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Innovation, diffusion and catching up in the fifth long wave

By Fulvio Castellacci

Abstract

Does the new technological paradigm based on information and communication technologies (ICTs) create new windows of opportunity or further obstacles for catching up countries? The paper discusses this question by taking neo-Schumpeterian long wave theory as the basic framework of analysis. According to this approach, the current rapid diffusion of the ICT-based paradigm marks the initial phase of a fifth long wave period. The first part of the paper focuses on the major changes that characterize the techno-economic system in the fifth long wave, and points out that the new paradigm is leading to several new opportunities for developing economies. If public policies will actively foster the development process by rapidly investing in the new technologies and in the related infrastructures and skills, these new opportunities will indeed be successfully exploited. The second part of the paper shifts the focus to the socio-institutional system, and argues that institutional changes driven by some major actors in the industrialized world are creating a new international regime where the scope and the resources available for State interventions are significantly reduced. The paper concludes by suggesting the existence of a temporary mismatch between the techno-economic and the socio-institutional system, which makes the catching up process more difficult for large parts of the developing world.Innovation; ICTs; catching up; long waves; global governance

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