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December 01, 2006

Summary of Developments in Information Technology and the Political, Social, and Economic Ramifications

Our group’s aim for this project was to conceptualize the ramifications of technological development in the contemporary world. From the start, we realized that this was an ambitious outlook, where we could oversimplify the issue. In order to avoid developing such parochial viewpoint, we equipped ourselves with the fundamental principles from a variety of academic disciplines to analyze the issues. We utilized concepts from economics, political science, public policy, sociology, humanities, and business as a prism through which we could scrutinize the issue. Through this process, we hoped to communicate to our readers the complexity and multi-faceted role that information technology plays in our everyday life.

Since politics is closely linked with the welfare of many, we thought it was important to address the intricate link between information technology and politics, which many fail to conceptualize. Essentially, information technology equips people with a wider point of access to information. Over the recent months, we have seen that this has a tremendous effect on politics. For example, the widening popularity of “Fantasy Politics,” among the youth group increases political awareness in the generally apathetic group of citizens. For the functioning of a representative democracy, this is delightful news. This is, however, likely to adversely effect the welfare of Senior Citizens, who will proportionally lose its share of voice. And while technological advancement has shaped politics, it has also worked the other ways. The November election, for example, propelled a group of constituent-hugging politicians to pass a legislation banning online gambling. We also noted that this issue is global. In China, access to Wikipedia services (i.e. its citizens having access to information) could equip its citizens with a tool to pose a big threat to the power structure in the Communist nation. The widespread use of new technology essentially is a threat to the political processes in China.

Information technology has also played an integral role in the economic welfare of many. The rise of online gambling industry, Google, and Youtube, whom stack up billions of dollars in revenue, would not have existed without the rise of information technology. The success of these industries, one could argue, demonstrates how the development of new technology is a welfare-enhancing for the people. Economists, generally, substantiate that claim through its macro-economic growth models, where the increase in GDP is a function of growth in technology. However, we also pointed out that there are costs involved with such benefit. Youtube’s copyright mess is a prime example. While Youtube dramatically decreases the cost of accessing information (i.e. videos), it has been detrimental to some music groups and authors, who lost much of their business. They do have a point, since this mentality of tolerating unlawful activities (i.e. violating the copyright law) could be detrimental for the economic and social well-being of the society.

We thought it was appropriate to sum up our discussion with our final blog, entitled, “Big Brother Society: Public Policies and Information Technology.” We wanted to emphasize this point: while technology shapes the way we live, we can also determine how technology is used. For example, governments can abuse web-based CCTV cameras and fingerprint readers could reduce privacy rights to what George Orwell calls a “Big Brother Society.” However, we can utilize that very technology for harvesting crucial marketing data or to develop a security system for children. We must start to really conceptualize the enormous amount of power that information technology has, that can shape the political, social, and economic environment in which we live inhabit.

Posted by willmoon at December 1, 2006 05:47 PM

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