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

GDP : +0.5%, Q4 2014
Employment rate: 65.9%, Q4 2014
Annual inflation : 0.57% Feb 2015
Trade : -3.0% exp, -3.7 imp, Q4 2014
Unemployment : 7.022% Feb 2015
More moderate expansion ahead? Composite leading indicators
Updated: 23 Apr 2015

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

  • Today, after three years of drought, California is in the midst of a full-blown political and environmental crisis, with restrictions imposed across the state, reports the Financial Times.
  • Why is the gap between rich and poor growing despite rises in GDP? Do benefits help? Does aid work? (The Guardian)
  • Lack of water holding back Asian growth In Asia, the world’s most dynamic region with the fastest economic growth, 75% of countries face serious water shortages.
  • ADB water
  • Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis expressed its scepticism towards the Eurozone’s institutions and gave ideas for ways forward. "Greece must become reformable again", Yanis Varoufakis said.
  • Business brief: Israel's water
  • #OECD360: Your country in figures.
  • How to ensure transparency in public procurement? Read Cobus de Swardt's article on OECD Insights.
  • Asia to maintain a strong 6.3% growth rate in 2015 and 2016, according to the Asian Development Bank
  • 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.
  • In pursuit of the American Dream
  • Iceland's strong recovery stems from the good use of its natural resources, the energy sector and tourism according to Peter Dohlman, IMF Mission Chief for Iceland.
  • cyclone
  • Government representatives and experts from around the world are gathering in Japan this week to develop a post-2015 framework for global disaster risk reduction. The World Bank and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) will share expertise at the conference.
  • Switzerland’s recent moves towards greater tax transparency were welcomed by the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes, based at the OECD, as a boost to international efforts to end tax evasion. Work will continue with Switzerland, notably on implementation, in 2015.
  • Help bridge the gap between business integrity policies & practices:participate in this new OECD survey by clicking on the image.
  • What can we do to promote better literacy skills for all? Read Andreas Schleicher's latest blog on oecdeducationtoday.
  • pisa
  • Secretary General Angel Gurría describes the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) as a useful tool to enhance educational systems but states that improving a country's ranking should not be a goal per se. Article in Spanish by El País.
  • [VIDEO] Although many countries have made great progress in narrowing gender gaps in education, new challenges are looming.
  • 5 things you might not know about the state of Amazonas. The World Bank identifies the main colossal challenges Brazil's biggest state is facing.
  • Gender mainstreaming: young French lady working in an engine assembly plant. Women and men in the same boat when it comes to job insecurity. © Raphaël Helle / Signatures / La France VUE D'ICI
  • The Asian Development Bank together with the International Labour Organization challenge the concept of women's work in Asia and the Pacific.
  • Visit the OECD Gender Data Portal. Selected indicators shedding light on gender inequalities in education, employment and entrepreneurship.
  • The 5th Anti-corruption conference for G20 governments and business in Istanbul on 6 March will address how all businesses can play their part in contributing to growth and investment, and can operate with clean hands in a safe environment.
  • Success story. Discover the story of this young Ethiopian woman who launched a successful business in the footwear industry and became a UN Goodwill Ambassador for Entrepreneurship.
  • Transports in Asia. The Asian Development Bank advocates sustainable transport in a continent where vehicle ownership is perceived as a sign of social success.
  • Vote for your favourite photograph! This World Bank #EachDayISee photo contest aims to display visual stories from all over the world through which people express what they would like to see changed and improved.
  • Why is investment so low in the euro area? This short IMF blog post gives you an insight into the causes of the euro-zone's drastic decline in investment.
  • Have your say! The UN wants to know what matters most to you: pick six global issues in the list and send it to the United Nations.
  • Tim Harcourt Video
  • G20 and Australia: Bestselling economist Tim Harcourt speaks to the BBC about how Australia has gone from "Down Under to Down Wonder".
  • Clear air and healthy lungs: how to better tackle air pollution. From New Delhi to Accra, millions of people breathe polluted air. A new report examines the World Bank’s experience working to improve air quality.

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