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Josephine Wolff; How Is Technology Changing the World, and How Should the World Change Technology?. Global Perspectives 1 February 2021; 2 (1): 27353. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/gp.2021.27353

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Technologies are becoming increasingly complicated and increasingly interconnected. Cars, airplanes, medical devices, financial transactions, and electricity systems all rely on more computer software than they ever have before, making them seem both harder to understand and, in some cases, harder to control. Government and corporate surveillance of individuals and information processing relies largely on digital technologies and artificial intelligence, and therefore involves less human-to-human contact than ever before and more opportunities for biases to be embedded and codified in our technological systems in ways we may not even be able to identify or recognize. Bioengineering advances are opening up new terrain for challenging philosophical, political, and economic questions regarding human-natural relations. Additionally, the management of these large and small devices and systems is increasingly done through the cloud, so that control over them is both very remote and removed from direct human or social control. The study of how to make technologies like artificial intelligence or the Internet of Things “explainable” has become its own area of research because it is so difficult to understand how they work or what is at fault when something goes wrong (Gunning and Aha 2019) .

This growing complexity makes it more difficult than ever—and more imperative than ever—for scholars to probe how technological advancements are altering life around the world in both positive and negative ways and what social, political, and legal tools are needed to help shape the development and design of technology in beneficial directions. This can seem like an impossible task in light of the rapid pace of technological change and the sense that its continued advancement is inevitable, but many countries around the world are only just beginning to take significant steps toward regulating computer technologies and are still in the process of radically rethinking the rules governing global data flows and exchange of technology across borders.

These are exciting times not just for technological development but also for technology policy—our technologies may be more advanced and complicated than ever but so, too, are our understandings of how they can best be leveraged, protected, and even constrained. The structures of technological systems as determined largely by government and institutional policies and those structures have tremendous implications for social organization and agency, ranging from open source, open systems that are highly distributed and decentralized, to those that are tightly controlled and closed, structured according to stricter and more hierarchical models. And just as our understanding of the governance of technology is developing in new and interesting ways, so, too, is our understanding of the social, cultural, environmental, and political dimensions of emerging technologies. We are realizing both the challenges and the importance of mapping out the full range of ways that technology is changing our society, what we want those changes to look like, and what tools we have to try to influence and guide those shifts.

Technology can be a source of tremendous optimism. It can help overcome some of the greatest challenges our society faces, including climate change, famine, and disease. For those who believe in the power of innovation and the promise of creative destruction to advance economic development and lead to better quality of life, technology is a vital economic driver (Schumpeter 1942) . But it can also be a tool of tremendous fear and oppression, embedding biases in automated decision-making processes and information-processing algorithms, exacerbating economic and social inequalities within and between countries to a staggering degree, or creating new weapons and avenues for attack unlike any we have had to face in the past. Scholars have even contended that the emergence of the term technology in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries marked a shift from viewing individual pieces of machinery as a means to achieving political and social progress to the more dangerous, or hazardous, view that larger-scale, more complex technological systems were a semiautonomous form of progress in and of themselves (Marx 2010) . More recently, technologists have sharply criticized what they view as a wave of new Luddites, people intent on slowing the development of technology and turning back the clock on innovation as a means of mitigating the societal impacts of technological change (Marlowe 1970) .

At the heart of fights over new technologies and their resulting global changes are often two conflicting visions of technology: a fundamentally optimistic one that believes humans use it as a tool to achieve greater goals, and a fundamentally pessimistic one that holds that technological systems have reached a point beyond our control. Technology philosophers have argued that neither of these views is wholly accurate and that a purely optimistic or pessimistic view of technology is insufficient to capture the nuances and complexity of our relationship to technology (Oberdiek and Tiles 1995) . Understanding technology and how we can make better decisions about designing, deploying, and refining it requires capturing that nuance and complexity through in-depth analysis of the impacts of different technological advancements and the ways they have played out in all their complicated and controversial messiness across the world.

These impacts are often unpredictable as technologies are adopted in new contexts and come to be used in ways that sometimes diverge significantly from the use cases envisioned by their designers. The internet, designed to help transmit information between computer networks, became a crucial vehicle for commerce, introducing unexpected avenues for crime and financial fraud. Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, designed to connect friends and families through sharing photographs and life updates, became focal points of election controversies and political influence. Cryptocurrencies, originally intended as a means of decentralized digital cash, have become a significant environmental hazard as more and more computing resources are devoted to mining these forms of virtual money. One of the crucial challenges in this area is therefore recognizing, documenting, and even anticipating some of these unexpected consequences and providing mechanisms to technologists for how to think through the impacts of their work, as well as possible other paths to different outcomes (Verbeek 2006) . And just as technological innovations can cause unexpected harm, they can also bring about extraordinary benefits—new vaccines and medicines to address global pandemics and save thousands of lives, new sources of energy that can drastically reduce emissions and help combat climate change, new modes of education that can reach people who would otherwise have no access to schooling. Regulating technology therefore requires a careful balance of mitigating risks without overly restricting potentially beneficial innovations.

Nations around the world have taken very different approaches to governing emerging technologies and have adopted a range of different technologies themselves in pursuit of more modern governance structures and processes (Braman 2009) . In Europe, the precautionary principle has guided much more anticipatory regulation aimed at addressing the risks presented by technologies even before they are fully realized. For instance, the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation focuses on the responsibilities of data controllers and processors to provide individuals with access to their data and information about how that data is being used not just as a means of addressing existing security and privacy threats, such as data breaches, but also to protect against future developments and uses of that data for artificial intelligence and automated decision-making purposes. In Germany, Technische Überwachungsvereine, or TÜVs, perform regular tests and inspections of technological systems to assess and minimize risks over time, as the tech landscape evolves. In the United States, by contrast, there is much greater reliance on litigation and liability regimes to address safety and security failings after-the-fact. These different approaches reflect not just the different legal and regulatory mechanisms and philosophies of different nations but also the different ways those nations prioritize rapid development of the technology industry versus safety, security, and individual control. Typically, governance innovations move much more slowly than technological innovations, and regulations can lag years, or even decades, behind the technologies they aim to govern.

In addition to this varied set of national regulatory approaches, a variety of international and nongovernmental organizations also contribute to the process of developing standards, rules, and norms for new technologies, including the International Organization for Standardization­ and the International Telecommunication Union. These multilateral and NGO actors play an especially important role in trying to define appropriate boundaries for the use of new technologies by governments as instruments of control for the state.

At the same time that policymakers are under scrutiny both for their decisions about how to regulate technology as well as their decisions about how and when to adopt technologies like facial recognition themselves, technology firms and designers have also come under increasing criticism. Growing recognition that the design of technologies can have far-reaching social and political implications means that there is more pressure on technologists to take into consideration the consequences of their decisions early on in the design process (Vincenti 1993; Winner 1980) . The question of how technologists should incorporate these social dimensions into their design and development processes is an old one, and debate on these issues dates back to the 1970s, but it remains an urgent and often overlooked part of the puzzle because so many of the supposedly systematic mechanisms for assessing the impacts of new technologies in both the private and public sectors are primarily bureaucratic, symbolic processes rather than carrying any real weight or influence.

Technologists are often ill-equipped or unwilling to respond to the sorts of social problems that their creations have—often unwittingly—exacerbated, and instead point to governments and lawmakers to address those problems (Zuckerberg 2019) . But governments often have few incentives to engage in this area. This is because setting clear standards and rules for an ever-evolving technological landscape can be extremely challenging, because enforcement of those rules can be a significant undertaking requiring considerable expertise, and because the tech sector is a major source of jobs and revenue for many countries that may fear losing those benefits if they constrain companies too much. This indicates not just a need for clearer incentives and better policies for both private- and public-sector entities but also a need for new mechanisms whereby the technology development and design process can be influenced and assessed by people with a wider range of experiences and expertise. If we want technologies to be designed with an eye to their impacts, who is responsible for predicting, measuring, and mitigating those impacts throughout the design process? Involving policymakers in that process in a more meaningful way will also require training them to have the analytic and technical capacity to more fully engage with technologists and understand more fully the implications of their decisions.

At the same time that tech companies seem unwilling or unable to rein in their creations, many also fear they wield too much power, in some cases all but replacing governments and international organizations in their ability to make decisions that affect millions of people worldwide and control access to information, platforms, and audiences (Kilovaty 2020) . Regulators around the world have begun considering whether some of these companies have become so powerful that they violate the tenets of antitrust laws, but it can be difficult for governments to identify exactly what those violations are, especially in the context of an industry where the largest players often provide their customers with free services. And the platforms and services developed by tech companies are often wielded most powerfully and dangerously not directly by their private-sector creators and operators but instead by states themselves for widespread misinformation campaigns that serve political purposes (Nye 2018) .

Since the largest private entities in the tech sector operate in many countries, they are often better poised to implement global changes to the technological ecosystem than individual states or regulatory bodies, creating new challenges to existing governance structures and hierarchies. Just as it can be challenging to provide oversight for government use of technologies, so, too, oversight of the biggest tech companies, which have more resources, reach, and power than many nations, can prove to be a daunting task. The rise of network forms of organization and the growing gig economy have added to these challenges, making it even harder for regulators to fully address the breadth of these companies’ operations (Powell 1990) . The private-public partnerships that have emerged around energy, transportation, medical, and cyber technologies further complicate this picture, blurring the line between the public and private sectors and raising critical questions about the role of each in providing critical infrastructure, health care, and security. How can and should private tech companies operating in these different sectors be governed, and what types of influence do they exert over regulators? How feasible are different policy proposals aimed at technological innovation, and what potential unintended consequences might they have?

Conflict between countries has also spilled over significantly into the private sector in recent years, most notably in the case of tensions between the United States and China over which technologies developed in each country will be permitted by the other and which will be purchased by other customers, outside those two countries. Countries competing to develop the best technology is not a new phenomenon, but the current conflicts have major international ramifications and will influence the infrastructure that is installed and used around the world for years to come. Untangling the different factors that feed into these tussles as well as whom they benefit and whom they leave at a disadvantage is crucial for understanding how governments can most effectively foster technological innovation and invention domestically as well as the global consequences of those efforts. As much of the world is forced to choose between buying technology from the United States or from China, how should we understand the long-term impacts of those choices and the options available to people in countries without robust domestic tech industries? Does the global spread of technologies help fuel further innovation in countries with smaller tech markets, or does it reinforce the dominance of the states that are already most prominent in this sector? How can research universities maintain global collaborations and research communities in light of these national competitions, and what role does government research and development spending play in fostering innovation within its own borders and worldwide? How should intellectual property protections evolve to meet the demands of the technology industry, and how can those protections be enforced globally?

These conflicts between countries sometimes appear to challenge the feasibility of truly global technologies and networks that operate across all countries through standardized protocols and design features. Organizations like the International Organization for Standardization, the World Intellectual Property Organization, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, and many others have tried to harmonize these policies and protocols across different countries for years, but have met with limited success when it comes to resolving the issues of greatest tension and disagreement among nations. For technology to operate in a global environment, there is a need for a much greater degree of coordination among countries and the development of common standards and norms, but governments continue to struggle to agree not just on those norms themselves but even the appropriate venue and processes for developing them. Without greater global cooperation, is it possible to maintain a global network like the internet or to promote the spread of new technologies around the world to address challenges of sustainability? What might help incentivize that cooperation moving forward, and what could new structures and process for governance of global technologies look like? Why has the tech industry’s self-regulation culture persisted? Do the same traditional drivers for public policy, such as politics of harmonization and path dependency in policy-making, still sufficiently explain policy outcomes in this space? As new technologies and their applications spread across the globe in uneven ways, how and when do they create forces of change from unexpected places?

These are some of the questions that we hope to address in the Technology and Global Change section through articles that tackle new dimensions of the global landscape of designing, developing, deploying, and assessing new technologies to address major challenges the world faces. Understanding these processes requires synthesizing knowledge from a range of different fields, including sociology, political science, economics, and history, as well as technical fields such as engineering, climate science, and computer science. A crucial part of understanding how technology has created global change and, in turn, how global changes have influenced the development of new technologies is understanding the technologies themselves in all their richness and complexity—how they work, the limits of what they can do, what they were designed to do, how they are actually used. Just as technologies themselves are becoming more complicated, so are their embeddings and relationships to the larger social, political, and legal contexts in which they exist. Scholars across all disciplines are encouraged to join us in untangling those complexities.

Josephine Wolff is an associate professor of cybersecurity policy at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. Her book You’ll See This Message When It Is Too Late: The Legal and Economic Aftermath of Cybersecurity Breaches was published by MIT Press in 2018.

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Technology and America’s Good Times: An overview

Subscribe to the economic studies bulletin, robert e. litan robert e. litan nonresident senior fellow - economic studies , center on regulation and markets @boblitan.

December 1, 2001

  • 14 min read

By any standard, the American economy has performed extraordinarily well during the past several years. Inflation has been low and relatively stable. The unemployment rate has hovered in the neighborhood of 4 percent, a level not seen in a generation. Most remarkably, however, labor productivity-the output of goods and services divided by hours of labor required to generate them-has grown at a 3 percent annual rate since 1995, a pace that, if continued, will allow a doubling in the living standard of the average American worker in just 25 years. This growth far outpaces the 1.4 percent annual rate recorded between 1973 and 1995 and is even higher than the roughly 2.5 percent growth rate achieved after the end of World War II up until 1973, a period dubbed by many economists as the “golden age” of American economic performance. What is especially remarkable about post-1995 productivity is that it has surged while labor markets have been tight, or precisely the time when economists otherwise would have expected growth to slow down as firms hire the least productive workers. Just the opposite has happened during this, the nation’s longest-ever expansion, which-although slowing at this writing-shows no signs of ending, despite recent turmoil in the Middle East and volatility in the capital markets.

Will this good fortune continue, or will the American economy lapse into the slower growth to which we had grown accustomed just a few short years ago-when Princeton economist Paul Krugman urged us all to have “diminished expectations”? To some degree, the answer will depend on how our newly elected president and members of Congress handle the projected surpluses in the federal budget. In particular, if the surplus materializes-that is, if the economy does not plunge into recession-but is spent too quickly, the Federal Reserve is likely to offset the fiscal stimulus with higher interest rates, which will discourage investment and thereby slow the future growth of productivity and living standards. By contrast, a prudent fiscal policy that preserves the surplus will help keep interest rates low, thereby continuing to lay the foundation for solid investment-led growth in the years ahead.

In the long run, however, almost certainly the most important factor driving improvements in productivity and living standards has been and will continue to be the rate of technological advance. Technology not only makes workers more productive but, in the health sciences, also enables them to live longer. Technology also shapes our society. Adults today cannot imagine a life without the automobile, electricity, or the air conditioner-three of the many 20th-century technological wonders they take for granted that were not widely available in their parents’ generation. Similarly, our children certainly will be unable to imagine life without the computer, the Internet, and, when they grow old enough to realize its importance, the genetic revolution that is likely to prolong the life spans of the current and future generations.

As this nation welcomes a new set of leaders to political office, while ushering in a new century, it is timely and important to address the themes explored by the articles in this issue: how to keep the technology boom going and, in turn, how to respond to some of the vexing public policy issues that the Internet revolution in particular has raised.

Keep the Technology Boom Going

While new discoveries, new products, and industrial processes are typically invented and developed by the private sector, public policy plays an important role in encouraging innovative activity. Three key policy areas are addressed in this issue, and in each the authors either raise cause for concern or discuss new controversies that are best resolved sooner than later.

One important way in which the federal government, in particular, has stimulated technological advance is by funding basic research-often highly theoretical work that lays the scientific foundation for commercial applications down the road. Much of the information technology revolution-the hardware, the software, encryption techniques, artificial intelligence, and the Internet itself-owes its origins to federally funded research. A similar claim can be made for much of the commercial work that is now revolutionizing biotechnology.

Yet unlike applied and commercial R&D, whose benefits are largely captured by those who undertake it, basic research generally produces benefits that are later widely used, often in unanticipated ways. In the jargon of economics, basic R&D is a “public good” that, like such other public goods as national defense and a well-functioning legal system, will not be supplied to society’s fullest satisfaction without some degree of government support.

