RAND Report Forecasts U.S. Will Continue to Lead Information Revolution
RAND Office of Media Relations
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July 16, 2003
The United States will continue to lead the information technology revolution for years to come because U.S. businesses are focused on innovation, Americans readily accept change, and the U.S. government provides an environment hospitable to IT business development, a RAND report issued today predicts.
"Unlike many other nations that concentrate on protecting existing businesses and institutions, the United States presses ahead with change even when it means 'creative destruction' of companies that drive its economy today in order to build a stronger economy tomorrow," said Richard O. Hundley, lead author of the study by RAND's National Defense Research Institute.
Looking at IT around the world, the report finds:
The report forecasts that the information technology revolution will continue at a rapid pace in the years ahead and "will dramatically transform the world economy and alter social and political life." It says business losses and layoffs that hit the IT sector recently are only temporary setbacks.
"Extreme losers in the information revolution could become 'failed states'...[that are] breeding grounds for terrorists," the report says. This could happen, according to the report, to some nations in Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, or parts of Asia.
Looking even further ahead, the report says "the information revolution could over time change the role of the nation state." As IT-enabled economic activity moves increasingly beyond national control, a diffusion of governance may occur, from the nation state to a variety of intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations and transnational corporations. This will affect smaller nations sooner than larger nations.
The National Intelligence Council, which is the U.S. intelligence community's center for mid-term and long-term strategic thinking, sponsored the RAND study. Other authors of the study in addition to Hundley are Robert H. Anderson, Tora K. Bikson, and C. Richard Neu.
The report also predicts:
What cannot be predicted, say the researchers, is when and where the next "killer application" will emerge to drive information technology into new spheres of usefulness. Past examples of such so-called "killer apps" are: the Netscape browser in 1994, which set in motion exponential growth in usage on the World Wide Web; or the VisaCalc spreadsheet in 1976, which was the primary impetus for the sales of the early PCs. These are the "wild cards that will determine the fine details of the information revolution," the report concludes.
"No matter what happens," the report says, "the degree to which IT eventually changes the world is unlikely to change. We expect these changes ultimately to be profound."
RAND's National Defense Research Institute is a federally funded research and development center supported by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the unified commands, and the defense agencies.
RAND is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis.
The Global Course of the Information Revolution: Recurring Themes and Regional Variations. 2003. Full Document.