The Internet and social and economic restructuring

The Internet is a key communication tool that revamps our world while keeping its physical and social dimensions.

It is often claimed that the Internet has led to social and economic restructuring, but the socio-economic restructuring came first. Networking structures preceded the widespread use of the Internet in business. But this new socio-economic system (based on globalisation and the network enterprise) could not expand and blossom without the Internet.

This technology lay dormant for one quarter of a century before being embraced by business and society, because technologies are used only when a use is found for them, not earlier. The Internet diffused rapidly in the business world in the 1990s because it suited the organisational form that was characteristic of the most competitive companies since at least the 1980s.

The organisational form was build around different parts of the company co-operating for specific projects, networking among themselves for the duration of the project, and forming a new network configuration for different projects. But the complexity of such networks beyond a certain size would not have been possible without micro-electronic-based information and communication networks. Companies can cluster innovation, design and knowledge production, while decentralising routine operations such as manufacture and distribution of goods and services throughout the world. High-speed information technologies allow them to concentrate high-level activities and scatter lower-level activities, while maintaining co-operation and co-ordination.

Human work is always the source of everything in the economy. But how this work creates value, is organised and distributed, is not constant. Society appropriates technology for its own uses and values.Technology per sedoes not do good or bad to societies, but it is not indifferent. In the case of the Internet, it enhances existing or potential trends.

If there is a trend towards creating new organisations or networks of organisations, for example, the anti-globalisation movement, the Internet will power these new organisations, because it has specific features for communication and global interactivity which make it ideal for building networks. Evidence supports the trend that the more intelligent an organisation is, the better it uses the Internet.

This, in turn, makes the organisation even more intelligent, in a productive spiral or virtuous circle

source :  Manuel CASTEILS