Supporting Basic Science

For much of the postwar period, driven by the nation’s rivalry with the Soviet Union, the federal government actively supported basic science, primarily in connection with military (and to a lesser extent, space-related) activities. Although this research has produced some welcome spin-offs-such as the Internet itself-the federal share in overall R&D has fallen since the end of the Cold War, understandably so. But as Linda Cohen and Roger Noll demonstrate, the government’s support of basic science- outside health-has become a smaller piece of the total research pie. It is tempting to dismiss this trend by pointing to the explosive increase in venture capital funding for all kinds of new business undertakings, especially in information technology. But venture funding primarily supports applied or commercial R&D, boosting ideas whose origins often spring from earlier basic scientific discoveries. Cohen and Noll express concern that unless federal support for basic science, especially in math, engineering, and the physical sciences, grows substantially in the years ahead, the intellectual cupboard that has been feeding the entrepreneurial drive of the late 1990s may grow increasingly bare, with disturbing consequences for future business formation and economic growth.

Unfortunately, resolving the problem will take more than money. More scientific output will require more well-trained scientists. Yet on this count, Noll and Cohen report the disturbing fact that the numbers of American-born scientists and engineers have been static even as our population has grown. As a result, America increasingly has had to import foreign scientists, who although they make worthwhile contributions while they’re here, often return to their home countries (many of which are desperate to entice them back). The challenge for policymakers is to think long term: to support the training of a new generation of scientists, engineers, and mathematicians at the university level. Otherwise, throwing more money at basic science will simply drive up the salaries of existing professorial talent without necessarily generating new ideas in the process.

Patents and Competition

There is a tension between the next two policy instruments for stimulating private innovation. On the one hand, the Constitution guarantees inventors and developers of written material temporary monopolies-patents and copyrights, whose terms Congress may fix-to encourage the development of new ideas and works. Statutory and common law also protect trademarks and trade secrets for a similar reason.

On the other hand, the capitalist economic system rests on the virtues of competition to stimulate entrepreneurs not only to innovate, but also to cut costs, to stay a step ahead of the competition. The importance of competition has been enshrined in various antitrust laws, which give the government (both federal and state) the authority to stop mergers that may threaten competition and to halt business activities that frustrate competition, such as price fixing and other forms of collusive activity, as well as practices of dominant firms that are aimed at squashing competition and have little or no legitimate business justification.

How can the nation’s commitment to upholding intellectual property (IP) rights and competition-at the same time-be squared? Several articles in this issue wrestle with this question. At perhaps the simplest level, Jonathan Baker-a former antitrust enforcement official-argues that if IP rights are treated like any other property rights, there need be no conflict between the nation’s commitments to IP protection and antitrust. Holders of IP cannot merge with or cross-license each other to reduce competition in particular markets, while firms that earn monopoly positions fairly (by, among other things, exploiting the value of their intellectual property) nonetheless cannot be permitted to entrench their dominance by forcing consumers to deal exclusively with them (as Judge Thomas Jackson found Microsoft to have done). Subject to these constraints, however, holders of IP rights certainly have full ability to exploit them in most any way they see fit.

One of the hard questions, on which different views are expressed here, is how far policymakers should go in being willing to grant patents for certain kinds of innovation. Baker, as well as Cohen and Noll, expresses concern that the economic landscape is becoming littered with too many patents and copyrights, which make it difficult for new businesses, especially those seeking to use genetic information and certain business software, to enter markets unless they pay what can be hefty license fees to patent holders.

William Haseltine, the chairman of one of the nation’s leading biotechnology companies, takes a different tack, at least with respect to patents for genetically based medicines. Haseltine argues that strong patent protection will be required in this field to reduce the risks of the massive and time-consuming investments that companies must make to continue to deliver the dramatic reductions in cost and the life-saving improvements that genetically based drugs are just beginning to provide. For similar reasons, price controls on such new pharmaceuticals can threaten the access of these companies to the investment funds required to support their research and development.

Technology and the Environment

On a different note, technological advance has been blamed in some quarters for leading to undesirable outcomes: the automobile and electricity generation plants, for example, are major sources of pollution. The challenge society faces is not, however, to halt such advances, but to find ways to “internalize” these environmental costs so that producers and consumers take full account of them when making investment and purchasing decisions. In fact, federal environmental regulators have been trying to do precisely that by adopting such market-like devices as emissions trading to reduce pollution in a cost-effective manner.

David Austin and Molly Macauley demonstrate in their article how such incentives can encourage technology to lend a helping hand to environmental cleanup. Automobiles emit far less pollution today than they did 20 years ago because they are equipped with catalytic converters, and, most recently, with sensors that are dramatically improving the efficiency of auto engines. Fuel cells hold the promise of reducing the emissions of carbon dioxide, thought to be the main culprit behind global warming. Satellite technology is being used to improve crop yield and health while reducing the need for environmentally harmful chemicals. In short, technological change should be viewed not necessarily as the source of new environmental problems, but as a solution to the problems we have today.

New Policy Challenges

Just as technology is changing the way we live, it is also creating a variety of new challenges for policymakers. Articles in the balance of this issue address some of the challenges that arise from the hottest new technology, the Internet.

Consider first the vexing, and closely related, issues of security and privacy. Public opinion polls consistently show that more people would use the Internet if they felt more comfortable that the personal information they provide on it is secure and if they were given a choice as to how that information later could be used or to whom it may be transferred. In principle, both concerns eventually should be allayed to some degree by technological advances in browsers and software. More privacy legislation may be in the offing as well.

Yet other security concerns associated with the Internet directly conflict with privacy, as Michael O’Neil highlights in his article. In particular, criminals are using encryption software to protect the security of their Internet transmissions, thereby avoiding the use of the telephone, which law enforcement officials can easily monitor with a search warrant. The FBI has tried to level the playing field with plans to monitor e-mails and other web traffic through a remote “sniffing” device called “Carnivore”-a prospect that has aroused strong concerns about privacy and caused Attorney General Janet Reno to order a review of the whole idea. In the meantime, the government probably will have to intensify the use of its own hackers to try to crack encrypted messages sent by suspected criminals, while toughening penalties against those who deliberately plant viruses and disrupt Internet traffic.

Copyright and the Internet

A second set of policy issues spawned by the Internet-or more precisely, by the Napster software program developed by then 19-year-old Shawn Fanning-is how, if at all, to protect copyrights on the Internet. Napster is used by tens of millions of people in the United States and elsewhere around the world (probably including many readers of this magazine) to swap digital recordings. At this writing, the legal fate of Napster is unclear, with continued wrangling in the courts expected for some time. But the prospect that file-sharing technologies like Napster, of which there are now many, may allow unlimited copying not only of recordings, but also of videos, books, and software programs, has unleashed a highly contentious debate between those who see the technology as a boon to consumers (and also unstoppable) and those who view the technology as threatening the distribution of any kind of new, original content on the Internet.

Jonathan Band and Cary Sherman take opposing views on this subject in their articles. Band argues that recent legislation, coupled with new encryption or copy controls likely to be available soon, will provide content providers with overly broad copyright protection, inhibiting “fair uses” of recordings and other copyrighted works, to the detriment of libraries in particular. Sherman responds by defending the recording industry’s legal fight to prevent file-sharing programs from eroding the value of copyright and thereby reducing incentives for artists to compose and perform music in the future. Similar logic would apply to other types of content capable of being distributed on the Internet. Both authors agree, however, that ultimately technology will solve the “Napster problem”-a “solution” that nonetheless cannot be guaranteed-although they differ on the desirability of that outcome.

The Digital Divide

The so-called digital divide and how to close it is yet another policy issue associated with the Internet. In fact, the growing popularity and usefulness of the Internet-as a way to learn, connect with other people, and purchase goods and services at lower cost or with greater convenience-is the reason many support a national commitment, backed with suitable policy instruments, to provide something akin to universal access to the Internet.

In 1996, Congress took a step in this direction by authorizing a national program for subsidizing Internet access for schools, hospitals, and libraries. But access at home is far less universal, on the order of 50 percent (and even lower in most other countries). Robert Crandall nonetheless takes a skeptical view of the need and appropriateness of the government doing more to subsidize ownership of hardware and regular Internet service for individuals (let alone broadband service, which is now taken by only 3 percent of all households). Prices of various Internet access devices (not just personal computers) have been falling like a rock, and they are now available for $400 or less. Some providers now offer Internet access for free. To be sure, computer ownership and Internet access are substantially lower among African-American and Hispanic households than among white households, but once account is taken of income, location, household size, and some other demographic variables, Crandall finds that Internet usage in these households is not significantly lower than for other groups. The digital divide, he suggests, should close naturally, as incomes grow, market forces make Internet access even cheaper, and households more widely appreciate the value of having it.

Another issue closely related to the digital divide is making effective use of the Internet in the classroom. It is one thing for classrooms to be hooked up to the Internet-a goal that is nearly accomplished after four years of subsidy through the telephone rate system-but quite another for teachers to be able to use the new technology effectively in teaching students. Craig Cunningham notes that on this score, the nation has a long way to go. Most teachers are not equipped to make full use of the Internet, nor are their classroom materials yet fully taking advantage of the interactive nature of the medium. There are a few shining examples where computers and the Internet are being used with significant effect, but the nation has a long way to go, he argues, before this success is widely replicated.

Innovation and Economic Growth

Technological advance is much like the proverbial goose that continues to lay the golden eggs of economic growth. But the process cannot and should not be taken for granted. Decisions policymakers take-to fund research, to grant IP rights, and to enforce the antitrust laws, among others-strongly influence the pace of technological advance and the form it takes. In turn, new technologies lead to new policy challenges.

In the concluding article in this issue, a research team from Harvard provides some survey evidence indicating that, on the whole, Americans are highly optimistic about the emergence of new technologies-especially new medical discoveries-and by large majorities believe that the benefits of scientific research outweigh any disadvantages. Similarly, most believe that the computer revolution has had a favorable impact on society-despite some of the downsides (concerns about privacy, availability of pornography on the Net, and security).

These views are not surprising. Technological advance means change, and change is not often a comforting experience. But it is primarily through continued innovation that living standards here and elsewhere are able to improve and thus to keep the good times rolling.

Internet & Telecommunications

Economic Studies

Niam Yaraghi

January 8, 2024

August 2, 2023

Samantha Lai

July 11, 2022

National Academies Press: OpenBook

Information Technology and the U.S. Workforce: Where Are We and Where Do We Go from Here? (2017)

Chapter: 7 conclusion, 7 conclusion.

Progress in many of the basic computing and information technologies has been rapid in recent years, and the committee does not expect the pace of change to slow down in the foreseeable future. While some technologies are reaching maturity now, many important technologies have enormous future potential. As more of the world’s information is digitized and more people and things are networked, the economics of the digital, networked economy will become ever more important. This includes the ability to make copies of goods and services at almost zero cost and deliver them anywhere on the planet almost instantaneously. Furthermore, digitization of products, services, processes, and interactions makes it possible to measure and manage work with far more precision. Data-driven decision making and machine learning provide vast opportunities for improving productivity, efficiency, accuracy, and innovation.

The committee expects important innovations to come in the area of artifical intelligence (AI) and robotics. Several decades ago, humans were unable to converse with machines using ordinary speech; now it is done routinely. Machines are learning to effectively translate from one language to another, a task once seen only in science fiction. We are moving from an era where machines were blind, unable to recognize even simple objects, to an era where they can distinguish faces, read street signs, and understand the content of photographs as well as—or better than—humans. They are being put to work reading X-ray and MRI images, advising doctors on potential drug interactions, helping lawyers

sift through documents, and composing simple stories about sports and finance for newspapers. Machines are becoming much better at reasoning and can now defeat the best humans at most games of skill, from checkers and chess to trivia and Go. Machines are learning to drive cars, which could potentially save thousands of lives in the United States and millions worldwide. Bipedal robots are learning to navigate stairs and uneven terrain, while their cheetah-like brethren can outrun even the fastest humans. Many of the technologies with the greatest impact will likely look unlike any human or animal, but will transport shelves of inventory throughout warehouses, assemble basic electronics in factories, fly to disaster zones with medicine, swim beneath the waves to gather data for oceanographers, and haunt computer networks in search of cyberattacks. In fact, many of these exist in some form already, although they are likely to become more widespread and more competent.

While there are undoubtedly important technological breakthroughs to come, it is critical to note that the technologies that exist today and those under active development have important implications for the workforce. They create opportunities for new products, services, organizational processes, and business models as well as opportunities for automating existing tasks, even whole occupations. Many cognitive and physical tasks will be replaced by machines. At the same time, we expect new job opportunities to emerge as increasingly capable combinations of humans and machines attack problems that previously have been intractable.

Advances in IT and automation will present opportunities to boost America’s overall income and wealth, improve health care, shorten the work week, develop new goods and services, and increase product safety and reliability.

These same advances could also lead to growing inequality, decreased job stability, increasing demands on workers to change jobs, and changes in business organization. There are also important implications for other aspects of society, both intended and unintended, not the least of which include potentially profound changes in education, privacy, security, social relationships, and even democracy.

The ultimate effects of these technologies are not predetermined. Rather, like all tools, computing and information technologies can be used in many different ways. The outcomes for the workforce and society at large depend on our choices. Technology can be a powerful tool. What do we want for our future society? How do we decide this?

Potential future technological capabilities and innovations are largely unpredictable, and their implications and interactions are complex. Investing in extensive and effective data gathering, a robust infrastructure for analyzing these data, and multidisciplinary research will enable a deeper

understanding of emerging changes in technology and the workforce. The results of this research will inform the adoption of policies that will help maximize the resilience and prosperity of the institutions, organizations, and individuals in our society.

Recent years have yielded significant advances in computing and communication technologies, with profound impacts on society. Technology is transforming the way we work, play, and interact with others. From these technological capabilities, new industries, organizational forms, and business models are emerging.

Technological advances can create enormous economic and other benefits, but can also lead to significant changes for workers. IT and automation can change the way work is conducted, by augmenting or replacing workers in specific tasks. This can shift the demand for some types of human labor, eliminating some jobs and creating new ones. Information Technology and the U.S. Workforce explores the interactions between technological, economic, and societal trends and identifies possible near-term developments for work. This report emphasizes the need to understand and track these trends and develop strategies to inform, prepare for, and respond to changes in the labor market. It offers evaluations of what is known, notes open questions to be addressed, and identifies promising research pathways moving forward.

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16.6 Mass Media, New Technology, and the Public

Learning objectives.

  • Explain the technology diffusion model.
  • Identify technological failures over the past decade.
  • Describe the relationship between mass media and new technology.

When the iPad went on sale in the United States in April 2010, 36-year-old graphic designer Josh Klenert described the device as “ridiculously expensive [and] way overpriced (Guglielmo, 2010).” The cost of the new technology, however, did not deter Klenert from purchasing an iPad; he preordered the tablet computer as soon as it was available and ventured down to Apple’s SoHo store in New York on opening weekend to be one of the first to buy it. Klenert, and everyone else who stood in line at the Apple store during the initial launch of the iPad, is described by sociologists as an early adopter: a tech-loving pioneer who is among the first to embrace new technology as soon as it arrives on the market. What causes a person to be an early adopter or a late adopter? What are the benefits of each? In this section you will read about the cycle of technology and how it is diffused in a society. The process and factors influencing the diffusion of new technology is often discussed in the context of a diffusion model known as the technology adoption life cycle .

Diffusion of Technology: The Technology Adoption Life Cycle

Figure 16.7

image

Like other cultural shifts, technological advances follow a fairly standard diffusion model.

The technology adoption life cycle was originally observed during the technology diffusion studies of rural sociologists during the 1950s. University researchers George Beal, Joe Bohlen, and Everett Rogers were looking at the adoption rate of hybrid seed among Iowa farmers in an attempt to draw conclusions about how farmers accept new ideas. They discovered that the process of adoption over time fit a normal growth curve pattern—there was a slow gradual rate of adoption, then quite a rapid rate of adoption, followed by a leveling off of the adoption rate. Personal and social characteristics influenced when farmers adopted the use of hybrid seed corn; younger, better-educated farmers tended to adapt to the new technology almost as soon as it became available, whereas older, less-educated farmers waited until most other farms were using hybrid seed before they adopted the process, or they resisted change altogether.

In 1962, Rogers generalized the technology diffusion model in his book Diffusion of Innovations , using the farming research to draw conclusions about the spread of new ideas and technology. Like his fellow farming model researchers, Rogers recognizes five categories of participants: innovators , who tend to be experimentalists and are interested in the technology itself; early adopters such as Josh Klenert, who are technically sophisticated and are interested in using the technology for solving professional and academic problems; early majority , who constitute the first part of the mainstream, bringing the new technology into common use; late majority , who are less comfortable with the technology and may be skeptical about its benefits; and laggards , who are resistant to the new technology and may be critical of its use by others (Rogers, 1995).

