The internet is lauded for increasing access to information, but it is unclear whether this translates into a better-informed and more engaged voting populace. This column uses UK data to determine how the internet has changed voting patterns and aggregate policy choices. Internet penetration is found to be associated with a decrease in voter turnout, mainly among the lower socioeconomic demographic. Internet diffusion is also found to reduce local government expenditure, in particular on policies targeting less-educated voters. These findings point to a trade-off between the ‘digital divide’ and the ‘political divide’.
Alessandro Gavazza, Mattia Nardotto, Tommaso Valletti, 31 January 2016
Maya Eden, Paul Gaggl, 23 October 2015
Conventional wisdom suggests that there is too little ICT capital in poor countries and evidence show that they are indeed relatively less ICT abundant. This column discusses new evidence that this variation is not unwarranted – deviations from an estimated baseline level of ICT capital are not correlated with per capita income. This suggests that there are no systematic barriers to ICT adoption in low-income countries. They have less ICT capital since their economies are different.
Aleksi Aaltonen, Stephan Seiler, 31 October 2014
Many organisations are developing open platforms to create, store, and share knowledge. This column analyses editing data by Wikipedia users to show how content creation by individuals generates significant ‘spillover’ benefits, encouraging others to contribute to the collective process of knowledge production.
Susan Ariel Aaronson, 14 July 2014
The internet promotes educational, technological, and scientific progress, but governments sometimes choose to control the flow of information for national security reasons, or to protect privacy or intellectual property. This column highlights the use of trade rules to regulate the flow of information, and describes how the EU, the US, and their negotiating partners have been unable to find common ground on these issues. Trade agreements have yet to set information free, and may in fact be making it less free.
Joshua Gans, 11 June 2014
Netflix recently agreed to pay Comcast for faster access to Comcast’s customers, intensifying the debate over ‘net neutrality’ – the principle that internet service providers should treat all data equally. This column argues that without net neutrality regulation, ISPs can capture the benefits of higher-quality content, thereby discouraging innovation from content providers. To be effective, net-neutrality regulation must prevent content-based price discrimination on both sides of the market.
Chris Forman, Avi Goldfarb, Shane Greenstein, 23 May 2014
The diffusion of the internet has had varying effects on the location of economic activity, leading to both increases and decreases in geographic concentration. This column presents evidence that the internet worked against increasing concentration in invention. This relationship is particularly strong for inventions with more than one inventor, and when inventors live in different cities.
Francesco Sobbrio, Ruben Durante, Filipe R Campante, 12 June 2013
What has been the impact of high-speed internet on political participation? This column reports new evidence from Italy and the formation of Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement. Largely through social media, broadband internet has enabled a fledgling political movement to reach a large number of people, overcoming the costly barriers to entry usually associated with new political parties. And it is this reach that has encouraged some disillusioned voters back to the ballot box.
Susan Ariel Aaronson, 22 December 2012
The internet is an expanding opportunity for growth. This column argues that in recent years, however, policymakers and market actors have been undermining its potential. Governments and market actors are reducing both access to information and freedom of expression, as well as moving towards a splintered, non-global internet. Commitment to an open, free and global internet will be hard, but if bilateral, regional or multilateral trade agreements encourage interoperability, we might see some harmony among signatories’ privacy, online piracy, and security policies.
Marco Annunziata, 07 December 2012
Today’s technological innovation is regarded by many as all about social media and entertainment, with no impact on economic growth. This column argues that such scepticism is premature. A closer look at selected industries suggests that the ‘industrial internet‘ – a network that binds together intelligent machines, software analytics and people – through accelerated adoption of sensors and software analytics, will have a powerful impact on productivity and growth.
Mattia Nardotto, Tommaso Valletti, Frank Verboven, 25 November 2012
In many countries, incumbent broadband providers are required to let new entrants access their network, what is called ‘local loop unbundling’ (LLU). This column uses data from the UK to ask whether such a policy stimulates broadband penetration. In contrast to what is commonly believed, local loop unbundling doesn’t provide more choice. However, it does raise both the quality of service and the speed of internet connections.
Liran Einav, Theresa Kuchler, Jonathan Levin, Neel Sundaresan, 18 September 2011
The internet has reduced dramatically the cost of varying prices, displays, and information provided to consumers. This column discusses how this change enables both passive and active experimentation by retailers, and how this experimentation can be used by economic researchers in a way that takes advantage of the scale and heterogeneity of online markets.
Federico Etro, 11 June 2011
The Internet has opened up a whole new realm in advertising, with Google at the helm. Within this, search advertising has recently come under investigation from competition authorities. This column seeks to aid the understanding of this special market, its definition, its structure, and the role of its leader.
Chad Syverson, 25 July 2010
The internet is changing the way people do business. This column looks at how e-commerce has affected market structure among travel agencies, bookstores, and car dealerships. It suggests that low-cost firms will gain market share and may even become more profitable as e-commerce spreads, while higher-cost firms will be hurt, perhaps fatally.
Gernot Pehnelt, 06 April 2009
Most of the Internet’s infrastructure is neutral with regard to data packets’ contents, but some groups are pushing for legislation to protect “network neutrality.” This column says that strictly neutral data transmission would cause inefficiencies and reduce the availability and quality of Internet services. It defends prioritising quality-sensitive data packets and argues that network neutrality legislation would be a heyday for lawyers and lobbyists.
Jan Bouckaert, Theon van Dijk, Frank Verboven, 19 December 2008
Most governments in Europe are interested in boosting broadband penetration. This column presents new evidence on how various forms of market structure affect penetration ratios. It turns out that inter-platform competition (e.g. DSL vs cable) promotes broadband penetration while intra-platform competition doesn’t.
Paul Milgrom, 05 December 2008
Paul Milgrom of Stanford University talks to Romesh Vaitilingam about the application of auction theory, focusing particularly on the world’s most frequently used auction – the sponsored-search auction employed by many internet search engines. The interview was recorded at the annual congress of the European Economic Association in Budapest in August 2007.