that they need to be constantly innovative and creative to meet the dynamics of the markets characterised by the influx of products and services that are availed for sale in a competitive mode on a daily basis.
E-Commerce as tool for economic development is immensely effective in this end since, through it, “new channels of knowledge diffusion and human interactivity in the work places are opened with an enhanced flexibility and adaptability” (Indjikian & Siegel 2005, p. 682). The contribution of e-commerce in the economic development of nations is not restricted to specific industries. Rather, all industries ranging from production to service delivery benefit.
For instance, the US recorded improvements in 2005 in productivity in healthcare to the tunes of $6.9 billion from hefty investments in the communication convergence accruing from solutions of mobile broadband. Similar success has been registered elsewhere in the developing nations including India and Nigeria.
While the technological developments and convergence are significant in enhancing economic growth as discussed above, the endeavour not only presents technical issues and difficulties but also has the capacity to generate developmental issues. For instance, Olauwuyi and Mgbole (2012) assert that technological convergence “has a different meaning according to aims, interests, and roles of different stakeholders such as government, policy makers, regulators, civil society, private sector, and customer” (p.4).
Nevertheless, an opportunity for propagation of economic growth is also presented by technological convergence in enhancing understanding coupled with the creation of awareness among various stakeholders through sufficient communication avenues, enhancement of multi-stakeholder interactivity at global fronts, and collective participation.
Continuous economic growth in any competitive market needs the creation of a means of reduction of costs. This barrier may exist while attempting to penetrate markets and or to create of avenues for responding quickly to new business opportunities. These elements stand out as some of the merits that are availed by technological convergence in its impact on economic growth.
Olauwuyi and Mgbole (2012) support this line of view by further arguing, “in addition to the evolution of infrastructure, privatisation, liberalisation, and competition in telecommunications evolved in response to trends in globalisation” (p.5). In this extent, it is arguable that the interplay between telecommunication and economic development is evident since it acts a tool for expansion of available markets to an organisation by permitting the organisation in question to trade in the global sphere with optimal cost checks.
How Countries have Responded to the Underlying Challenges
It is vital to note that, despite the merits that technology has brought in terms of boosting economy, various challenges have been evident ranging from insecurity, hiked competition and costs, and addiction in the adoption of the technology-driven businesses. Various countries in the world have been faced with the problem of ICT, media convergence, media technologies, and digitalisation.
These factors have become the engine through which the economic wheel of the world revolves. They have made it very difficult for any country in the world to do without ICTs in its economy. Various economies have therefore put in place mechanisms to counter the effect of digital revolution. This section of the paper discusses the responses that various countries have put in place in responding to media technologies, ICTs, convergence, and digitalisation challenges.
The first response that is visible in most countries is the evolution of e-commerce as argued out before. Many countries of the world have realised that trade in the current world of globalisation cannot escape the impact of information technology. The adoption of information communication technology by most nations of the world today has made the world of economics a small business village.
Communication technologies have reduced the geographical boundaries between trading partners hence reducing transport cost. Besides, it has increased the quality and quantity of information flow. For example, in China, one can order for goods online, pay for them online, and wait for delivery within no time.
This strategy has been made possible by the use of e-commerce. According to Bonsu (2008, p.356), e-commerce has empowered customers in the world of business. Customers have become more informed especially in making choices. In China, the roles played by buyers and sellers before the inception of e-commerce have drastically been altered. The period of passive buyers and very active sellers was eliminated in the Chinese economy through information communication technology.
According to Gronroos (1994, p.9), the e-commerce strategy has made the consumer an active player in the whole business transaction. Customers can choose from a variety of goods and services advertised online. Besides, they can trade with the business partner that they think is the best according to the information posted on their website. All these provisions have been made possible by various governments to their citizenry.
E-commerce has also promoted trade between far nations. For example, trade between Russia and China is more conducted online. Gronroos (1994, p.9) also affirms that e-commerce has also made many economies turn from 12 hours to 24 hours economies. Such is the economy of China. Through e-commerce, customers can carry out business transactions at any time of the day or night through the internet (Gronroos 1994, p.9). It is from such economic revolutions that the economy of China has become very powerful.
The second response to ICT, convergence, and media technologies by governments of the world is through e-governance as hinted above. With the exploration of information technology in the world, many nations have adopted e-governance. E-governance enables the citizens and foreigners to access government services online (Palvia & Sharma 2007).
Such services include filing of tax returns with the government, clearing of cargos on seaports, accessing various government documents and certifications. E-governance has enabled the economy of the United States of America to grow. All these outcomes have been made possible through technological convergence that delivers services closer to the customers (Gronroos 1994, p.10).
In the United States of America, traders can carry out government certification processes online and or continue with the other business transactions within the confines of their houses. The possibility is attributed to technological advancement.
Businesspersons can register companies with the registrar of companies in the United States without having to travel to his or her office. After registration, the businessperson will then proceed to open and operate the business. All legal requirements and regulations for such a business can be done online through the internet (Constaninides 2004, p.111).
The other response by nations on the evolution of ICT, convergence, and media technologies is the adoption of e-democracy. Governments of the world have put in place mechanisms to ensure that people get their will to rule through information communication technologies. Services that the people require from the government are currently available for the people.
The people of various occupations can now access information about their leaders through various information communication technology platforms. For example, people get information about the leaders they elected through the internet, television, and radio. According to Aghion (1997), it is from these media platforms, people can evaluate the performance of their leaders. For example, in the United States of America, the parliamentary debates from both the upper and lower house are televised live on the national media.
This strategy has been adopted by many other nations of the world. From such broadcasting, the citizenry can evaluate the performance of their leaders in congress and or when they carry out other duties. According to Foss (2001), the media has been so active in monitoring the behaviour and conduct of leaders in various nations.
This case has brought the power of the people to the people. When the population gets information about immorality or underperformance of their leaders, they can go on and recall the leaders from either senate or house of representative. One can therefore argue that information communication technology has brought the power of the people to the people.
Aghion (1997) also affirms that people are also exchanging information through the social networks about how their nations are being governed. Foss (2001) affirms that various government corporations and public facilities have established websites that they post information necessary for the citizens. The citizens can also access every bit of information they want from such websites hence acting as a great response to information communication exploration in the world today.
The United States has the federal communication commission that checks on the flow of information in the United States. According to Holmstro (1998), these communication commissions act as the watchdogs for the government on the happenings on the ICT and media.
The communication commissions will act when there is a hate speech on the internet especially on the social networks for example Facebook. It will also follow up the allocation and utilisation of broadcasting frequencies to television stations and radios. This close monitoring also ensures that children are not exploited in such media.
For example, it ensures that there are reduced pornographic overtones on the internet that are accessible by children (Holmstro 1998). This attention controls the morality of the nation. The commissions are also charged with the responsibility of monitoring what televisions broadcast especially in advertising. Any content that is harmful to the children is then filtered hence maintain the good title of the particular company in terms of all economic parameters.
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