When new technology is successfully released in the market, it follows the technology adoption life cycle shown in Figure 16.7 . Innovators and early adopters, attracted by something new, want to be the first to possess the innovation, sometimes even before discovering potential uses for it, and are unconcerned with the price. When the iPad hit stores in April 2010, 120,000 units were sold on the first day, primarily as a result of presales (Oliver, 2010). Sales dropped on days 2 and 3, suggesting that demand for the device dipped slightly after the initial first-day excitement. Within the first month, Apple had sold 1,000,000 iPads, exceeding industry expectations (Goldman, 2010). However, many mainstream consumers (the early majority) are waiting to find out just how popular the device will become before making a purchase. Research carried out in the United Kingdom suggests that many consumers are uncertain how the iPad will fit into their lives—the survey drew comments such as “Everything it does I can do on my PC or my phone right now” and “It’s just a big iPod Touch…a big iPhone without the phone (O’Hear, 2010).” The report, by research group Simpson Carpenter, concludes that most consumers are “unable to find enough rational argument to justify taking the plunge (O’Hear, 2010).”

However, as with previous technological advances, the early adopters who have jumped on the iPad bandwagon may ultimately validate its potential, helping mainstream users make sense of the device and its uses. Forrester Research notes that much of the equipment acquired by early adopters—laptops, MP3 players, digital cameras, broadband Internet access at home, and mobile phones—is shifting into the mainstream. Analyst Jacqueline Anderson, who works for Forrester, said, “There’s really no group out of the tech loop. America is becoming a digital nation. Technology adoption continues to roll along, picking up more and more mainstream consumers every year (Wortham, 2009).” To cite just one example, in 2008 nearly 10 million American households added HDTV, an increase of 27 percent over the previous year (Wortham, 2009). By the time most technology reaches mainstream consumers, it is more established, more user-friendly, and cheaper than earlier versions or prototypes. In June 2010, Amazon.com slashed the price of its Kindle e-reader from $259 to $189 in response to competition from Barnes & Noble’s Nook (Bartash, 2010). Companies frequently reduce the price of technological devices once the initial novelty wears off, as a result of competition from other manufacturers or as a strategy to retain market share.

Although many people ultimately adapt to new technology, some are extremely resistant or unwilling to change at all. When Netscape web browser user John Uribe was repeatedly urged by a message from parent company AOL to switch to one of Netscape’s successors, Firefox or Flock, he ignored the suggestions. Despite being informed that AOL would stop providing support for the web browser service in March 2008, Uribe continued to use it. “It’s kind of irrational,” Mr. Uribe said. “It worked for me, so I stuck with it. Until there is really some reason to totally abandon it, I won’t (Helft, 2008).”Uribe is a self-confessed late adopter—he still uses dial-up Internet service and is happy to carry on using his aging Dell computer with its small amount of memory. Members of the late majority make up a large percentage of the U.S. population—a 2010 survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau found that despite the technology’s widespread availability, 40 percent of households across the United States have no high-speed or broadband Internet connection, while 30 percent have no Internet at all (Whitney, 2010). Of 32.1 million households in urban areas, the most common reason for not having high-speed Internet was a lack of interest or a lack of need for the technology (Whitney, 2010).

Figure 16.8

image

The most common reason that people in both rural and urban areas do not have high-speed Internet is a lack of interest in the technology.

Experts claim that, rather than slowing down the progression of new technological developments, laggards in the technology adoption life cycle may help to control the development of new technology. Paul Saffo, a technology forecaster, said, “Laggards have a bad rap, but they are crucial in pacing the nature of change. Innovation requires the push of early adopters and the pull of laypeople asking whether something really works. If this was a world in which only early adopters got to choose, we’d all be using CB radios and quadraphonic stereo.” 1 He added that aspects of the laggard and early adopter coexist in most people. For example, many consumers buy the latest digital camera and end up using just a fraction of its functions. Technological laggards may be the reason that not every new technology becomes a mainstream trend (see sidebar).

Not Consumer-Approved: Technological Flops

Have you ever heard of the Apple Newton? How about Microsoft Bob? Or DIVX? For most people, the names probably mean very little because these were all flash-in-the-pan technologies that never caught on with mainstream consumers.

The Apple Newton was an early PDA, officially known as the MessagePad. Introduced by Apple in 1993, the Newton contained many of the features now popularized by modern smartphones, including personal information management and add-on storage slots. Despite clever advertising and relentless word-of-mouth campaigns, the Newton failed to achieve anything like the popularity enjoyed by most Apple products. Hampered by its large size compared to more recent equivalents (such as the PalmPilot) and its cost—basic models cost around $700, with more advanced models costing up to $1,000—the Newton was also ridiculed by talk show comedians and cartoonists because of the supposed inaccuracy of its handwriting-recognition function. By 1998, the Newton was no more. A prime example of an idea that was ahead of its time, the Newton was the forerunner to the smaller, cheaper, and more successful PalmPilot, which in turn paved the way for every successive mobile Internet device.

Even less successful in the late 1990s was DIVX, an attempt by electronics retailer Circuit City to create an alternative to video rental. Customers could rent movies on disposable DIVX discs that they could keep and watch for 2 days. They then had the choice of throwing away or recycling the disc or paying a continuation fee to keep watching it. Viewers who wanted to watch a disc an unlimited amount of times could pay to convert it into a “DIVX silver” disc for an additional fee. Launched in 1998, the DIVX system was promoted as an alternative to traditional rental systems with the promise of no returns and no late fees. However, its introduction coincided with the release of DVD technology, which was gaining traction over the DIVX format. Consumers feared that the choice between DIVX and DVD might turn into another Betamax versus VHS debacle, and by 1999 the technology was all but obsolete. The failure of DIVX cost Circuit City a reported $114,000,000 and left early enthusiasts of the scheme with worthless DIVX equipment (although vendors offered a $100 refund for people who bought a DIVX player) (Mokey, 2009).

Another catastrophic failure in the world of technology was Microsoft Bob, a mid-1990s attempt to provide a new, nontechnical interface to desktop computing operations. Bob, represented by a logo with a yellow smiley face that filled the o in its name, was supposed to make Windows more palatable to nontechnical users. With a cartoon-like interface that was meant to resemble the inside of a house, Bob helped users navigate their way around the desktop by having them click on objects in each room. Microsoft expected sales of Bob to skyrocket and held a big advertising campaign to celebrate its 1995 launch. Instead, the product failed dismally because of its high initial sale price, demanding hardware requirements, and tendency to patronize users. When Windows 95 was launched the same year, its new Windows Explorer interface required far less dumbing down than previous versions, and Microsoft Bob became irrelevant.

Technological failures such as the Apple Newton, DIVX, and Microsoft Bob prove that sometimes it is better to be a mainstream adopter than to jump on the new-product bandwagon before the technology has been fully tried and tested.

Mass Media Outlets and New Technology

As new technology reaches the shelves and the number of early majority consumers rushing to purchase it increases, mass media outlets are forced to adapt to the new medium. When the iPad’s popularity continued to grow throughout 2010 (selling 3,000,000 units within 3 months of its launch date), traditional newspapers, magazines, and TV networks rushed to form partnerships with Apple, launching applications for the tablet so that consumers could directly access their content. Unconstrained by the limited amount of space available in a physical newspaper or magazine, publications such as The New York Times and USA Today are able to include more detailed reporting than they can fit in their traditional paper, as well as interactive features such as crossword puzzles and the use of video and sound. “Our iPad App is designed to take full advantage of the evolving capabilities offered by the Internet,” said Arthur Sulzberger Jr., publisher of The New York Times . “We see our role on the iPad as being similar to our traditional print role—to act as a thoughtful, unbiased filter and to provide our customers with information they need and can trust (Brett, 2010).”

Because of Apple’s decision to ban Flash (the dominant software for online video viewing) from the iPad, some traditional TV networks have been converting their video files to HTML5 in order to enable full TV episodes to be screened on the device. CBS and Disney were among the first networks to offer free TV content on the iPad in 2010 through the iPad’s built-in web browser, while ABC streamed its shows via an iPad application. The iPad has even managed to revive forms of traditional media that had been discontinued; in June 2010, Condé Nast announced the restoration of Gourmet magazine as an iPad application called Gourmet Live. As more media content becomes available on new technology such as the iPad, the iPod, and the various e-readers available on the market, it appeals to a broader range of consumers, becoming a self-perpetuating model.

Key Takeaways

  • The technology adoption life cycle offers a diffusion model of how people accept new ideas and new technology. The model recognizes five categories of participants: innovators, who tend to be experimentalists and are interested in the technology itself; early adopters, who are technically sophisticated and are interested in using the technology for solving professional and academic problems; early majority, who constitute the first part of the mainstream, bringing the new technology into common use; late majority, who are less comfortable with the technology and may be skeptical about its benefits; and laggards, who are resistant to the new technology and may be critical of its use by others.
  • When new technology is released in the market, it follows the technology adoption life cycle. Innovators and early adopters want to be the first to own the technology and are unconcerned about the cost, whereas mainstream consumers wait to find out how popular or successful the technology will become before buying it. As the technology filters into the mainstream, it becomes cheaper and more user-friendly. Some people remain resistant to new technology, however, which helps to control its development. Technological flops such as Microsoft Bob and DIVX result from skeptical late adopters or laggards refusing to purchase innovations that appear unlikely to become commercially successful.
  • As new technology transitions into the mainstream, traditional media outlets have to adapt to the new technology to reach consumers. Recent examples include the development of traditional media applications for the iPad, such as newspaper, magazine, and TV network apps.

Choose a technological innovation from the past 50 years and research its diffusion into the mass market. Then respond to the following short-answer questions. Each response should be a minimum of one paragraph.

  • Does it fit the technology diffusion model?
  • How quickly did the technology reach the mass market? In what ways did mass media aid the spread of this technology?
  • Research similar inventions that never caught on. Why do you think this technology succeeded when so many others failed?

End-of-Chapter Assessment

Review Questions

  • What are the main types of traditional media, and what factors influenced their development?
  • What are the main types of new media and what factors influenced their development?
  • Why are new media often more successful than traditional media?
  • What were the main types of media used at the beginning of the 20th century?
  • What factors led to the rise of a national mass culture?
  • How has the Internet affected media delivery?
  • What are the main information delivery methods in modern media?
  • Why has the Internet become a primary source of news and information?
  • What are the main advantages of modern media delivery methods?
  • What are the main disadvantages of modern media delivery methods?
  • What factors influenced the development of the print industry? What factors contributed to its decline?
  • How has the Internet affected the print industry?
  • What is likely to happen to the print industry in the future? How is print media transitioning into the digital age?
  • What are the current trends in social networking?
  • How is the Internet becoming more exclusive?
  • What are the effects of smartphone applications on modern media?
  • What effects did the USA PATRIOT Act have on privacy in the United States?
  • What are some of the consequences of social networking sites in terms of privacy and employment?
  • How are some websites attempting to restore privacy?
  • What is the technology adoption life cycle and how does it relate to new media?
  • How do mass-media outlets respond to new technology?

Critical Thinking Questions

  • Is there a future for traditional media, or will it be consumed by digital technology?
  • Do employers have the right to use social networking sites as a method of selecting future employees? Are employees entitled to voice their opinion on the Internet even if it damages their company’s reputation?
  • Did the USA PATRIOT Act make the country a safer place, or did it violate privacy laws and undermine civil liberties?
  • One of the disadvantages of modern media delivery is the lack of reliability of information on the Internet. Do you think online journalism (including blogging) will ultimately become a respected source of information, or will people continue to rely on traditional news media?
  • Will a pay-for-content model work for online newspapers and magazines, or have consumers become too used to receiving their news for free?

Career Connection

As a result of rapid change in the digital age, careers in media are constantly shifting, and many people who work in the industry face an uncertain future. However, the Internet (and all the various technologies associated with it) has created numerous opportunities in the media field. Take a look at the following website and scroll down to the “Digital” section: http://www.getdegrees.com/articles/career-resources/top-60-jobs-that-will-rock-the-future/

The website lists several media careers that are on the rise, including the following:

  • Media search consultant
  • Interface designer
  • Cloud computing engineer
  • Integrated digital media specialist
  • Casual game developer
  • Mobile application developer

Read through the description of each career, including the links within each description. Choose one career that you are interested in pursuing, research the skills and qualifications it requires, and then write a one-page paper on what you found. Here are some other helpful websites you might like to use in your research:

  • Digital Jobs of the Future: Integrated Digital Media Specialist: http://www.s2m.com.au/news/2009/11/26/digital-jobs-of-the-future-integrated-digital-media-specialist/?403
  • Cloud Computing Jobs: http://cloudczar.com/
  • Top Careers for College Graduates: Casual Game Development: http://www.examiner.com/x-11055-San-Diego-College-Life-Examiner~y2009m5d27-Top-careers-for-college-graduates-Casual -Game-Development
  • How to Become a Mobile Application Developer: http://www.ehow.com/how_5638517_become-mobile-application-developer.html
  • Mobile App Development: So Many Choices, So Few Guarantees: http://www.linuxinsider.com/story/70128.html?wlc=1277823391
  • 20 Websites to Help You Master User Interface Design: http://sixrevisions.com/usabilityaccessibility/20-websites-to-help-you-master-user-interface-design/

1 Helft, “Tech’s Late Adapters.”

Bartash, Jeffry. “Amazon Drops Kindle Price to $189,” MarketWatch , June 21, 2010, http://www.marketwatch.com/story/amazon-drops-kindle-price-to-189-2010-06-21 .

Brett, Andy. “The New York Times Introduces an iPad App,” TechCrunch , April 1, 2010, http://techcrunch.com/2010/04/01/new-york-times-ipad/ .

Goldman, Jim. “Apple Sells 1 Million iPads,” CNBC , May 3, 2010, http://www.cnbc.com/id/36911690/Apple_Sells_1_Million_iPads .

Guglielmo, Connie. “Apple IPad’s Debut Weekend Sales May Be Surpassing Estimates,” Businessweek , April 4, 2010, http://www.businessweek.com/news/2010-04-04/apple-ipad-s-debut-weekend-sales-may-be-surpassing-estimates.html .

Helft, Miguel. “Tech’s Late Adopters Prefer the Tried and True,” New York Times , March 12, 2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/12/technology/12inertia.html .

Mokey, Nick. “Tech We Regret,” Digital Trends , March 18, 2009, http://www.digitaltrends.com/how-to/tech-we-regret/ .

O’Hear, Steve. “Report: The iPad Won’t Go Mass Market Anytime Soon,” TechCrunch , May 12, 2010, http://eu.techcrunch.com/2010/05/12/report-the-ipad-wont-go-mass-market-anytime-soon/ .

Oliver, Sam. “Preorders for Apple iPad Slow After 120K First-Day Rush,” Apple Insider , March 15, 2010, http://www.appleinsider.com/articles/10/03/15/preorders_for_apple_ipad_slow_after_120k_first_day_rush.html .

Rogers, Everett M. Diffusion of Innovations , 4th ed. (New York: The Free Press, 1995).

Whitney, Lance. “Survey: 40 Percent in U.S. Have No Broadband,” CNET , February 16, 2010, http://news.cnet.com/8301-1035_3-10454133-94.html .

Wortham, Jenna. “The Race to Be an Early Adopter of Technologies Goes Mainstream, a Survey Finds,” New York Times , September 1, 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/02/technology/02survey.html .

Understanding Media and Culture Copyright © 2016 by University of Minnesota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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How Tech Has Changed Our Lives In The Last 10 Years

Several tech experts weigh in on the technologies of the past decade that had the greatest impact on society.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Ari Shapiro. And...

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MICHELE NORRIS: I'm Michele Norris.

MELISSA BLOCK: I'm Melissa Block, and it's time now for All Tech Considered.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SHAPIRO: That is how the first All Tech Considered of the decade began on January 4, 2010. Sad to say, Michele and Melissa are not here in the studio with me this Christmas Day. A lot has changed since then - hosts of this program and technology.

In a minute, we'll look ahead to the next decade in tech. Before we do, let's revisit this one. We asked three experts to pick what they see as the most significant ways tech has changed our lives since 2009. The most obvious advancement was the smartphone. They were around in 2009, but now 81% of Americans own one. And technology reporter Omar Gallaga says they've almost become an appendage.

