Sizing Up Information Societies

When researchers study technology diffusion in a global and comparative manner, they often find that economic productivity explains differences in the diffusion of information and communication technologies (ICTs). But when researchers study technology diffusion in a regional, national, or subnational context, they often find that politics and culture explains different diffusion rates. How do we make use of different kinds of conclusions drawn from different levels of analysis? Just knowing the ways in which wealth explains technology diffusion can obscure the ways in which politics and culture also explain patterns in technology diffusion. In this article, we offer a new perspective on weighting technology diffusion data by economic wealth to set into sharp relief the ways in which other factors—such as politics and culture—influence how well a country metabolizes new technologies. A simple but useful computation is offered, examples are assessed, and implications for public policy, industry, and research are discussed.

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Technology and Society
Public Policy
Research Methods
International Affairs