From the information revolution to a knowledge-based world

Secretary-General of the OECD

To mark the occasion of the 50th anniversary edition of the OECD Observer, we take a brief look at how the information world and the global economy have transformed since the OECD’s first secretary-general, Thorkil Kristensen, launched the magazine in November 1962.  

In the last two decades we have lived through a veritable information revolution that has changed the world forever. Have these changes improved our lives or made our work easier? The answer is: yes, but!  

Take the Internet. Breakthroughs in information and communication technologies (ICT) have enhanced access to markets, spurred innovation and created new business opportunities. Technologies contributed to progress in energy, education, food and health, improving the well-being of a larger number of people worldwide. They have also helped emerging economies to become global powerhouses and locomotives of the world economy.  

The information revolution has changed the way our economies function and laid the foundations of a knowledge-based world. It is on this new landscape that policymakers should focus more of their attention.  

In today’s knowledge-based economy, wealth comes more and more from ideas and innovations embedded in products and services. The assets and competitive advantages of firms or countries are rooted in research and development (R&D), software and brands, organisation and production structures, and many other “intangible” assets.  

Moreover, in this knowledge-based economy production is spread around the world, involving countries of different income levels, research and development networks, design and marketing, assembly lines, and customer support. Without ICT, it would be difficult to integrate all these stages of production to create global value chains.  

Gaining a foothold in global value chains has understandably become a preoccupation of policymakers, given the need to look for new, dynamic sources of growth after the crisis and to build more robust economies. Moreover, competition for investment high up the value chain highlights the importance of education, skills and R&D. And these developments challenge the way we look at trade, invest in education and skills of our citizens, and prevent an erosion of tax revenue, given the ever more complex manner in which tax bases, including profits, can be shifted among countries.  

These are the kinds of fundamental policy issues the OECD is addressing. And as a knowledge hub in which information is currency, our organisation is fit for purpose. The information and technology revolution has brought improvements to every dimension of our work, transforming how data is gathered, managed, analysed, published, and disseminated, not to mention protected. ICT has provided us with the tools for a more constant dialogue and for bringing our member and partner countries closer together. And thanks to ICT, the OECD not only diffuses more knowledge further and wider than ever before, but it also infuses it with fresh and constantly evolving knowledge from people outside the organisation, using interactive tools, wikis and public forums, for instance.  

The information world evolves quickly. The first SMS text message was sent in December 1992. Just 20 years ago! Now mobile communications have permeated every continent. Social media is far younger, yet it is already ushering in a new age of big data. In fact, as this edition points out, more data was produced in 2011 than in the whole of human history.  

The OECD is investing in the knowledge management tools it needs to stay ahead of these trends. But as human beings, we must also stand back from the plethora, ask questions, discuss and make informed judgements.  

The first edition of the OECD Observer opened with an article called “What makes an economy grow?” In light of the worst crisis in our lifetimes, we are still seeking a satisfactory answer to that question. We have never had so much information, yet we failed to anticipate, let alone, prevent the financial crisis from happening.  

On the contrary, critics argue that the information revolution has been a cause of our instability. Its speed leads to volatility–from high frequency trading in financial markets, for instance–while it conceals channels for corruption and illicit financing. Serious concerns about privacy add to a widespread sense of mistrust.  

The OECD takes these challenges seriously and is determined to combat abuse and promote the knowledge and confidence that we believe the information revolution promises.  

Building better policies for a world based on inclusive, sustainable growth is paramount, and through our major New Approaches to Economic Challenges initiative launched in 2012, we have begun to probe and question our growth models, and explore new paradigms that incorporate equity and the environment.  

It is a vast “knowledge” endeavour, which depends on cooperation. By harnessing knowledge and ideas skilfully and openly, we can build a brighter future. The information revolution provides us with an opportunity to get it right.  