OMAR GALLAGA: I was in a restaurant over the weekend, and, you know, just across from me, a woman's phone was going off every five seconds. You know, I heard a chime or an alert - you know, different alerts out of her phone every - and I'm, like, how is she functioning as a human in this world? You know, she didn't even notice that those alerts were going off. I mean, that's how much a part of her life they must be, so...

SHAPIRO: And it's not just the phones. Gallaga's daughters, who are 10 and 12, have tablets. He says kids these days just go through life differently from a decade ago.

GALLAGA: When you see kids at the doctor's office looking at magazines, and they're trying to, like, you know, scroll the page (laughter), the print page - like, yeah. Yep, that's an iPad kid right there.

SHAPIRO: Next, we turn to Erin Hatton. She is an associate professor of sociology at the University at Buffalo. And for her, the most significant change of the decade is something that would not have been possible without the smartphone - it's the gig economy, enabled by apps like Uber, TaskRabbit and Airbnb. Hatton says they've redefined what it is to be a worker.

ERIN HATTON: I think that this work has started new conversations between workers and across sectors in rethinking what it means to be a worker and potentially rethinking what kinds of benefits and protections we attach to work.

SHAPIRO: Beyond our daily lives or our work, tech in the last decade has also shaped what we believe to be true. Sometimes we know we're being faked, like in Martin Scorsese's movie "The Irishman." Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci, who are both in their 70s, look much younger thanks to technology. In some scenes, they're in their 40s.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE IRISHMAN")

JOE PESCI: (As Russell Bufalino) What's the problem, kid?

ROBERT DE NIRO: (As Frank Sheeran) I don't know. It sounds funny - stops and starts and loses power.

PESCI: (As Russell Bufalino) I can give you a hand.

SHAPIRO: It's believable. Of course, there is a darker side of this technology, too. Michael Fink is a professor of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California, and he says it's easier than ever before to manipulate videos and make it seem like something happened when it never did.

MICHAEL FINK: The software has become so powerful that things can be altered, changed, modified so quickly that people would think, oh, my god. That has to be real. It just happened. And that's not true. The reality is fungible. It can be used by dark forces - let's put it that way - people with absolutely nothing but malevolence at the core of their being. And it's scary.

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NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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Next Steps for Ensuring America’s Advanced Technology Preeminence

Next Steps for Ensuring America’s Advanced Technology Preeminence

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As technology and industry strategy experts, we commend Congress and the Biden administration for focusing on ensuring U.S. advanced technology competitiveness. Toward that end, we offer a number of recommendations for further action.

America, We Have a Problem

Key national objectives, policies to advance these objectives.

By a number of metrics—including its dropping position in international innovation ranking systems, its growing trade imbalance in high-tech industries, its decline in real manufacturing value-added output, and in the weaknesses of its defense industrial base—the United States has clearly seen its technological leadership in both innovation and production erode.

It is critical that the United States maintain its preeminence in technological innovation and production, particularly against a surging and adversarial China, because it enables national power (both soft and hard), as well as a thriving economy and good middle-class jobs.

In order to compete in a world in which Chinese economic and technology advancements threaten to displace U.S. leadership, the federal government must put in place and fully fund a national advanced technology strategy. Without such a strategy, the United States will in all likelihood continue to lose market share in a host of advanced industries—including aerospace, computing and communications, Internet services, life sciences, materials, semiconductors, and vehicles—with negative implications for innovation, national security, and living standards.

This requires updating antiquated economic thinking, especially thinking that holds that laissez-fare markets (which China does not embrace) are enough. This “black box” view of technology and its applications might have worked 50 years ago, when innovation industries represented a smaller part of the U.S. economy—and when the Chinese economy was backward. But today, holding on to the market-only view makes it more difficult to advance the kinds of policies needed to effectively help American innovators and producers outcompete economic systems in which “innovation mercantilism” on the one hand and strong and legitimate industrial strategies on the other make it harder for companies in America to compete.

As such, it is time for Congress and the Biden administration to embrace bold ideas and proposals focused on supporting advanced technology research, development, and production in America.

There are three major national objectives for an advanced industry and technology policy.

1. Support the Creation of Breakthrough Technologies and Encourage Their Commercialization and Production in the United States

There are a set of existing and emerging advanced technologies that are key to U.S. economic success and national security. There have been several lists of these technologies, such as the ten listed in the Endless Frontier Act. While experts may quibble about whether one or two might be added or subtracted from various lists, there is general agreement on the most important technologies for the nation’s future.

When we say “support the creation of these technologies,” we mean not just their initial creation in the laboratory but also to extend their development along the technology readiness level (TRL) index from around TRL 3 (proof of concept) to at least TRL 7 (system prototype). Equally important is the development and commercialization of advanced process technologies that enable these technologies to be cost-effectively produced in the high labor-cost environment of the United States. These involve moving new technologies up the equally crucial manufacturing readiness level (MRL) index, from MRL 3 to at least MRL 7, if not to MRL 8. Improvements in measurement technology are also important. [1]

Support for these technologies can and usually should entail both “supply-side” policies (for example, through programs such as DARPA, ARPA-E, Manufacturing USA Centers, NSF’s industry-university centers, and NASA programs (such as its E3 program for cleaner jet engines), as well as “demand-side” policies (for example, through procurement, such as supporting the upgrading of the electrical grid and investing in smart city applications). [2] Special attention must be given to policies that link supply and demand together, to bring technologies through the “valley of death,” and to allow innovators to sustain development efforts by earning sufficient returns on early investments to advance up the learning curve and fund further improvements in product development and advanced production processes.

2. Support Companies in Key Advanced Technology Industries

U.S. competition with other nations, especially China, is won or lost based on what companies in America do. That includes companies headquartered in America and in allied nations (with a focus on the latter’s production in America); existing companies and start-ups; and firms of all sizes. It also includes firms in key industries such as aerospace, biopharmaceuticals, computers and electronics (including semiconductors), electrical equipment, machinery, software, and transportation. Early adopters of key technologies—so-called “lead users”—are also crucial (and can include public sector organizations as well as firms). This should by no means entail targeting particular firms for assistance; the government generally cannot know enough to do this effectively. But it does mean targeting broad sectors, for assistance, such as advanced semiconductor manufacturing and packaging.

3. Support the Development of Additional Regions of Innovation

In order to expand overall U.S. economic opportunity and international technology competitiveness, it is important that the number of regions capable of successfully attracting and growing high-tech innovators (both entrepreneurs and branches of existing companies), such that high-tech wealth and jobs are not concentrated in just a few regions, also expands. Over the last half century, advanced technology innovation has become concentrated in only a few places (mostly on the coasts), which has not only meant dramatically increased costs of doing business in these successful hubs but weaker innovation systems in the rest of the nation, as the successful hubs have drawn in talent. Policies directed at certain metropolitan areas that already have innovation strengths could help them increase their appeal to talent and tech activity, so they become self-sustaining technology hubs themselves—resulting in less innovation offshoring, a stronger overall U.S. advanced technology innovation ecosystem, and more economic opportunity for more people. The benefits of these designated hubs will extend not just to the states where they are located, but also to adjacent states, as the spillover effects strengthen regional economies. As such, both the Endless Frontier Act and the Innovation Centers Acceleration Act include support for the creation of new self-sustaining regional technology hubs, thereby not only growing the local technology-based economy but doing so over a broader geographical area. [3]

Fortunately, Congress is more focused on these issues than any time since the late 1980s, and there is increasing bipartisan agreement that something needs to be done. We offer a number of proposals to achieve these three national objectives.

1. Improve and Pass the Endless Frontier Act

The Endless Frontier Act is a bold and needed initiative that could play a key role in ensuring U.S. advanced technology leadership. However, we suggest a number of improvements to the legislation, mostly around ensuring that the bill supports not just early-stage university research but also later-stage applied research, and that the legislation strengthens the program’s connections with industry. The program will have enhanced economic impact if it supports research that industry actually uses here in America.

In particular, under the main program to provide grants to higher education, the program would be strengthened if nonprofit entities were made eligible to lead research consortia. There are a number of areas wherein the legislation could strengthen industry ties, such as by allowing matching grants to companies for their own doctoral fellowship programs and requiring a cash match of at least 10 percent from industry for any higher education institution or consortium to receive funding. A cash match is an insurance policy that the research will benefit companies in America, and not simply result in academic journal articles. In addition, the legislation should build in a reporting requirement, especially for successful commercialization and technology transfers to firms in the United States. And to better strengthen the legislation’s innovation hubs component, at least 20 percent of the grant funding to university centers should go to those centers geographically located in designated regional technology hubs.

The legislation should include a provision to fund industry-supported and university partnership research and development (R&D) consortia in the 10 core technologies. To qualify for support, businesses must provide at least half the funding for such consortia, as well as take a leadership role in shaping the research activities. Moreover, these partnerships should take the lead in developing technology road maps for each of the 10 technology areas. These road maps should solicit input from key industry stakeholders, trade and professional associations, and other technology experts. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA’s) process has done this in a more informal way for some particular technologies.

It is also critical that the final legislation retains and even strengthens the provisions to establish a competitive regional technology hub program. The reality is that it will be impossible to transform reasonably strong technology regions into world-class ones (such as Silicon Valley and Boston) without a focused and dedicated program such as this. The other provisions in the legislation do not meet this need.

The legislation also rightly requires a strategy and report on economic security, science, research, and innovation to support the national security strategy. Congress should make it explicit that any such strategy must be based on an in-depth analysis of U.S. industry (and other institutions’) strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (including by benchmarking U.S. industry, institutions, and policies against those of major competitor nations) as well as an in-depth assessment of U.S. technological and industry strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats in the core 10 technology areas, including how the United States matches up against key competitors. To the extent possible, this should assess where the United States stands in the development, commercialization, production, and use of each of the core 10 technologies, especially vis-à-vis key U.S. military adversaries.

2. Fully Fund the CHIPS Act to Support U.S. Semiconductor Reshoring and R&D

Key aspects of the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors for America (CHIPS) Act include the following important measures:

  • Provision of $10 billion in matching grants for World Trade Organization (WTO)-consistent state/local incentives to attract semiconductor manufacturing facilities, which would help level the playing field with respect to other nations’ incentives;
  • Investment of $7 billion over five years for semiconductor research at agencies such as the National Science Foundation (NSF), Department of Energy, and DARPA;
  • Creation of a Manufacturing USA Institute for Semiconductor Manufacturing as well as a National Semiconductor Technology Center to research and prototype advanced semiconductors;
  • Introduction of a 40 percent investment tax credit for semiconductor equipment and facilities expenditures; and
  • Creation of a $750 million multilateral security fund to support development and adoption of secure microelectronics and microelectronics supply chains. [4]

President Biden’s infrastructure plan supports investing $50 billion through the CHIPS Act. [5] It is critical that Congress appropriate these direct and indirect funds for this critical industry.

3. Improve the R&D Tax Credit

Compared with America’s competitors, the R&D credit is quite parsimonious. [6] As such, Congress should double the rate of the credit, and improve the ability of newer, pre-revenue companies to take advantage of it. In addition, companies’ expenditures on global standard-setting activities and on training for frontline workers should be eligible for the credit. The American Innovation and Jobs Act would do some of this, as would proposed legislation to double the credit. [7]

Congress also should provide tax credits for building and operating critical mineral and rare earth element processing facilities would begin to make the United States competitive against unfair Chinese trade practices and make viable a key U.S. industrial sector. Cleanly processed minerals and rare-earth elements are vital to making the batteries for electric vehicles and avoiding expanded dependence on China, as the United States currently processes less than 4 percent of the minerals needed for batteries.

4. Reestablish the Commerce Department’s Advanced Technology Program

To strengthen industry-government cooperation and provide more federal support for commercial R&D, Congress should reestablish the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST’s) Advanced Technology Program (ATP), which would share the cost of industry-defined and industry-led early-phase technology development projects selected through merit-based competitions.

ATP was for product innovations. But companies can be slow to adopt many innovative and new production technologies for several reasons—including both the high technical and market risk of going first and having critical learning invariably spill over, thereby making it easier for followers to learn from the inevitable initial mistakes of the leaders. As such, Congress should reestablish ATP and expand its scope to also include support for innovative production process pilot programs. Any company in the United States could apply for funding (to be matched by its own funding) to demonstrate an advanced technology production process in a U.S. facility. In exchange for the support, the company would have to agree to exchange best practices and lessons with other firms in the United States.

5. Expand and Put on a Sustainable Footing the Manufacturing USA Center Program

The Manufacturing USA manufacturing institutes represent an important new innovation organizational model. They are one of the only mechanisms that establish national consortia of the entire manufacturing and innovation ecosystem: large OEMs, small companies, new ventures, academic and training institutions of all types, MEPs, FFRDCs, federal agencies, state and local economic development and workforce development programs. While the centers themselves are located, by necessity, in particular geographic areas, the purpose of the institutes is not to support regional development but rather to support manufacturers with similar technology needs across the entire nation.

Sixteen institutes have been established over the past seven years, and now is the time to buttress that model. Congress should provide more funding to establish significantly more centers, with the establishment of centers decided by industry, on the basis of firms coming together to show leadership and commit funding. China has committed to the establishment of around 45 centers. Germany has over 60 centers. The United States should try to have at least 40 to 50 centers, including new manufacturing tech demonstration and training centers and regional satellite centers for existing institutes, provided adequate industry commitment.

At the same time, funding levels for each institute should be increased and not time-limited after five years. As long as industry is still adequately engaged with a center, including providing funding, government funding should continue. In addition, institutes will need additional funding to work more closely with regional manufacturing ecosystems and to establish more regional technology prototyping demo centers for companies to utilize to test new manufacturing technologies. Expanded funding should also be made available to help the institutes coordinate their work across technologies and platforms; to establish stronger links to federal R&D agencies that traditionally do little in manufacturing R&D. Finally, increased funding is needed to expand education and workforce development efforts. Manufacturing technologies will not be implemented unless an advanced manufacturing skilled workforce is ready to implement them. This has become a key role for Institutes, but more should be done, particularly to promote cross-institute collaborations.

6. Ensure That any National Infrastructure Legislation Enables Technology Demand Initiatives

Demonstrations of new process technologies and their required infrastructure support are one of the largest gaps in today’s federal funding portfolio. For large-scale, capital-intensive sectors, the contrast between the United States and its key competitors, especially China, is stark. U.S. facilities are increasingly forced to be followers because private investors are too risk-averse to fund early commercial-scale facilities. The Departments of Energy and Defense should support a robust portfolio of cost-shared projects to accelerate process innovation in key sectors and work with consortia of firms to develop road maps to guide demonstration planning. [8] In addition, by supporting key technology-related infrastructure investments and ensuring that a significant share of procurement is from companies in America (or at least from close allies), innovation and production can be spurred. Areas of investment could include modernizing and making smart the electric grid; deploying broadband, including 5G wireless systems, in high-cost rural areas; and supporting the development of smart cities.

7. Establish a Tax Incentive for Companies Reshoring Production From China to U.S. Labor Surplus Areas

Congress should establish a reverse-auction tax credit based on the amount of value-added production allocated to a qualified labor market area. [9] For example, if a company bids to move $50 million of annual value-added production (the value of sales subtracted by input costs, such as electricity and supplier parts) back to the United States if it receives a tax credit of $20 million (40 percent of value added), and another company says it will move back $70 million for a $25 million credit (35 percent of value), the latter company would receive priority for credit funds because it would be asking for less of a subsidy per dollar of value added than the first company. There would be a one-time auction and all the bids would be accepted in reverse order of the subsidy share being asked for until all the appropriated funds are expended. To qualify, companies would have to close a Chinese facility and open a different one in a U.S. labor surplus area to make the same product(s).

8. Create an “Innovation Voucher” Program

As in almost a dozen other countries, innovation vouchers can spur innovation and stimulate knowledge transfer by allowing small and mid-sized enterprises to “buy” expertise from universities, national labs, and research institutions to conduct studies, analyze the innovation potential of new technologies, etc. A promising example has been the Small Business Voucher Pilot program in the Energy Department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), which has provided vouchers to 114 small businesses across 31 states, disbursing more than $22 million since 2015. The administration should work with Congress to extend such vouchers across the entire federal lab system under the auspices of NIST by authorizing $50 million that would be state-matched. The place to start would be with the Small Business Innovation Voucher Act, introduced by Sens. Cortez Masto (D-NV), Todd Young (R-IN), and Chris Coons (D-DE) with companion House legislation by Reps. Jason Crow (D-CO) and Tim Burchett (R-TN), which would authorize a $10 million program run out of the U.S. Small Business Administration that provides vouchers of between $15,000 and $75,000. [10] Such a program should be larger and also work in partnership with NIST’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP).

