Information Technology in the Learning Economy: Challenges for Developing Countries
This paper inquires how the concept of the "learning economy" can be applied to the requirements of developing countries. The main purpose is to develop an analytical framework to better understand how learning and capability formation can foster industrial upgrading. Special emphasis is given to te spread of information technology (IT). We inquire under what conditions developing countries can use this set of generic technologies to improve their learning capabilities. We argue that information technology should not be regarded as a potential substitute for human skills and tacit knowledge. Instead, its main role should be to support the formation and use of tacit knowledge. In the paper we compare two stylised models of the learning economy, the Japanese versus the American model. The Japanese model is explicit in its promotion and exploitation of tacit knowledge, while the American model is driven by a permanent urge to reduce the importance of tacit knowledge and to transform it into information - that is into explicit, 4 well structured and codified knowledge. We show that each of these models has peculiar strengths and weaknesses. Developing countries need to develop their own hybrid forms of institutions that combine the advantages of both models in a way that is appropriate to their idiosyncratic needs and capabilities.
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