How come we see the computer revolution everywhere except in the [aggregate] productivity statistics?
- Robert M. Solow, Winner, 1987 Nobel Prize for Economics (Sveriges Riksbank Prize)
Computers, Internet and mobile phones have fundamentally changed our life the last 2 decades. We could do more efficient shopping, connect to a lot more people and be more productive at work. As an engineer who have been a part in developing an Operating system, a search engine and a social networking tool - the three main products of this revolution, I feel they are great things to both build and to use. They make individuals much more productive looking at the micro level. However, looking from an economic point of view and see the Macro picture I’m bogged down with “Show me the money”. Economists of the 1980s and 90s have debated a lot about this and suggested that they may not have caused a lot of economic growth. As this review shows, the economists of late 80s successfully argued that this paradox is due to “mismeasurement, lags, redistribution and mismanagement”.
However, over a long period of time you should see the effect in economic growth, as the indirect effect of the productivity increases reflect in the macro economy. And things have changed since the original “productivity paradox” came, as PCs came into the living room and internet connected the ordinary people to do their mundane stuff in networks originally designed to survive nuclear attacks.So in this decade, have the powerful PCs, Smartphones, Search engines, Facebook led an explosive economic growth? In reopening the debate and looking at the recent data, there still seems to be dismal evidence for the productivity growth from the modern revolution. It is possible that the economy might have reached a saturation as a $10 trillion economy cannot continue to be sprinting like a $1 trillion economy, but still 1.7% annual growth in per-capita income since WWW came seems less. There might be other small causes too. The article concludes with what might be a possible cause for this.