9. Establish an Advanced Technology and Industry-Sector Analysis Unit

No federal entity is responsible for competitiveness analysis, especially advanced industry competitiveness. Congress should beef up efforts at the Department of Commerce, perhaps as a combined effort of its International Trade Administration (ITA) Industry and Analysis unit and efforts at NIST. Their job would be to create a new traded-sector and emerging technology analysis unit that prioritizes interpretation and analysis. It should assess key indicators of overall U.S. competitiveness performance—such as foreign direct investment, jobs, output, and market share—and develop strategic policy road maps. It should also revive the annual report “The U.S. Industrial Outlook” as a mechanism for raising awareness about competitive position by sector. This unit could also take the lead in analysis of critical supply chains. [11] Congress should provide additional funding for improving federal data used to analyze industry competitiveness, including Improvements in input-output tables, so we can reliably see domestic supply chains, creation of trade in value-added statistics, which the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) is developing now in conjunction with NSF, and creation of satellite accounts in key competitive industries. [12]

10. Establish an Advanced Manufacturing Scaled-Up Capital Program

Hardware invented in the United States frequently isn’t scaled up here because the financial system does not support it. U.S. venture capitalists prefer “capital-lite” firms, particularly in software and media, that scale at almost zero marginal cost, rather than capital intensive businesses that need to build factories. As a result, many hardware technologies are “orphaned” in the United States and must therefore grow up abroad. To address this gap and compete more effectively with Chinese and other state-sponsored scale-up financial support programs, Congress should either create a modern-day Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC) or expand the mission of the Development Finance Corporation (DFC) to reduce scale-up risk in designated critical industries. Either way, the organization would provide project finance and associated assistance through grants, loans, loan guarantees, and other instruments. In addition, the Ex-Im Bank and Development Finance Corporation should be tasked to provide guarantees and other financial assistance to leverage hardware companies that receive support to scale up globally.

America is running out of time. Once lost, a firm’s—or a nation’s—technology advantage is almost impossible to regain unless it is willing to spend enormous sums of money, as China is doing. If the federal government does not act boldly within the next few years to significantly strengthen the U.S. advanced technology economy, it runs the risk of seeing an America that will have permanently lost much of the advantage it gained in the last half of the 20th century. We believe that it is not too late for action.

David Adler

Robert D. Atkinson, President and Founder, Information Technology and Innovation Foundation

Dean Bartles, President and CEO, Manufacturing Technology Group

William Bonvillian

Robbie Diamond, President and CEO, SAFE

Stephen Ezell, Vice President for Global Innovation Policy, Information Technology and Innovation Foundation

Jeff Gerlach, Director of Policy, SAFE

David Leech

Andrew Reamer, Research Professor, George Washington Institute of Public Policy

Phillip Singerman

Marc Stanley

Gregory Tassey

Carroll Thomas

Patrick Windham

* Authors listed without affiliations are expressing their own views herein.

[1] Albert N. Link, “The economics of metrology: an exploratory study of the impact of measurement science on U.S. productivity,” Economics of Innovation and New Technology (March 2021), DOI: 10.1080/10438599.2021.1895905.

[2] Willy Shih, “ NASA’s HyTEC Program Is A Great Way To Help Aerospace Manufacturers i n t he U.S. ,” Forbes , March 12, 2021, https://www.forbes.com/sites/willyshih/2021/03/12/nasas-hytec-program-is-a-great-way-to-help-aerospace-manufacturers-in-the-us/ .

[3] Senator Chris Coons, “ Sens. Coons, Durbin announce legislation to expand federal R&D, extend tech economy to more cities across America, ” news release, March 19, 2021, https://www.coons.senate.gov/news/press-releases/sens-coons-durbin-announce-legislation-to-expand-federal-randd-extend-tech-economy-to-more-cities-across-america .

[4] Willy Shih, “ Congress Has Supported Moves To Revive Domestic Semiconductor Manufacturing, Here’s What Needs To Happen Next,” Forbes , July 26, 2020, https://www.forbes.com/sites/willyshih/2020/07/26/congress-has-supported-moves-to-revive-domestic-semiconductor-manufacturing-heres-what-needs-to-happen-next/ .

[5] The White House, “ FACT SHEET: The American Jobs Plan,” news release, March 31, 2021, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/03/31/fact-sheet-the-american-jobs-plan/ .

[6] John Lester and Jacek Warda, “ Enhanced Tax Incentives for R&D Would Make Americans Richer” (ITIF, September 2020), /publications/2020/09/08/enhanced-tax-incentives-rd-would-make-americans-richer .

[7] Senator Todd Young, “ Senators Young, Hassan Introduce American Innovation and Jobs Act, ” news release, October 20, 2020, https://www.young.senate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/senators-young-hassan-introduce-american-innovation-and-jobs-act- .

[8] Robert Rozansky and David M. Hart, “ More and Better: Building and Managing a Federal Energy Demonstration Project Portfolio” (ITIF, May 2020), /publications/2020/05/18/more-and-better-building-and-managing-federal-energy-demonstration-project ; David M. Hart, “Building Back Cleaner With Industrial Decarbonization Demonstration Projects” (ITIF, March 2021), /publications/2021/03/08/building-back-cleaner-industrial-decarbonization-demonstration-projects .

[9] Robert D. Atkinson, “ Killing Two Birds With One Stone: Why Congress Should Establish a Tax Incentive For Companies Reshoring Production from China to U.S. Labor Surplus Areas” (ITIF, March 2021), /publications/2021/03/07/killing-two-birds-one-stone-why-congress-should-establish-tax-incentive .

[10] Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, “Cortez Masto, Young, Coons, Introduce Small Business Innovation Voucher Act,” news release, February 13, 2020, https://www.cortezmasto.senate.gov/news/press-releases/cortez-masto-young-coons-introduce-small-business-innovation-voucher-act .

[11] Andrew Reamer, “ Biden Executive Order on America ’ s Supply Chains — fact sheet, text, remarks (2/24/21),” American Economic Association forum, accessed April 7, 2021, https://www.aeaweb.org/forum/1875/biden-executive-order-americas-supply-chains-sheet-remarks .

[12] Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), “Input-Output Accounts: Who Sells What to Whom,” BEA’s Official Blog, March 15, 2021, https://www.bea.gov/news/blog/2021-03-15/input-output-accounts-who-sells-what-whom ; Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), “Trade in Value Added,” accessed April 7, 2021, https://www.oecd.org/sti/ind/measuring-trade-in-value-added.htm ; BEA, “Special Topics,” last modified November 5, 2019, https://www.bea.gov/resources/learning-center/what-to-know-special-topics .

Editors’ Recommendations

September 8, 2020

Enhanced Tax Incentives for R&D Would Make Americans Richer

March 7, 2021

Killing Two Birds With One Stone: Why Congress Should Establish a Tax Incentive For Companies Reshoring Production from China to U.S. Labor Surplus Areas

How has technology changed - and changed us - in the past 20 years?

An internet surfer views the Google home page at a cafe in London, August 13, 2004.

Remember this? Image:  REUTERS/Stephen Hird

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Stay up to date:, davos agenda.

  • Since the dotcom bubble burst back in 2000, technology has radically transformed our societies and our daily lives.
  • From smartphones to social media and healthcare, here's a brief history of the 21st century's technological revolution.

Just over 20 years ago, the dotcom bubble burst , causing the stocks of many tech firms to tumble. Some companies, like Amazon, quickly recovered their value – but many others were left in ruins. In the two decades since this crash, technology has advanced in many ways.

Many more people are online today than they were at the start of the millennium. Looking at broadband access, in 2000, just half of Americans had broadband access at home. Today, that number sits at more than 90% .

More than half the world's population has internet access today

This broadband expansion was certainly not just an American phenomenon. Similar growth can be seen on a global scale; while less than 7% of the world was online in 2000, today over half the global population has access to the internet.

Similar trends can be seen in cellphone use. At the start of the 2000s, there were 740 million cell phone subscriptions worldwide. Two decades later, that number has surpassed 8 billion, meaning there are now more cellphones in the world than people

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The future of jobs report 2023, how to follow the growth summit 2023.

At the same time, technology was also becoming more personal and portable. Apple sold its first iPod in 2001, and six years later it introduced the iPhone, which ushered in a new era of personal technology. These changes led to a world in which technology touches nearly everything we do.

Technology has changed major sectors over the past 20 years, including media, climate action and healthcare. The World Economic Forum’s Technology Pioneers , which just celebrated its 20th anniversary, gives us insight how emerging tech leaders have influenced and responded to these changes.

Media and media consumption

The past 20 years have greatly shaped how and where we consume media. In the early 2000s, many tech firms were still focused on expanding communication for work through advanced bandwidth for video streaming and other media consumption that is common today.

Others followed the path of expanding media options beyond traditional outlets. Early Tech Pioneers such as PlanetOut did this by providing an outlet and alternative media source for LGBTQIA communities as more people got online.

Following on from these first new media options, new communities and alternative media came the massive growth of social media. In 2004 , fewer than 1 million people were on Myspace; Facebook had not even launched. By 2018, Facebook had more 2.26 billion users with other sites also growing to hundreds of millions of users.

The precipitous rise of social media over the past 15 years

While these new online communities and communication channels have offered great spaces for alternative voices, their increased use has also brought issues of increased disinformation and polarization.

Today, many tech start-ups are focused on preserving these online media spaces while also mitigating the disinformation which can come with them. Recently, some Tech Pioneers have also approached this issue, including TruePic – which focuses on photo identification – and Two Hat , which is developing AI-powered content moderation for social media.

Climate change and green tech

Many scientists today are looking to technology to lead us towards a carbon-neutral world. Though renewed attention is being given to climate change today, these efforts to find a solution through technology is not new. In 2001, green tech offered a new investment opportunity for tech investors after the crash, leading to a boom of investing in renewable energy start-ups including Bloom Energy , a Technology Pioneer in 2010.

In the past two decades, tech start-ups have only expanded their climate focus. Many today are focuses on initiatives far beyond clean energy to slow the impact of climate change.

Different start-ups, including Carbon Engineering and Climeworks from this year’s Technology Pioneers, have started to roll out carbon capture technology. These technologies remove CO2 from the air directly, enabling scientists to alleviate some of the damage from fossil fuels which have already been burned.

Another expanding area for young tech firms today is food systems innovation. Many firms, like Aleph Farms and Air Protein, are creating innovative meat and dairy alternatives that are much greener than their traditional counterparts.

Biotech and healthcare

The early 2000s also saw the culmination of a biotech boom that had started in the mid-1990s. Many firms focused on advancing biotechnologies through enhanced tech research.

An early Technology Pioneer, Actelion Pharmaceuticals was one of these companies. Actelion’s tech researched the single layer of cells separating every blood vessel from the blood stream. Like many other biotech firms at the time, their focus was on precise disease and treatment research.

While many tech firms today still focus on disease and treatment research, many others have been focusing on healthcare delivery. Telehealth has been on the rise in recent years , with many young tech expanding virtual healthcare options. New technologies such as virtual visits, chatbots are being used to delivery healthcare to individuals, especially during Covid-19.

Many companies are also focusing their healthcare tech on patients, rather than doctors. For example Ada, a symptom checker app, used to be designed for doctor’s use but has now shifted its language and interface to prioritize giving patients information on their symptoms. Other companies, like 7 cups, are focused are offering mental healthcare support directly to their users without through their app instead of going through existing offices.

The past two decades have seen healthcare tech get much more personal and use tech for care delivery, not just advancing medical research.

The World Economic Forum was the first to draw the world’s attention to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the current period of unprecedented change driven by rapid technological advances. Policies, norms and regulations have not been able to keep up with the pace of innovation, creating a growing need to fill this gap.

The Forum established the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution Network in 2017 to ensure that new and emerging technologies will help—not harm—humanity in the future. Headquartered in San Francisco, the network launched centres in China, India and Japan in 2018 and is rapidly establishing locally-run Affiliate Centres in many countries around the world.

The global network is working closely with partners from government, business, academia and civil society to co-design and pilot agile frameworks for governing new and emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI) , autonomous vehicles , blockchain , data policy , digital trade , drones , internet of things (IoT) , precision medicine and environmental innovations .

Learn more about the groundbreaking work that the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution Network is doing to prepare us for the future.

Want to help us shape the Fourth Industrial Revolution? Contact us to find out how you can become a member or partner.

In the early 2000s, many companies were at the start of their recovery from the bursting dotcom bubble. Since then, we’ve seen a large expansion in the way tech innovators approach areas such as new media, climate change, healthcare delivery and more.

At the same time, we have also seen tech companies rise to the occasion of trying to combat issues which arose from the first group such as internet content moderation, expanding climate change solutions.

The Technology Pioneers' 2020 cohort marks the 20th anniversary of this community - and looking at the latest awardees can give us a snapshot of where the next two decades of tech may be heading.

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World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

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Impacts of digital technologies on education and factors influencing schools' digital capacity and transformation: A literature review

Stella timotheou.

1 CYENS Center of Excellence & Cyprus University of Technology (Cyprus Interaction Lab), Cyprus, CYENS Center of Excellence & Cyprus University of Technology, Nicosia-Limassol, Cyprus

Ourania Miliou

Yiannis dimitriadis.

2 Universidad de Valladolid (UVA), Spain, Valladolid, Spain

Sara Villagrá Sobrino

Nikoleta giannoutsou, romina cachia.

3 JRC - Joint Research Centre of the European Commission, Seville, Spain

Alejandra Martínez Monés

Andri ioannou, associated data.

Data sharing not applicable to this article as no datasets were generated or analysed during the current study.

Digital technologies have brought changes to the nature and scope of education and led education systems worldwide to adopt strategies and policies for ICT integration. The latter brought about issues regarding the quality of teaching and learning with ICTs, especially concerning the understanding, adaptation, and design of the education systems in accordance with current technological trends. These issues were emphasized during the recent COVID-19 pandemic that accelerated the use of digital technologies in education, generating questions regarding digitalization in schools. Specifically, many schools demonstrated a lack of experience and low digital capacity, which resulted in widening gaps, inequalities, and learning losses. Such results have engendered the need for schools to learn and build upon the experience to enhance their digital capacity and preparedness, increase their digitalization levels, and achieve a successful digital transformation. Given that the integration of digital technologies is a complex and continuous process that impacts different actors within the school ecosystem, there is a need to show how these impacts are interconnected and identify the factors that can encourage an effective and efficient change in the school environments. For this purpose, we conducted a non-systematic literature review. The results of the literature review were organized thematically based on the evidence presented about the impact of digital technology on education and the factors that affect the schools’ digital capacity and digital transformation. The findings suggest that ICT integration in schools impacts more than just students’ performance; it affects several other school-related aspects and stakeholders, too. Furthermore, various factors affect the impact of digital technologies on education. These factors are interconnected and play a vital role in the digital transformation process. The study results shed light on how ICTs can positively contribute to the digital transformation of schools and which factors should be considered for schools to achieve effective and efficient change.

Introduction

Digital technologies have brought changes to the nature and scope of education. Versatile and disruptive technological innovations, such as smart devices, the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), blockchain, and software applications have opened up new opportunities for advancing teaching and learning (Gaol & Prasolova-Førland, 2021 ; OECD, 2021 ). Hence, in recent years, education systems worldwide have increased their investment in the integration of information and communication technology (ICT) (Fernández-Gutiérrez et al., 2020 ; Lawrence & Tar, 2018 ) and prioritized their educational agendas to adapt strategies or policies around ICT integration (European Commission, 2019 ). The latter brought about issues regarding the quality of teaching and learning with ICTs (Bates, 2015 ), especially concerning the understanding, adaptation, and design of education systems in accordance with current technological trends (Balyer & Öz, 2018 ). Studies have shown that despite the investment made in the integration of technology in schools, the results have not been promising, and the intended outcomes have not yet been achieved (Delgado et al., 2015 ; Lawrence & Tar, 2018 ). These issues were exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced teaching across education levels to move online (Daniel, 2020 ). Online teaching accelerated the use of digital technologies generating questions regarding the process, the nature, the extent, and the effectiveness of digitalization in schools (Cachia et al., 2021 ; König et al., 2020 ). Specifically, many schools demonstrated a lack of experience and low digital capacity, which resulted in widening gaps, inequalities, and learning losses (Blaskó et al., 2021 ; Di Pietro et al, 2020 ). Such results have engendered the need for schools to learn and build upon the experience in order to enhance their digital capacity (European Commission, 2020 ) and increase their digitalization levels (Costa et al., 2021 ). Digitalization offers possibilities for fundamental improvement in schools (OECD, 2021 ; Rott & Marouane, 2018 ) and touches many aspects of a school’s development (Delcker & Ifenthaler, 2021 ) . However, it is a complex process that requires large-scale transformative changes beyond the technical aspects of technology and infrastructure (Pettersson, 2021 ). Namely, digitalization refers to “ a series of deep and coordinated culture, workforce, and technology shifts and operating models ” (Brooks & McCormack, 2020 , p. 3) that brings cultural, organizational, and operational change through the integration of digital technologies (JISC, 2020 ). A successful digital transformation requires that schools increase their digital capacity levels, establishing the necessary “ culture, policies, infrastructure as well as digital competence of students and staff to support the effective integration of technology in teaching and learning practices ” (Costa et al, 2021 , p.163).

