Has ICT had a greater impact than steam power?
ICT and steam power are both General Purpose Technologies (GPTs); technologies which are pervasive, has multiple complementarities and a wide range of productivity effects which affects an entire economy. There are three main groups of beneficiaries: firms, workers and customers. The first steam engine was invented in the 1769 however there was a lag from when it was produced to when it was widely used. This was because the steam engine was initially both expensive to buy and run and therefore was not accessible or widely used till the 1830s. It was only until the 1830s when progress was recognised and beneficiaries were identified on a mass scale. Then, it played a crucial role in the industrialisation of Britain in the 19th century and was used in textile mills, railways, ships as well as road vehicle. Steam power also replaced horse power to run machines such as cable-drawn ploughs and threshing machines. The steam engine, which was first used by brewers, lead to huge success and made both energy producers and manufacturers economic beneficiaries which ultimately saw customers benefiting from steam power to as more efficient manufacturing translated into lower costs of production and cost for customers. Increase in international trade also resulted from the adaption of steam power as a means to transport goods. This also indirectly aided other industries and benefited the wider economy, apart from the manufacturing industries such as creating jobs for engineers and railway construction workers. Whilst the development of railway systems came quite a while after the invention of steam power; its benefits cannot be discounted. Railways transformed transport links making it easier to transport goods and people. The productivity effects continued to be important long after steam was widely adopted. Similarities can be drawn between the development of steam power and ICT in that there was a long lag time between the...
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