Information and communications technologies (ICTs) constitute a potentially transformative force in world politics. The industries associated with these technologies are growing rapidly, and some have argued that their importance in the overall economy at both the national and global levels increased in recent decades. ICT industries include both goods producers and service providers. ICT manufacturing includes all the goods-producing industries that use semiconductor components, such as consumer electronics, the computer industry, the telecommunications equipment industry, and industrial and military electronics. Within each of these groups, there are sub-industries that specialize in particular segments of the market. The services side of ICTs is also very large in terms of revenues and employment, and is growing rapidly. ICT services include, among others, the software industry, telecommunications services, data processing, and web-based information services. Many scholars argue that the importance of ICT industries goes beyond the revenues and employment generated in the industries themselves, however. ICTs may also be transformative in that they reduce transaction and communications costs in the overall economy. They make possible new forms of organization of human activity, especially as globalization and digitalization is progressing rapidly in the recent decades. Such processes have attracted the attention of international relations scholars, as they have been focusing on international regimes governing ICT-related activities in the past decade.
Jeffrey A. Hart
The Global Knowledge Society is a broad interdisciplinary effort that emerged in the last decade of the twentieth century to probe the socioeconomic, technological, and geopolitical dimensions of knowledge production, growth, diffusion, and exploitation, in terms of impact on the development of societies worldwide. As a field of inquiry, the Global Knowledge Society encompasses all areas of social science including international relations, international communication, information technology, international development, and economics, as well as across the physical sciences and humanities. It also aims to fill a historical void in traditional social science—from economics and political science to international affairs and development studies—for explaining structural and environmental differences in societal rates of knowledge generation, application and adoption. A number of models on knowledge development have been explored in the literature, including the “Distributed Information Networks” approach, the “Technological Diffusion” approach, the “Genius Theory of Invention” approach, the “Creative and Proprietary Incentives” approach, and the “Cultural Legacy” approach. Models outside the social sciences and humanities also offer some rich possibilities, such as those under the label of “Idea Evolution.” Several of the models suggest the need for rethinking the mystery of persistent societal differences in knowledge growth within and between countries. Future research on knowledge society should consider bringing together researchers and policymakers from many disciplines across the natural and social sciences to review the substance of the field’s comparative methods and findings using interdisciplinary frameworks and complex factors.