Given that the integration of digital technologies is a complex and continuous process that impacts different actors within the school ecosystem (Eng, 2005 ), there is a need to show how the different elements of the impact are interconnected and to identify the factors that can encourage an effective and efficient change in the school environment. To address the issues outlined above, we formulated the following research questions:

a) What is the impact of digital technologies on education?

b) Which factors might affect a school’s digital capacity and transformation?

In the present investigation, we conducted a non-systematic literature review of publications pertaining to the impact of digital technologies on education and the factors that affect a school’s digital capacity and transformation. The results of the literature review were organized thematically based on the evidence presented about the impact of digital technology on education and the factors which affect the schools’ digital capacity and digital transformation.

Methodology

The non-systematic literature review presented herein covers the main theories and research published over the past 17 years on the topic. It is based on meta-analyses and review papers found in scholarly, peer-reviewed content databases and other key studies and reports related to the concepts studied (e.g., digitalization, digital capacity) from professional and international bodies (e.g., the OECD). We searched the Scopus database, which indexes various online journals in the education sector with an international scope, to collect peer-reviewed academic papers. Furthermore, we used an all-inclusive Google Scholar search to include relevant key terms or to include studies found in the reference list of the peer-reviewed papers, and other key studies and reports related to the concepts studied by professional and international bodies. Lastly, we gathered sources from the Publications Office of the European Union ( https://op.europa.eu/en/home ); namely, documents that refer to policies related to digital transformation in education.

Regarding search terms, we first searched resources on the impact of digital technologies on education by performing the following search queries: “impact” OR “effects” AND “digital technologies” AND “education”, “impact” OR “effects” AND “ICT” AND “education”. We further refined our results by adding the terms “meta-analysis” and “review” or by adjusting the search options based on the features of each database to avoid collecting individual studies that would provide limited contributions to a particular domain. We relied on meta-analyses and review studies as these consider the findings of multiple studies to offer a more comprehensive view of the research in a given area (Schuele & Justice, 2006 ). Specifically, meta-analysis studies provided quantitative evidence based on statistically verifiable results regarding the impact of educational interventions that integrate digital technologies in school classrooms (Higgins et al., 2012 ; Tolani-Brown et al., 2011 ).

However, quantitative data does not offer explanations for the challenges or difficulties experienced during ICT integration in learning and teaching (Tolani-Brown et al., 2011 ). To fill this gap, we analyzed literature reviews and gathered in-depth qualitative evidence of the benefits and implications of technology integration in schools. In the analysis presented herein, we also included policy documents and reports from professional and international bodies and governmental reports, which offered useful explanations of the key concepts of this study and provided recent evidence on digital capacity and transformation in education along with policy recommendations. The inclusion and exclusion criteria that were considered in this study are presented in Table ​ Table1 1 .

Inclusion and exclusion criteria for the selection of resources on the impact of digital technologies on education

To ensure a reliable extraction of information from each study and assist the research synthesis we selected the study characteristics of interest (impact) and constructed coding forms. First, an overview of the synthesis was provided by the principal investigator who described the processes of coding, data entry, and data management. The coders followed the same set of instructions but worked independently. To ensure a common understanding of the process between coders, a sample of ten studies was tested. The results were compared, and the discrepancies were identified and resolved. Additionally, to ensure an efficient coding process, all coders participated in group meetings to discuss additions, deletions, and modifications (Stock, 1994 ). Due to the methodological diversity of the studied documents we began to synthesize the literature review findings based on similar study designs. Specifically, most of the meta-analysis studies were grouped in one category due to the quantitative nature of the measured impact. These studies tended to refer to student achievement (Hattie et al., 2014 ). Then, we organized the themes of the qualitative studies in several impact categories. Lastly, we synthesized both review and meta-analysis data across the categories. In order to establish a collective understanding of the concept of impact, we referred to a previous impact study by Balanskat ( 2009 ) which investigated the impact of technology in primary schools. In this context, the impact had a more specific ICT-related meaning and was described as “ a significant influence or effect of ICT on the measured or perceived quality of (parts of) education ” (Balanskat, 2009 , p. 9). In the study presented herein, the main impacts are in relation to learning and learners, teaching, and teachers, as well as other key stakeholders who are directly or indirectly connected to the school unit.

The study’s results identified multiple dimensions of the impact of digital technologies on students’ knowledge, skills, and attitudes; on equality, inclusion, and social integration; on teachers’ professional and teaching practices; and on other school-related aspects and stakeholders. The data analysis indicated various factors that might affect the schools’ digital capacity and transformation, such as digital competencies, the teachers’ personal characteristics and professional development, as well as the school’s leadership and management, administration, infrastructure, etc. The impacts and factors found in the literature review are presented below.

Impacts of digital technologies on students’ knowledge, skills, attitudes, and emotions

The impact of ICT use on students’ knowledge, skills, and attitudes has been investigated early in the literature. Eng ( 2005 ) found a small positive effect between ICT use and students' learning. Specifically, the author reported that access to computer-assisted instruction (CAI) programs in simulation or tutorial modes—used to supplement rather than substitute instruction – could enhance student learning. The author reported studies showing that teachers acknowledged the benefits of ICT on pupils with special educational needs; however, the impact of ICT on students' attainment was unclear. Balanskat et al. ( 2006 ) found a statistically significant positive association between ICT use and higher student achievement in primary and secondary education. The authors also reported improvements in the performance of low-achieving pupils. The use of ICT resulted in further positive gains for students, namely increased attention, engagement, motivation, communication and process skills, teamwork, and gains related to their behaviour towards learning. Evidence from qualitative studies showed that teachers, students, and parents recognized the positive impact of ICT on students' learning regardless of their competence level (strong/weak students). Punie et al. ( 2006 ) documented studies that showed positive results of ICT-based learning for supporting low-achieving pupils and young people with complex lives outside the education system. Liao et al. ( 2007 ) reported moderate positive effects of computer application instruction (CAI, computer simulations, and web-based learning) over traditional instruction on primary school student's achievement. Similarly, Tamim et al. ( 2011 ) reported small to moderate positive effects between the use of computer technology (CAI, ICT, simulations, computer-based instruction, digital and hypermedia) and student achievement in formal face-to-face classrooms compared to classrooms that did not use technology. Jewitt et al., ( 2011 ) found that the use of learning platforms (LPs) (virtual learning environments, management information systems, communication technologies, and information- and resource-sharing technologies) in schools allowed primary and secondary students to access a wider variety of quality learning resources, engage in independent and personalized learning, and conduct self- and peer-review; LPs also provide opportunities for teacher assessment and feedback. Similar findings were reported by Fu ( 2013 ), who documented a list of benefits and opportunities of ICT use. According to the author, the use of ICTs helps students access digital information and course content effectively and efficiently, supports student-centered and self-directed learning, as well as the development of a creative learning environment where more opportunities for critical thinking skills are offered, and promotes collaborative learning in a distance-learning environment. Higgins et al. ( 2012 ) found consistent but small positive associations between the use of technology and learning outcomes of school-age learners (5–18-year-olds) in studies linking the provision and use of technology with attainment. Additionally, Chauhan ( 2017 ) reported a medium positive effect of technology on the learning effectiveness of primary school students compared to students who followed traditional learning instruction.

The rise of mobile technologies and hardware devices instigated investigations into their impact on teaching and learning. Sung et al. ( 2016 ) reported a moderate effect on students' performance from the use of mobile devices in the classroom compared to the use of desktop computers or the non-use of mobile devices. Schmid et al. ( 2014 ) reported medium–low to low positive effects of technology integration (e.g., CAI, ICTs) in the classroom on students' achievement and attitude compared to not using technology or using technology to varying degrees. Tamim et al. ( 2015 ) found a low statistically significant effect of the use of tablets and other smart devices in educational contexts on students' achievement outcomes. The authors suggested that tablets offered additional advantages to students; namely, they reported improvements in students’ notetaking, organizational and communication skills, and creativity. Zheng et al. ( 2016 ) reported a small positive effect of one-to-one laptop programs on students’ academic achievement across subject areas. Additional reported benefits included student-centered, individualized, and project-based learning enhanced learner engagement and enthusiasm. Additionally, the authors found that students using one-to-one laptop programs tended to use technology more frequently than in non-laptop classrooms, and as a result, they developed a range of skills (e.g., information skills, media skills, technology skills, organizational skills). Haßler et al. ( 2016 ) found that most interventions that included the use of tablets across the curriculum reported positive learning outcomes. However, from 23 studies, five reported no differences, and two reported a negative effect on students' learning outcomes. Similar results were indicated by Kalati and Kim ( 2022 ) who investigated the effect of touchscreen technologies on young students’ learning. Specifically, from 53 studies, 34 advocated positive effects of touchscreen devices on children’s learning, 17 obtained mixed findings and two studies reported negative effects.

More recently, approaches that refer to the impact of gamification with the use of digital technologies on teaching and learning were also explored. A review by Pan et al. ( 2022 ) that examined the role of learning games in fostering mathematics education in K-12 settings, reported that gameplay improved students’ performance. Integration of digital games in teaching was also found as a promising pedagogical practice in STEM education that could lead to increased learning gains (Martinez et al., 2022 ; Wang et al., 2022 ). However, although Talan et al. ( 2020 ) reported a medium effect of the use of educational games (both digital and non-digital) on academic achievement, the effect of non-digital games was higher.

Over the last two years, the effects of more advanced technologies on teaching and learning were also investigated. Garzón and Acevedo ( 2019 ) found that AR applications had a medium effect on students' learning outcomes compared to traditional lectures. Similarly, Garzón et al. ( 2020 ) showed that AR had a medium impact on students' learning gains. VR applications integrated into various subjects were also found to have a moderate effect on students’ learning compared to control conditions (traditional classes, e.g., lectures, textbooks, and multimedia use, e.g., images, videos, animation, CAI) (Chen et al., 2022b ). Villena-Taranilla et al. ( 2022 ) noted the moderate effect of VR technologies on students’ learning when these were applied in STEM disciplines. In the same meta-analysis, Villena-Taranilla et al. ( 2022 ) highlighted the role of immersive VR, since its effect on students’ learning was greater (at a high level) across educational levels (K-6) compared to semi-immersive and non-immersive integrations. In another meta-analysis study, the effect size of the immersive VR was small and significantly differentiated across educational levels (Coban et al., 2022 ). The impact of AI on education was investigated by Su and Yang ( 2022 ) and Su et al. ( 2022 ), who showed that this technology significantly improved students’ understanding of AI computer science and machine learning concepts.

It is worth noting that the vast majority of studies referred to learning gains in specific subjects. Specifically, several studies examined the impact of digital technologies on students’ literacy skills and reported positive effects on language learning (Balanskat et al., 2006 ; Grgurović et al., 2013 ; Friedel et al., 2013 ; Zheng et al., 2016 ; Chen et al., 2022b ; Savva et al., 2022 ). Also, several studies documented positive effects on specific language learning areas, namely foreign language learning (Kao, 2014 ), writing (Higgins et al., 2012 ; Wen & Walters, 2022 ; Zheng et al., 2016 ), as well as reading and comprehension (Cheung & Slavin, 2011 ; Liao et al., 2007 ; Schwabe et al., 2022 ). ICTs were also found to have a positive impact on students' performance in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) disciplines (Arztmann et al., 2022 ; Bado, 2022 ; Villena-Taranilla et al., 2022 ; Wang et al., 2022 ). Specifically, a number of studies reported positive impacts on students’ achievement in mathematics (Balanskat et al., 2006 ; Hillmayr et al., 2020 ; Li & Ma, 2010 ; Pan et al., 2022 ; Ran et al., 2022 ; Verschaffel et al., 2019 ; Zheng et al., 2016 ). Furthermore, studies documented positive effects of ICTs on science learning (Balanskat et al., 2006 ; Liao et al., 2007 ; Zheng et al., 2016 ; Hillmayr et al., 2020 ; Kalemkuş & Kalemkuş, 2022 ; Lei et al., 2022a ). Çelik ( 2022 ) also noted that computer simulations can help students understand learning concepts related to science. Furthermore, some studies documented that the use of ICTs had a positive impact on students’ achievement in other subjects, such as geography, history, music, and arts (Chauhan, 2017 ; Condie & Munro, 2007 ), and design and technology (Balanskat et al., 2006 ).

More specific positive learning gains were reported in a number of skills, e.g., problem-solving skills and pattern exploration skills (Higgins et al., 2012 ), metacognitive learning outcomes (Verschaffel et al., 2019 ), literacy skills, computational thinking skills, emotion control skills, and collaborative inquiry skills (Lu et al., 2022 ; Su & Yang, 2022 ; Su et al., 2022 ). Additionally, several investigations have reported benefits from the use of ICT on students’ creativity (Fielding & Murcia, 2022 ; Liu et al., 2022 ; Quah & Ng, 2022 ). Lastly, digital technologies were also found to be beneficial for enhancing students’ lifelong learning skills (Haleem et al., 2022 ).

Apart from gaining knowledge and skills, studies also reported improvement in motivation and interest in mathematics (Higgins et. al., 2019 ; Fadda et al., 2022 ) and increased positive achievement emotions towards several subjects during interventions using educational games (Lei et al., 2022a ). Chen et al. ( 2022a ) also reported a small but positive effect of digital health approaches in bullying and cyberbullying interventions with K-12 students, demonstrating that technology-based approaches can help reduce bullying and related consequences by providing emotional support, empowerment, and change of attitude. In their meta-review study, Su et al. ( 2022 ) also documented that AI technologies effectively strengthened students’ attitudes towards learning. In another meta-analysis, Arztmann et al. ( 2022 ) reported positive effects of digital games on motivation and behaviour towards STEM subjects.

Impacts of digital technologies on equality, inclusion and social integration

Although most of the reviewed studies focused on the impact of ICTs on students’ knowledge, skills, and attitudes, reports were also made on other aspects in the school context, such as equality, inclusion, and social integration. Condie and Munro ( 2007 ) documented research interventions investigating how ICT can support pupils with additional or special educational needs. While those interventions were relatively small scale and mostly based on qualitative data, their findings indicated that the use of ICTs enabled the development of communication, participation, and self-esteem. A recent meta-analysis (Baragash et al., 2022 ) with 119 participants with different disabilities, reported a significant overall effect size of AR on their functional skills acquisition. Koh’s meta-analysis ( 2022 ) also revealed that students with intellectual and developmental disabilities improved their competence and performance when they used digital games in the lessons.

Istenic Starcic and Bagon ( 2014 ) found that the role of ICT in inclusion and the design of pedagogical and technological interventions was not sufficiently explored in educational interventions with people with special needs; however, some benefits of ICT use were found in students’ social integration. The issue of gender and technology use was mentioned in a small number of studies. Zheng et al. ( 2016 ) reported a statistically significant positive interaction between one-to-one laptop programs and gender. Specifically, the results showed that girls and boys alike benefitted from the laptop program, but the effect on girls’ achievement was smaller than that on boys’. Along the same lines, Arztmann et al. ( 2022 ) reported no difference in the impact of game-based learning between boys and girls, arguing that boys and girls equally benefited from game-based interventions in STEM domains. However, results from a systematic review by Cussó-Calabuig et al. ( 2018 ) found limited and low-quality evidence on the effects of intensive use of computers on gender differences in computer anxiety, self-efficacy, and self-confidence. Based on their view, intensive use of computers can reduce gender differences in some areas and not in others, depending on contextual and implementation factors.

