|The Emergence of a Knowledge Economy|
The term Knowledge Economy was coined by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in their report The Knowledge-based Economy (OECD, 1996). The term describes the emergence of economies based on the production, distribution and use of knowledge and information. By comparison, the economy of the twentieth century relied predominantly on the sale of raw resources, commodities and primary processing to generate income and wealth. The key commodity in the Knowledge Economy, by contrast, is ‘knowledge' and its use to create new products and services (Donkin, 1998; Gibbons, Limoges, Notwotny, Schwartzman, Scott and Trow, 1994).
The Emergence of A Knowledge Economy
Dr D.E. Lynch 2004
The term Knowledge Economy was coined by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in their report The Knowledge-based Economy (OECD, 1996). The term describes the emergence of economies based on the production, distribution and use of knowledge and information. By comparison, the economy of the twentieth century relied predominantly on the sale of raw resources, commodities and primary processing to generate income and wealth. The key commodity in the Knowledge Economy, by contrast, is ‘knowledge’ and its use to create new products and services (Donkin, 1998; Gibbons, Limoges, Notwotny, Schwartzman, Scott and Trow, 1994).
Characteristic of the Knowledge Economy are ‘man-made brain power industries’ where there is rapid development, and the subsequent merging of new information and communication technologies, creating a global inter-connected economy (Thurow, 2000,p: 1). In this global economy, time and distance are compressed through advances in information communication technologies and travel, leading to the intertwining of the world’s economic and cultural systems, in a process known as Globalisation (Nowotny, Scott and Gibbons, 2001). Globalisation is defined as “a set of economic, social, technological, political as well as cultural structures and processes arising from the changing character of the production, consumption and trade of goods and assets that comprise the base of the international political economy” (Milani and Dehalvi, 1996, p:3). Globalisation is one of many phenomena within the Knowledge Economy, and is the result of a larger building process of a world markets that started when mankind first began exploring the world by land and sea expeditions (Thurow,2000; Milani and Dehalvi,1996).
An effect of globalisation is an increasing structural differentiation of such goods and assets, having spread across traditional political borders and economic sectors, resulting in a greater influence of political and economic changes. Consequently governments of today are dispensing with their ‘regulator role’ or the function of controlling their national economies “to become ‘platform builders’ that invest in infrastructure, education and research and development, so as to allow their citizens to have the opportunity to earn world class standards of living” (Thurow, 2000, p:1). The ‘Smart State’ strategy in Queensland is one such example of governments coming to terms with the Knowledge Economy and the resultant effects of globalisation (Beattie,1999).
The characteristics of the average worker in western economies, for example, and the nature of work itself have changed enormously over the past few decades. Part-time, temporary and casual work, coupled with an upward trend in unemployment and the widening earning dispersion has become ‘the norm’ in the ‘job market’, while privatisation, deregulation and downsizing of public services, and more and more pressure on business to increase productivity has been characteristic of the workplace (Doyle, Kurth and Kerr, 2000, pp1-2).
Commentators such as Ilon (2000), Thurow (2000), Starr (2001) argue that advances in various technologies have, had and will continue to have, an impact on the labour market. Thus, “technological advancement will certainly destroy many jobs, however at the same time it will create many new and as yet unknown employment opportunities, changing dramatically the balance of skill requirements” (OECD, 1996, p. 14). The skill elements referred to are ones that place great importance on the diffusion and use of information and knowledge as well as its creation. This skill-base, it is argued, will allow incumbents to gather and utilise knowledge, where strategic ‘know-how’ and competence are developed interactively and shared within sub-groups and networks. Continual innovation and learning will be driven by a hierarchy of networks. (OECD, 1996).
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