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What is the state of the ICT sector in Poland?

mgr inż. Alina Landowska

Researchers agree that knowledge is an important component of technological progress, especially in high technology sectors, which include ICTs (Information and Communication Technologies). Due to the fact that these technologies are used in all sectors of the economy, ICT-related issues are at the centre of interest of both economists and economic policy makers in developed and developing countries. For some countries ICT is a source of economic growth, while for others one of the elements deepening the digital divide between them and countries which are most technologically advanced.

Such a conclusion was also formulated by the authors of a study on the benefits and risks of ICT, carried out between 1995 and 1997 for the UNCSTD (United Nations Center for Science and Technology for Development). Members of the Working Committee of the UNCSTD came to the conclusion that there is a very high risk of these technologies contributing to the increase of differences in economic development. Countries that are not capable of making investments required to introduce the ICT solutions are also less likely to catch up with the economies of developed countries. The report emphasizes an extremely important issue - the use of ICT is expensive, but not developing these technologies is far more costly. The publication is especially worth mentioning in view of the fact that on its basis United Nations Economic and Social Council recommended that every developing country introduce a National ICT Strategy. Attention was drawn to the urgent need to develop an appropriate policy, regulations, educational and training programmes which would introduce ICTs to all sectors of the economy.

In spite of the fact that technological knowledge and progress have not been clearly and conclusively incorporated into models of economic growth, they are still regarded as determining factors. However, models increasingly introduce technology as a growth factor. The methods of its measurement, however, can be extremely variable.

ICT has already played an important role in economic development of individual economies. Robert Solow's research aimed at the explanation of the impact of certain factors on economic growth by means of arithmetic methods, gave birth to the productivity paradox ("You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics." - Solow, 1987), which showed a discrepancy between the rates of investment in IT and production indicators. However, later studies raised more data on the effects of the ICTs on productivity.

Since 2001, the World Economic Forum, together with The Business School for the World (INSEAD) have been drawing up annual reports on the development and modernization of network infrastructure and on the use of ICTs worldwide. The latest report published in 2009 entitled "The Global Information Technology Report 2008-2009" took into account data on ICT development in Poland compared with other EU countries and the rest of the world. The study includes a total of 134 countries. The NRI (Networked Readiness Index)  is the main tool in the report. It indicates the "level of readiness" to use network technologies and ICTs. The index is constructed from a combination of 68 variables, of which 27 constitute hard data obtained by institutions such as: the International Telecommunication Union, the United Nations and the World Bank. The remaining 41 variables (soft data) were derived from expert research.

Denmark and Sweden are on the top of the ranking, retaining their places from the previous year (2007/2008). The top ten also includes seven other countries from Europe, two from North America and only one from Asia, in the following order: United States (3), Singapore (4), Switzerland (5), Finland (6), Iceland (7), Norway (8), Netherlands (9), Canada (10). Poland was ranked 69th behind such EU countries as: Estonia (18), Slovenia (31) and Lithuania (35). In addition, countries ahead of Poland also include: Malta (26), Barbados (36), Oman (50) and Costa Rica (56). The authors comment the situation in Poland as follows: "[...] On the other side of the spectrum, Bulgaria (68th) and Poland (69th) continue to trail behind. While Bulgaria’s rank is essentially unchanged from last year, with a small score improvement (from 3.71 to 3.80), Poland is losing further ground with respect to most networked among the EU accession 12 countries". There are two possible reasons for the situation: the lack of regulation of ICT and insufficient  involvement in the ICT of public administration at the central level. Evidence for this is given by two indicators: government readiness for the usage of ICT where we were ranked 103rd place and the actual government usage of ICT -the 127th position. These pessimistic results justify the presumption that under-investment in the ICT sector and its low use may translate into a widening development gap between Poland and technologically advanced countries.

At the same time, it is worth mentioning that the attractiveness of Poland for ICT investments is not decreasing. According to the "Information Economy Report 2009, Trends and Outlook in Turbulent Times" published by United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, it was Poland where the greatest number of Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) in the ICT sector was made. The authors studied global trends in the ICT sector in developed countries. According to UNCTAD, of the IT projects implemented in Poland between 2003 and 2008, 21 belonged to the Customer Contact Centre category, and 37 to the category of Shared Services Centres. Collectively in the world, the total number of the investments of the first kind equalled 847, including 11 in the Czech Republic and Hungary, and of the second kind - 481, including 20 in the Czech Republic and 25 in Hungary. Poland was also ranked high - fifth among developed countries - in terms of the dynamics of development of the mobile phone market, and 7th in terms of the growth in export of ICT goods in 1998-2007.

The future of the economic situation in Poland may be greatly influenced by the following factors: the way Poland will utilise the high level of FDI in the ICT sector, and the actions that it will undertake regarding the use of ICT in various sectors of the economy. The dynamics and quality of these necessary solutions remain of note.

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  • Tagi:

    postęp technologiczny, wzrost gospodarczy, globalizacja, ICT, badania empiryczne

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