Impacts of digital technologies on teachers’ professional and teaching practices

Various research studies have explored the impact of ICT on teachers’ instructional practices and student assessment. Friedel et al. ( 2013 ) found that the use of mobile devices by students enabled teachers to successfully deliver content (e.g., mobile serious games), provide scaffolding, and facilitate synchronous collaborative learning. The integration of digital games in teaching and learning activities also gave teachers the opportunity to study and apply various pedagogical practices (Bado, 2022 ). Specifically, Bado ( 2022 ) found that teachers who implemented instructional activities in three stages (pre-game, game, and post-game) maximized students’ learning outcomes and engagement. For instance, during the pre-game stage, teachers focused on lectures and gameplay training, at the game stage teachers provided scaffolding on content, addressed technical issues, and managed the classroom activities. During the post-game stage, teachers organized activities for debriefing to ensure that the gameplay had indeed enhanced students’ learning outcomes.

Furthermore, ICT can increase efficiency in lesson planning and preparation by offering possibilities for a more collaborative approach among teachers. The sharing of curriculum plans and the analysis of students’ data led to clearer target settings and improvements in reporting to parents (Balanskat et al., 2006 ).

Additionally, the use and application of digital technologies in teaching and learning were found to enhance teachers’ digital competence. Balanskat et al. ( 2006 ) documented studies that revealed that the use of digital technologies in education had a positive effect on teachers’ basic ICT skills. The greatest impact was found on teachers with enough experience in integrating ICTs in their teaching and/or who had recently participated in development courses for the pedagogical use of technologies in teaching. Punie et al. ( 2006 ) reported that the provision of fully equipped multimedia portable computers and the development of online teacher communities had positive impacts on teachers’ confidence and competence in the use of ICTs.

Moreover, online assessment via ICTs benefits instruction. In particular, online assessments support the digitalization of students’ work and related logistics, allow teachers to gather immediate feedback and readjust to new objectives, and support the improvement of the technical quality of tests by providing more accurate results. Additionally, the capabilities of ICTs (e.g., interactive media, simulations) create new potential methods of testing specific skills, such as problem-solving and problem-processing skills, meta-cognitive skills, creativity and communication skills, and the ability to work productively in groups (Punie et al., 2006 ).

Impacts of digital technologies on other school-related aspects and stakeholders

There is evidence that the effective use of ICTs and the data transmission offered by broadband connections help improve administration (Balanskat et al., 2006 ). Specifically, ICTs have been found to provide better management systems to schools that have data gathering procedures in place. Condie and Munro ( 2007 ) reported impacts from the use of ICTs in schools in the following areas: attendance monitoring, assessment records, reporting to parents, financial management, creation of repositories for learning resources, and sharing of information amongst staff. Such data can be used strategically for self-evaluation and monitoring purposes which in turn can result in school improvements. Additionally, they reported that online access to other people with similar roles helped to reduce headteachers’ isolation by offering them opportunities to share insights into the use of ICT in learning and teaching and how it could be used to support school improvement. Furthermore, ICTs provided more efficient and successful examination management procedures, namely less time-consuming reporting processes compared to paper-based examinations and smooth communications between schools and examination authorities through electronic data exchange (Punie et al., 2006 ).

Zheng et al. ( 2016 ) reported that the use of ICTs improved home-school relationships. Additionally, Escueta et al. ( 2017 ) reported several ICT programs that had improved the flow of information from the school to parents. Particularly, they documented that the use of ICTs (learning management systems, emails, dedicated websites, mobile phones) allowed for personalized and customized information exchange between schools and parents, such as attendance records, upcoming class assignments, school events, and students’ grades, which generated positive results on students’ learning outcomes and attainment. Such information exchange between schools and families prompted parents to encourage their children to put more effort into their schoolwork.

The above findings suggest that the impact of ICT integration in schools goes beyond students’ performance in school subjects. Specifically, it affects a number of school-related aspects, such as equality and social integration, professional and teaching practices, and diverse stakeholders. In Table ​ Table2, 2 , we summarize the different impacts of digital technologies on school stakeholders based on the literature review, while in Table ​ Table3 3 we organized the tools/platforms and practices/policies addressed in the meta-analyses, literature reviews, EU reports, and international bodies included in the manuscript.

The impact of digital technologies on schools’ stakeholders based on the literature review

Tools/platforms and practices/policies addressed in the meta-analyses, literature reviews, EU reports, and international bodies included in the manuscript

Additionally, based on the results of the literature review, there are many types of digital technologies with different affordances (see, for example, studies on VR vs Immersive VR), which evolve over time (e.g. starting from CAIs in 2005 to Augmented and Virtual reality 2020). Furthermore, these technologies are linked to different pedagogies and policy initiatives, which are critical factors in the study of impact. Table ​ Table3 3 summarizes the different tools and practices that have been used to examine the impact of digital technologies on education since 2005 based on the review results.

Factors that affect the integration of digital technologies

Although the analysis of the literature review demonstrated different impacts of the use of digital technology on education, several authors highlighted the importance of various factors, besides the technology itself, that affect this impact. For example, Liao et al. ( 2007 ) suggested that future studies should carefully investigate which factors contribute to positive outcomes by clarifying the exact relationship between computer applications and learning. Additionally, Haßler et al., ( 2016 ) suggested that the neutral findings regarding the impact of tablets on students learning outcomes in some of the studies included in their review should encourage educators, school leaders, and school officials to further investigate the potential of such devices in teaching and learning. Several other researchers suggested that a number of variables play a significant role in the impact of ICTs on students’ learning that could be attributed to the school context, teaching practices and professional development, the curriculum, and learners’ characteristics (Underwood, 2009 ; Tamim et al., 2011 ; Higgins et al., 2012 ; Archer et al., 2014 ; Sung et al., 2016 ; Haßler et al., 2016 ; Chauhan, 2017 ; Lee et al., 2020 ; Tang et al., 2022 ).

Digital competencies

One of the most common challenges reported in studies that utilized digital tools in the classroom was the lack of students’ skills on how to use them. Fu ( 2013 ) found that students’ lack of technical skills is a barrier to the effective use of ICT in the classroom. Tamim et al. ( 2015 ) reported that students faced challenges when using tablets and smart mobile devices, associated with the technical issues or expertise needed for their use and the distracting nature of the devices and highlighted the need for teachers’ professional development. Higgins et al. ( 2012 ) reported that skills training about the use of digital technologies is essential for learners to fully exploit the benefits of instruction.

Delgado et al. ( 2015 ), meanwhile, reported studies that showed a strong positive association between teachers’ computer skills and students’ use of computers. Teachers’ lack of ICT skills and familiarization with technologies can become a constraint to the effective use of technology in the classroom (Balanskat et al., 2006 ; Delgado et al., 2015 ).

It is worth noting that the way teachers are introduced to ICTs affects the impact of digital technologies on education. Previous studies have shown that teachers may avoid using digital technologies due to limited digital skills (Balanskat, 2006 ), or they prefer applying “safe” technologies, namely technologies that their own teachers used and with which they are familiar (Condie & Munro, 2007 ). In this regard, the provision of digital skills training and exposure to new digital tools might encourage teachers to apply various technologies in their lessons (Condie & Munro, 2007 ). Apart from digital competence, technical support in the school setting has also been shown to affect teachers’ use of technology in their classrooms (Delgado et al., 2015 ). Ferrari et al. ( 2011 ) found that while teachers’ use of ICT is high, 75% stated that they needed more institutional support and a shift in the mindset of educational actors to achieve more innovative teaching practices. The provision of support can reduce time and effort as well as cognitive constraints, which could cause limited ICT integration in the school lessons by teachers (Escueta et al., 2017 ).

Teachers’ personal characteristics, training approaches, and professional development

Teachers’ personal characteristics and professional development affect the impact of digital technologies on education. Specifically, Cheok and Wong ( 2015 ) found that teachers’ personal characteristics (e.g., anxiety, self-efficacy) are associated with their satisfaction and engagement with technology. Bingimlas ( 2009 ) reported that lack of confidence, resistance to change, and negative attitudes in using new technologies in teaching are significant determinants of teachers’ levels of engagement in ICT. The same author reported that the provision of technical support, motivation support (e.g., awards, sufficient time for planning), and training on how technologies can benefit teaching and learning can eliminate the above barriers to ICT integration. Archer et al. ( 2014 ) found that comfort levels in using technology are an important predictor of technology integration and argued that it is essential to provide teachers with appropriate training and ongoing support until they are comfortable with using ICTs in the classroom. Hillmayr et al. ( 2020 ) documented that training teachers on ICT had an important effecton students’ learning.

According to Balanskat et al. ( 2006 ), the impact of ICTs on students’ learning is highly dependent on the teachers’ capacity to efficiently exploit their application for pedagogical purposes. Results obtained from the Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) (OECD, 2021 ) revealed that although schools are open to innovative practices and have the capacity to adopt them, only 39% of teachers in the European Union reported that they are well or very well prepared to use digital technologies for teaching. Li and Ma ( 2010 ) and Hardman ( 2019 ) showed that the positive effect of technology on students’ achievement depends on the pedagogical practices used by teachers. Schmid et al. ( 2014 ) reported that learning was best supported when students were engaged in active, meaningful activities with the use of technological tools that provided cognitive support. Tamim et al. ( 2015 ) compared two different pedagogical uses of tablets and found a significant moderate effect when the devices were used in a student-centered context and approach rather than within teacher-led environments. Similarly, Garzón and Acevedo ( 2019 ) and Garzón et al. ( 2020 ) reported that the positive results from the integration of AR applications could be attributed to the existence of different variables which could influence AR interventions (e.g., pedagogical approach, learning environment, and duration of the intervention). Additionally, Garzón et al. ( 2020 ) suggested that the pedagogical resources that teachers used to complement their lectures and the pedagogical approaches they applied were crucial to the effective integration of AR on students’ learning gains. Garzón and Acevedo ( 2019 ) also emphasized that the success of a technology-enhanced intervention is based on both the technology per se and its characteristics and on the pedagogical strategies teachers choose to implement. For instance, their results indicated that the collaborative learning approach had the highest impact on students’ learning gains among other approaches (e.g., inquiry-based learning, situated learning, or project-based learning). Ran et al. ( 2022 ) also found that the use of technology to design collaborative and communicative environments showed the largest moderator effects among the other approaches.

Hattie ( 2008 ) reported that the effective use of computers is associated with training teachers in using computers as a teaching and learning tool. Zheng et al. ( 2016 ) noted that in addition to the strategies teachers adopt in teaching, ongoing professional development is also vital in ensuring the success of technology implementation programs. Sung et al. ( 2016 ) found that research on the use of mobile devices to support learning tends to report that the insufficient preparation of teachers is a major obstacle in implementing effective mobile learning programs in schools. Friedel et al. ( 2013 ) found that providing training and support to teachers increased the positive impact of the interventions on students’ learning gains. Trucano ( 2005 ) argued that positive impacts occur when digital technologies are used to enhance teachers’ existing pedagogical philosophies. Higgins et al. ( 2012 ) found that the types of technologies used and how they are used could also affect students’ learning. The authors suggested that training and professional development of teachers that focuses on the effective pedagogical use of technology to support teaching and learning is an important component of successful instructional approaches (Higgins et al., 2012 ). Archer et al. ( 2014 ) found that studies that reported ICT interventions during which teachers received training and support had moderate positive effects on students’ learning outcomes, which were significantly higher than studies where little or no detail about training and support was mentioned. Fu ( 2013 ) reported that the lack of teachers’ knowledge and skills on the technical and instructional aspects of ICT use in the classroom, in-service training, pedagogy support, technical and financial support, as well as the lack of teachers’ motivation and encouragement to integrate ICT on their teaching were significant barriers to the integration of ICT in education.

School leadership and management

Management and leadership are important cornerstones in the digital transformation process (Pihir et al., 2018 ). Zheng et al. ( 2016 ) documented leadership among the factors positively affecting the successful implementation of technology integration in schools. Strong leadership, strategic planning, and systematic integration of digital technologies are prerequisites for the digital transformation of education systems (Ređep, 2021 ). Management and leadership play a significant role in formulating policies that are translated into practice and ensure that developments in ICT become embedded into the life of the school and in the experiences of staff and pupils (Condie & Munro, 2007 ). Policy support and leadership must include the provision of an overall vision for the use of digital technologies in education, guidance for students and parents, logistical support, as well as teacher training (Conrads et al., 2017 ). Unless there is a commitment throughout the school, with accountability for progress at key points, it is unlikely for ICT integration to be sustained or become part of the culture (Condie & Munro, 2007 ). To achieve this, principals need to adopt and promote a whole-institution strategy and build a strong mutual support system that enables the school’s technological maturity (European Commission, 2019 ). In this context, school culture plays an essential role in shaping the mindsets and beliefs of school actors towards successful technology integration. Condie and Munro ( 2007 ) emphasized the importance of the principal’s enthusiasm and work as a source of inspiration for the school staff and the students to cultivate a culture of innovation and establish sustainable digital change. Specifically, school leaders need to create conditions in which the school staff is empowered to experiment and take risks with technology (Elkordy & Lovinelli, 2020 ).

In order for leaders to achieve the above, it is important to develop capacities for learning and leading, advocating professional learning, and creating support systems and structures (European Commission, 2019 ). Digital technology integration in education systems can be challenging and leadership needs guidance to achieve it. Such guidance can be introduced through the adoption of new methods and techniques in strategic planning for the integration of digital technologies (Ređep, 2021 ). Even though the role of leaders is vital, the relevant training offered to them has so far been inadequate. Specifically, only a third of the education systems in Europe have put in place national strategies that explicitly refer to the training of school principals (European Commission, 2019 , p. 16).

Connectivity, infrastructure, and government and other support

The effective integration of digital technologies across levels of education presupposes the development of infrastructure, the provision of digital content, and the selection of proper resources (Voogt et al., 2013 ). Particularly, a high-quality broadband connection in the school increases the quality and quantity of educational activities. There is evidence that ICT increases and formalizes cooperative planning between teachers and cooperation with managers, which in turn has a positive impact on teaching practices (Balanskat et al., 2006 ). Additionally, ICT resources, including software and hardware, increase the likelihood of teachers integrating technology into the curriculum to enhance their teaching practices (Delgado et al., 2015 ). For example, Zheng et al. ( 2016 ) found that the use of one-on-one laptop programs resulted in positive changes in teaching and learning, which would not have been accomplished without the infrastructure and technical support provided to teachers. Delgado et al. ( 2015 ) reported that limited access to technology (insufficient computers, peripherals, and software) and lack of technical support are important barriers to ICT integration. Access to infrastructure refers not only to the availability of technology in a school but also to the provision of a proper amount and the right types of technology in locations where teachers and students can use them. Effective technical support is a central element of the whole-school strategy for ICT (Underwood, 2009 ). Bingimlas ( 2009 ) reported that lack of technical support in the classroom and whole-school resources (e.g., failing to connect to the Internet, printers not printing, malfunctioning computers, and working on old computers) are significant barriers that discourage the use of ICT by teachers. Moreover, poor quality and inadequate hardware maintenance, and unsuitable educational software may discourage teachers from using ICTs (Balanskat et al., 2006 ; Bingimlas, 2009 ).

Government support can also impact the integration of ICTs in teaching. Specifically, Balanskat et al. ( 2006 ) reported that government interventions and training programs increased teachers’ enthusiasm and positive attitudes towards ICT and led to the routine use of embedded ICT.

Lastly, another important factor affecting digital transformation is the development and quality assurance of digital learning resources. Such resources can be support textbooks and related materials or resources that focus on specific subjects or parts of the curriculum. Policies on the provision of digital learning resources are essential for schools and can be achieved through various actions. For example, some countries are financing web portals that become repositories, enabling teachers to share resources or create their own. Additionally, they may offer e-learning opportunities or other services linked to digital education. In other cases, specific agencies of projects have also been set up to develop digital resources (Eurydice, 2019 ).

