Hold on to Your Hats ... Here We Go Again!; IT WORLD

Article excerpt

MANY economists and IT industry watchers reckon that we're just at the start of a powerful surge in technology that will boost economic gains well into the next century.

This is particularly true in the United States, where business has wholeheartedly embraced new technology, with startling gains in the economy.

For the past seven years, the economy has been expanding rapidly, with current growth more than 3.5 per cent over last year. The evidence points to the effect of the information revolution in American business, where new technology has been integrated into every industrial sector.

Analysts reckon that over the last year, high tech has taken half a percentage point off inflation and added almost a full point to economic growth.

The fact of the matter is, though, there is much more to come. From the Internet to biotech to cutting-edge technologies that are just now nearing commercialisation, there is an enormous amount of innovation going on that can sustain and increase this growth.

Joel Mokyr, an economic historian at Northwestern University who studies innovation says that "We've never had a period in which innovation has so permeated our lives as in the 1990s".

And Arnold B Baker, head economists at Sandia National Laboratories predicts that this innovation will make dramatic changes in the business world, creating new, vibrant economic opportunities.

Says Baker, "There's going to be a fundamental change in the global economy unlike anything we've had since cavemen began bartering."

IT of course, has been around and used extensively in business for decades. In the 1970s and 1980s technology contributed almost nothing to growth, despite the huge claims made for it and the large amounts of money spent on it. It is only now that the huge investments put into IT systems are beginning to pay off.

This is due in part to a greater ease with technology amongst business people generally, but largely to the dramatic gains in technological innovation during this decade, where we have seen the culmination of years of research in disparate fields finally reaching critical mass.

The Internet, for example, which only became a commercial proposition in the mid-1990s, is based on technology that evolved over many years in academic circles. Also, the innovation wave is also being given more impetus by the forces of globalisation.

Bright ideas developed in previous unglamorous locations quickly find world markets. …