This paper takes a look at the effects of modern technological developments on the evolution of the global economy. As a result, the reader gleans a better understanding of the links between human sociopolitical and economic development and the introduction of relevant technologies.
Keywords Cellular technology; Digital Divide; E-Commerce; Globalization; LDCs; The Technological Revolution
In 1985, US president Ronald Reagan stood before a group of Nobel Prize–winning scientists who had gathered at the White House. "You, on the cutting edge of technology," he said, "have already made yesterday's impossibilities the commonplace realities of today" (Simpson, 1988).
Those who had gathered on the White House lawn that day were among the most exceptional minds on the planet, presenting ideas that would change the course of history. Indeed, the scientific and technological breakthroughs humanity have marked extraordinary steps forward in its evolution. The steam engine ushered in a new era in transportation. The telephone linked together people who lived great distances from one another. More recently, the Internet and satellite technologies have created extensive networks throughout the globe. Humanity and technology seem to evolve together.
In the last two decades, modern technological advancements have done more than just benefit business, economic development, and public health. It has helped forge together the countless economies and political systems into one, global network. The process of "globalization" has created one broad-reaching economic institution, operating beyond the limitations of the modern nation-state.
This paper investigates the effects of modern technological developments on the evolution of the global economy. As a result, the reader gleans a better understanding of the links between human sociopolitical and economic development and the introduction of relevant technologies.
In 1962, it was assumed that communications networks via telephonic technologies were about as far as science would go. At the World's Fair in 1964, a "Picturephone" was displayed proudly by communications giant AT&T, a mere update of a picture phone that was introduced at another World's Fair thirty years earlier.
Meanwhile, however, researchers were working behind closed doors to find a way to not only speak with colleagues over great distances, but to exchange data and information as well. The Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) was established for this purpose as a means to create links between US military interests looking to defend against attacks by the Soviet Union. Gradually, ARPANET (the ARPA network) began to take on a less militaristic application, as only a few thousand computer terminals increased exponentially in volume. People were using the earliest forms of the Internet for data transfer, commerce, and other applications. As more and more people acquired computers, the Internet continued to grow exponentially. By the last decade of the twentieth century, the number of Internet host centers grew from four in the 1960s to 300,000 spanning the globe (Computer History Museum, 2006). Today, with the overwhelming number of personal and portable computers, tablets, and integrated cellular phone devices, there are few nations on earth in which one cannot find one or more avenues of access to the Internet.
The Internet has done more than simply enhance communications capabilities for the post-industrial world. In truth, it has created entirely new markets and industries around the globe. By 2003, Internet "e-commerce" generated nearly US$7 billion in revenues, almost 10 percent of all sales. E-commerce has become the dominant form of business-to-business transactions, due in no small part to the fact that businesses can connect from all over the world without onerous interstate regulations and national interference. The relative simplicity, efficiency, and speed by which transactions take place over the Internet, therefore, have created a sort of "peer pressure" for those political institutions that do not embrace e-commerce in its current form are considered to be less of a value to potential business partners (Mann, 2001).
Hope for the Impoverished
In sub-Saharan Africa great potentials are seen to exist with the introduction of Internet access. In a region that has a poverty rate of 45 to 50 percent, countless individuals lack access to educational resources, social services, and business connections. They lack an ability to tap into key regional and international markets as well as training programs that can help them participate in the development of their own regional and national economies (The World Bank Group, 1996).
It is widely held, therefore, that facilitating access to the Internet can help reverse this trend (Juma & Moyer, 2008). In fact, many nations are investing in the development of information science technology to increase Internet activity. In South Africa, for example, a Soweto project was recently implemented to ensure that all 1.5 million students of that school district have access to the Internet. President Thabo Mbecki has made bridging the gap between those who have such access and those who do not (known as the "digital divide") a top priority, saying that technological literacy is key to the country's participation in the global economy (Itano, 2001).
What is it that the Internet does to alleviate poverty in the developing world and ensure continued prosperity in the industrialized world? The vast networks created by the Internet deliver information of vital import to virtually every industry. From increasing the speed by which payments are being made to monitoring outbreaks of disease, the Internet has critical applications for the agricultural sector. Education, the media, and manufacturing are among the myriad of industries that benefit on many levels from the possibilities offered by the "information superhighway" (Thomas, 2007). While the United States continues to lead the world in terms of Internet users and hosts, many more nations are becoming strong players in the new marketplaces created by this technological juggernaut. Brazil and China, for example, have long been considered on the cusp of economic power in the high technology industries but, thanks to their increased investment in this continuously evolving market, are now shifting the market profile away from a singularly dominated institution (Inarritu, et al., 2007).
Indeed, the Internet has become arguably the crown jewel in the global economy. Then again, as this paper has suggested, there are many nations that have less of a stake in the Internet market. For them, there are still other aspects of this post-industrial "technological revolution" that have relevance for the global economy.
A decade after the American Civil War came to an end, Alexander Graham Bell, a speech expert, contacted a senior official at the Smithsonian Institution to seek his advice about a concept upon which he had stumbled. By passing an electrical current through a copper wire, Bell explained, a noise could be heard at the other end. When he brought his device to the Smithsonian, the secretary of the institution listened and indeed heard the transmission of a voice through Bell's technology. Bell, who was not an engineer or even all too familiar with electricity, asked the official, Joseph Henry, for his advice about how to develop the technology. Henry's response of Bell's "telephone" was one of the greater understatements in human history: "You have the germ of a great invention," he said. "Work at it" (MacKenzie, 2003).
Less than half a century after Bell's telephone was developed, there were fifteen million of the devices around the globe.
By the mid-twentieth century, however, land lines were not the only form of telephony. The development of "cellular" technology (which is based on the division of service areas into "cells") has been slow, to be sure. It was first introduced in 1947 but not widely researched as a private mode of communication until the late 1970s. Once it had been developed accordingly, however, demand far outstretched the supply of cellular technology within a decade (Bellis, 2008).
As of 2012, the number of cellular phones exceeded six billion around the globe (by contrast, in 1991, that figure reached sixteen million, according to the International Telecommunication Union). Forecasts have projected that the total number of cell phones worldwide will surpass the global population by 2014. In 2013, out of the world’s estimated seven billion people, more than six billion had access to cellular phones.
As landline telephones linked people around the world beginning in the nineteenth century, cellular communications technology has successfully created linkages between people across the...
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