Visit www.oecdobserver.org/angelgurria

 www.oecd.org/secretarygeneral

©OECD Observer No 293, Q4 2012




Economic data

E-Newsletter

Stay up-to-date with the latest news from the OECD by signing up for our e-newsletter :

Twitter feed

Suscribe now

<b>Subscribe now!</b>

To receive your exclusive print editions delivered to you directly


Online edition
Previous editions

Don't miss

  • Passionate about international taxation? The Institute for Austrian and International Tax Law is currently looking for a Research and Teaching Associate at the Christian Doppler Laboratory. For further information, click here.
  • In the long-run, the EU benefits from migration, says OECD Head of International Migration Division Jean-Christophe Dumont.
  • Is technological progress slowing down. Is it speeding up? At the OECD, we believe the research from our Future of ‪Productivity‬ project helps to resolve this paradox.
  • An employee prepares breakfast in front of the Eiffel tower at the Parisian luxury hotel Le Plaza Athenee, France July 30, 2015. Nowhere in the world has more accommodation available on Airbnb than Paris. Now the home-sharing website that has transformed budget travel to the French capital is giving its super-deluxe hotels a fright too (©REUTERS/Stephane Mahe).
  • Is inequality bad for growth? That redistribution boosts economies is not established by the evidence says FT economics editor Chris Giles. Read more on www.ft.com.
  • On 19-20 September, come and visit the OECD to learn more about our home and our work.
  • Low interest rates here to stay for half a century, says OECD director Adrian Blundell-Wignall.
  • OECD speak on support it will offer to Greek
  • Bill Gates visited the OECD on 26 June. He met with the Secretary-General Angel Gurría to discuss areas of collaboration with his foundation and participated at a briefing session on official development assistance modernisation with OECD experts.
  • The People’s Republic of China decided to enhance longstanding collaboration with the OECD and to join the OECD Development Centre, in a historic visit by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on 1 July to the OECD in Paris.
  • In order to face global warming, Asia needs at least $40 billion per year, derived from both the public and private sector. Read how to bridge the climate financing gap on the Asian Bank of Development's website.
  • One dollar in aid for trade generates eight dollars in extra trade for all developing countries and 20 dollars for low-income countries. Read OECD Secretary General's post on the newly released Aid for Trade at a glance 2015.
  • Catherine Mann, OECD Chief Economist, explains on Bloomberg why "too much bank lending can slow economic growth".
  • Interested in a career in Paris at the OECD? The OECD is a major international organisation, with a mission to build better policies for better lives. With our hub based in one of the world's global cities and offices across continents, find out more at www.oecd.org/careers .
  • Come va la vita in Italia? How's life in Italy? The OECD Better Life Index is an interactive online platform in seven languages that goes beyond GDP by offering important insights into measuring well-being and quality of life. Try it for yourself!
  • The IMF calls for a decisive energy subsidy reform in order to use the freed resources to meet critical public spending needs and to reduce pollution ahead of the Paris climate change summit.
  • Have a look at these posters representing a world without fundamental rights at work – including child labour, forced labour and inequality. Read more about this ILO image competition here.
  • Africa vs profit shifting African countries heavily rely on the income generated by multinationals’ taxation, which can represent as much as 88% of a country’s tax base. Little wonder Africa is involved in the OECD’s initiative to address tax base erosion caused by profit shifting, known as BEPS. The need to strengthen inter-governmental co-operation to curb cross-border tax losses was reaffirmed at the Africa Tax Administration Forum (ATAF) in Sandton on 21 April 2015.
  • Africa v. profit shifting
  • After three decades of extraordinary economic development, China is shifting to a slower and more sustainable growth path, according to the OECD's latest Economic Survey of China.

Most Popular Articles

Poll

What issue are you most concerned about in 2015?

Euro crisis
Unemployment
Global warming
International conflict
Other

OECD Insights Blog

NOTE: All signed articles in the OECD Observer express the opinions of the authors
and do not necessarily represent the official views of OECD member countries.

All rights reserved. OECD 2015