Administration and digital data management

The digital transformation of schools involves organizational improvements at the level of internal workflows, communication between the different stakeholders, and potential for collaboration. Vuorikari et al. ( 2020 ) presented evidence that digital technologies supported the automation of administrative practices in schools and reduced the administration’s workload. There is evidence that digital data affects the production of knowledge about schools and has the power to transform how schooling takes place. Specifically, Sellar ( 2015 ) reported that data infrastructure in education is developing due to the demand for “ information about student outcomes, teacher quality, school performance, and adult skills, associated with policy efforts to increase human capital and productivity practices ” (p. 771). In this regard, practices, such as datafication which refers to the “ translation of information about all kinds of things and processes into quantified formats” have become essential for decision-making based on accountability reports about the school’s quality. The data could be turned into deep insights about education or training incorporating ICTs. For example, measuring students’ online engagement with the learning material and drawing meaningful conclusions can allow teachers to improve their educational interventions (Vuorikari et al., 2020 ).

Students’ socioeconomic background and family support

Research show that the active engagement of parents in the school and their support for the school’s work can make a difference to their children’s attitudes towards learning and, as a result, their achievement (Hattie, 2008 ). In recent years, digital technologies have been used for more effective communication between school and family (Escueta et al., 2017 ). The European Commission ( 2020 ) presented data from a Eurostat survey regarding the use of computers by students during the pandemic. The data showed that younger pupils needed additional support and guidance from parents and the challenges were greater for families in which parents had lower levels of education and little to no digital skills.

In this regard, the socio-economic background of the learners and their socio-cultural environment also affect educational achievements (Punie et al., 2006 ). Trucano documented that the use of computers at home positively influenced students’ confidence and resulted in more frequent use at school, compared to students who had no home access (Trucano, 2005 ). In this sense, the socio-economic background affects the access to computers at home (OECD, 2015 ) which in turn influences the experience of ICT, an important factor for school achievement (Punie et al., 2006 ; Underwood, 2009 ). Furthermore, parents from different socio-economic backgrounds may have different abilities and availability to support their children in their learning process (Di Pietro et al., 2020 ).

Schools’ socioeconomic context and emergency situations

The socio-economic context of the school is closely related to a school’s digital transformation. For example, schools in disadvantaged, rural, or deprived areas are likely to lack the digital capacity and infrastructure required to adapt to the use of digital technologies during emergency periods, such as the COVID-19 pandemic (Di Pietro et al., 2020 ). Data collected from school principals confirmed that in several countries, there is a rural/urban divide in connectivity (OECD, 2015 ).

Emergency periods also affect the digitalization of schools. The COVID-19 pandemic led to the closure of schools and forced them to seek appropriate and connective ways to keep working on the curriculum (Di Pietro et al., 2020 ). The sudden large-scale shift to distance and online teaching and learning also presented challenges around quality and equity in education, such as the risk of increased inequalities in learning, digital, and social, as well as teachers facing difficulties coping with this demanding situation (European Commission, 2020 ).

Looking at the findings of the above studies, we can conclude that the impact of digital technologies on education is influenced by various actors and touches many aspects of the school ecosystem. Figure  1 summarizes the factors affecting the digital technologies’ impact on school stakeholders based on the findings from the literature review.

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Factors that affect the impact of ICTs on education

The findings revealed that the use of digital technologies in education affects a variety of actors within a school’s ecosystem. First, we observed that as technologies evolve, so does the interest of the research community to apply them to school settings. Figure  2 summarizes the trends identified in current research around the impact of digital technologies on schools’ digital capacity and transformation as found in the present study. Starting as early as 2005, when computers, simulations, and interactive boards were the most commonly applied tools in school interventions (e.g., Eng, 2005 ; Liao et al., 2007 ; Moran et al., 2008 ; Tamim et al., 2011 ), moving towards the use of learning platforms (Jewitt et al., 2011 ), then to the use of mobile devices and digital games (e.g., Tamim et al., 2015 ; Sung et al., 2016 ; Talan et al., 2020 ), as well as e-books (e.g., Savva et al., 2022 ), to the more recent advanced technologies, such as AR and VR applications (e.g., Garzón & Acevedo, 2019 ; Garzón et al., 2020 ; Kalemkuş & Kalemkuş, 2022 ), or robotics and AI (e.g., Su & Yang, 2022 ; Su et al., 2022 ). As this evolution shows, digital technologies are a concept in flux with different affordances and characteristics. Additionally, from an instructional perspective, there has been a growing interest in different modes and models of content delivery such as online, blended, and hybrid modes (e.g., Cheok & Wong, 2015 ; Kazu & Yalçin, 2022 ; Ulum, 2022 ). This is an indication that the value of technologies to support teaching and learning as well as other school-related practices is increasingly recognized by the research and school community. The impact results from the literature review indicate that ICT integration on students’ learning outcomes has effects that are small (Coban et al., 2022 ; Eng, 2005 ; Higgins et al., 2012 ; Schmid et al., 2014 ; Tamim et al., 2015 ; Zheng et al., 2016 ) to moderate (Garzón & Acevedo, 2019 ; Garzón et al., 2020 ; Liao et al., 2007 ; Sung et al., 2016 ; Talan et al., 2020 ; Wen & Walters, 2022 ). That said, a number of recent studies have reported high effect sizes (e.g., Kazu & Yalçin, 2022 ).

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Current work and trends in the study of the impact of digital technologies on schools’ digital capacity

Based on these findings, several authors have suggested that the impact of technology on education depends on several variables and not on the technology per se (Tamim et al., 2011 ; Higgins et al., 2012 ; Archer et al., 2014 ; Sung et al., 2016 ; Haßler et al., 2016 ; Chauhan, 2017 ; Lee et al., 2020 ; Lei et al., 2022a ). While the impact of ICTs on student achievement has been thoroughly investigated by researchers, other aspects related to school life that are also affected by ICTs, such as equality, inclusion, and social integration have received less attention. Further analysis of the literature review has revealed a greater investment in ICT interventions to support learning and teaching in the core subjects of literacy and STEM disciplines, especially mathematics, and science. These were the most common subjects studied in the reviewed papers often drawing on national testing results, while studies that investigated other subject areas, such as social studies, were limited (Chauhan, 2017 ; Condie & Munro, 2007 ). As such, research is still lacking impact studies that focus on the effects of ICTs on a range of curriculum subjects.

The qualitative research provided additional information about the impact of digital technologies on education, documenting positive effects and giving more details about implications, recommendations, and future research directions. Specifically, the findings regarding the role of ICTs in supporting learning highlight the importance of teachers’ instructional practice and the learning context in the use of technologies and consequently their impact on instruction (Çelik, 2022 ; Schmid et al., 2014 ; Tamim et al., 2015 ). The review also provided useful insights regarding the various factors that affect the impact of digital technologies on education. These factors are interconnected and play a vital role in the transformation process. Specifically, these factors include a) digital competencies; b) teachers’ personal characteristics and professional development; c) school leadership and management; d) connectivity, infrastructure, and government support; e) administration and data management practices; f) students’ socio-economic background and family support and g) the socioeconomic context of the school and emergency situations. It is worth noting that we observed factors that affect the integration of ICTs in education but may also be affected by it. For example, the frequent use of ICTs and the use of laptops by students for instructional purposes positively affect the development of digital competencies (Zheng et al., 2016 ) and at the same time, the digital competencies affect the use of ICTs (Fu, 2013 ; Higgins et al., 2012 ). As a result, the impact of digital technologies should be explored more as an enabler of desirable and new practices and not merely as a catalyst that improves the output of the education process i.e. namely student attainment.

Conclusions

Digital technologies offer immense potential for fundamental improvement in schools. However, investment in ICT infrastructure and professional development to improve school education are yet to provide fruitful results. Digital transformation is a complex process that requires large-scale transformative changes that presuppose digital capacity and preparedness. To achieve such changes, all actors within the school’s ecosystem need to share a common vision regarding the integration of ICTs in education and work towards achieving this goal. Our literature review, which synthesized quantitative and qualitative data from a list of meta-analyses and review studies, provided useful insights into the impact of ICTs on different school stakeholders and showed that the impact of digital technologies touches upon many different aspects of school life, which are often overlooked when the focus is on student achievement as the final output of education. Furthermore, the concept of digital technologies is a concept in flux as technologies are not only different among them calling for different uses in the educational practice but they also change through time. Additionally, we opened a forum for discussion regarding the factors that affect a school’s digital capacity and transformation. We hope that our study will inform policy, practice, and research and result in a paradigm shift towards more holistic approaches in impact and assessment studies.

Study limitations and future directions

We presented a review of the study of digital technologies' impact on education and factors influencing schools’ digital capacity and transformation. The study results were based on a non-systematic literature review grounded on the acquisition of documentation in specific databases. Future studies should investigate more databases to corroborate and enhance our results. Moreover, search queries could be enhanced with key terms that could provide additional insights about the integration of ICTs in education, such as “policies and strategies for ICT integration in education”. Also, the study drew information from meta-analyses and literature reviews to acquire evidence about the effects of ICT integration in schools. Such evidence was mostly based on the general conclusions of the studies. It is worth mentioning that, we located individual studies which showed different, such as negative or neutral results. Thus, further insights are needed about the impact of ICTs on education and the factors influencing the impact. Furthermore, the nature of the studies included in meta-analyses and reviews is different as they are based on different research methodologies and data gathering processes. For instance, in a meta-analysis, the impact among the studies investigated is measured in a particular way, depending on policy or research targets (e.g., results from national examinations, pre-/post-tests). Meanwhile, in literature reviews, qualitative studies offer additional insights and detail based on self-reports and research opinions on several different aspects and stakeholders who could affect and be affected by ICT integration. As a result, it was challenging to draw causal relationships between so many interrelating variables.

Despite the challenges mentioned above, this study envisaged examining school units as ecosystems that consist of several actors by bringing together several variables from different research epistemologies to provide an understanding of the integration of ICTs. However, the use of other tools and methodologies and models for evaluation of the impact of digital technologies on education could give more detailed data and more accurate results. For instance, self-reflection tools, like SELFIE—developed on the DigCompOrg framework- (Kampylis et al., 2015 ; Bocconi & Lightfoot, 2021 ) can help capture a school’s digital capacity and better assess the impact of ICTs on education. Furthermore, the development of a theory of change could be a good approach for documenting the impact of digital technologies on education. Specifically, theories of change are models used for the evaluation of interventions and their impact; they are developed to describe how interventions will work and give the desired outcomes (Mayne, 2015 ). Theory of change as a methodological approach has also been used by researchers to develop models for evaluation in the field of education (e.g., Aromatario et al., 2019 ; Chapman & Sammons, 2013 ; De Silva et al., 2014 ).

We also propose that future studies aim at similar investigations by applying more holistic approaches for impact assessment that can provide in-depth data about the impact of digital technologies on education. For instance, future studies could focus on different research questions about the technologies that are used during the interventions or the way the implementation takes place (e.g., What methodologies are used for documenting impact? How are experimental studies implemented? How can teachers be taken into account and trained on the technology and its functions? What are the elements of an appropriate and successful implementation? How is the whole intervention designed? On which learning theories is the technology implementation based?).

Future research could also focus on assessing the impact of digital technologies on various other subjects since there is a scarcity of research related to particular subjects, such as geography, history, arts, music, and design and technology. More research should also be done about the impact of ICTs on skills, emotions, and attitudes, and on equality, inclusion, social interaction, and special needs education. There is also a need for more research about the impact of ICTs on administration, management, digitalization, and home-school relationships. Additionally, although new forms of teaching and learning with the use of ICTs (e.g., blended, hybrid, and online learning) have initiated several investigations in mainstream classrooms, only a few studies have measured their impact on students’ learning. Additionally, our review did not document any study about the impact of flipped classrooms on K-12 education. Regarding teaching and learning approaches, it is worth noting that studies referred to STEM or STEAM did not investigate the impact of STEM/STEAM as an interdisciplinary approach to learning but only investigated the impact of ICTs on learning in each domain as a separate subject (science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics). Hence, we propose future research to also investigate the impact of the STEM/STEAM approach on education. The impact of emerging technologies on education, such as AR, VR, robotics, and AI has also been investigated recently, but more work needs to be done.

Finally, we propose that future studies could focus on the way in which specific factors, e.g., infrastructure and government support, school leadership and management, students’ and teachers’ digital competencies, approaches teachers utilize in the teaching and learning (e.g., blended, online and hybrid learning, flipped classrooms, STEM/STEAM approach, project-based learning, inquiry-based learning), affect the impact of digital technologies on education. We hope that future studies will give detailed insights into the concept of schools’ digital transformation through further investigation of impacts and factors which influence digital capacity and transformation based on the results and the recommendations of the present study.

Acknowledgements

This project has received funding under Grant Agreement No Ref Ares (2021) 339036 7483039 as well as funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Program under Grant Agreement No 739578 and the Government of the Republic of Cyprus through the Deputy Ministry of Research, Innovation and Digital Policy. The UVa co-authors would like also to acknowledge funding from the European Regional Development Fund and the National Research Agency of the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation, under project grant PID2020-112584RB-C32.

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How technology is reinventing education

Stanford Graduate School of Education Dean Dan Schwartz and other education scholars weigh in on what's next for some of the technology trends taking center stage in the classroom.

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Image credit: Claire Scully

New advances in technology are upending education, from the recent debut of new artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots like ChatGPT to the growing accessibility of virtual-reality tools that expand the boundaries of the classroom. For educators, at the heart of it all is the hope that every learner gets an equal chance to develop the skills they need to succeed. But that promise is not without its pitfalls.

“Technology is a game-changer for education – it offers the prospect of universal access to high-quality learning experiences, and it creates fundamentally new ways of teaching,” said Dan Schwartz, dean of Stanford Graduate School of Education (GSE), who is also a professor of educational technology at the GSE and faculty director of the Stanford Accelerator for Learning . “But there are a lot of ways we teach that aren’t great, and a big fear with AI in particular is that we just get more efficient at teaching badly. This is a moment to pay attention, to do things differently.”

For K-12 schools, this year also marks the end of the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding program, which has provided pandemic recovery funds that many districts used to invest in educational software and systems. With these funds running out in September 2024, schools are trying to determine their best use of technology as they face the prospect of diminishing resources.

Here, Schwartz and other Stanford education scholars weigh in on some of the technology trends taking center stage in the classroom this year.

AI in the classroom

In 2023, the big story in technology and education was generative AI, following the introduction of ChatGPT and other chatbots that produce text seemingly written by a human in response to a question or prompt. Educators immediately worried that students would use the chatbot to cheat by trying to pass its writing off as their own. As schools move to adopt policies around students’ use of the tool, many are also beginning to explore potential opportunities – for example, to generate reading assignments or coach students during the writing process.

AI can also help automate tasks like grading and lesson planning, freeing teachers to do the human work that drew them into the profession in the first place, said Victor Lee, an associate professor at the GSE and faculty lead for the AI + Education initiative at the Stanford Accelerator for Learning. “I’m heartened to see some movement toward creating AI tools that make teachers’ lives better – not to replace them, but to give them the time to do the work that only teachers are able to do,” he said. “I hope to see more on that front.”

He also emphasized the need to teach students now to begin questioning and critiquing the development and use of AI. “AI is not going away,” said Lee, who is also director of CRAFT (Classroom-Ready Resources about AI for Teaching), which provides free resources to help teach AI literacy to high school students across subject areas. “We need to teach students how to understand and think critically about this technology.”

Immersive environments

The use of immersive technologies like augmented reality, virtual reality, and mixed reality is also expected to surge in the classroom, especially as new high-profile devices integrating these realities hit the marketplace in 2024.

The educational possibilities now go beyond putting on a headset and experiencing life in a distant location. With new technologies, students can create their own local interactive 360-degree scenarios, using just a cell phone or inexpensive camera and simple online tools.

“This is an area that’s really going to explode over the next couple of years,” said Kristen Pilner Blair, director of research for the Digital Learning initiative at the Stanford Accelerator for Learning, which runs a program exploring the use of virtual field trips to promote learning. “Students can learn about the effects of climate change, say, by virtually experiencing the impact on a particular environment. But they can also become creators, documenting and sharing immersive media that shows the effects where they live.”

Integrating AI into virtual simulations could also soon take the experience to another level, Schwartz said. “If your VR experience brings me to a redwood tree, you could have a window pop up that allows me to ask questions about the tree, and AI can deliver the answers.”

Gamification

Another trend expected to intensify this year is the gamification of learning activities, often featuring dynamic videos with interactive elements to engage and hold students’ attention.

“Gamification is a good motivator, because one key aspect is reward, which is very powerful,” said Schwartz. The downside? Rewards are specific to the activity at hand, which may not extend to learning more generally. “If I get rewarded for doing math in a space-age video game, it doesn’t mean I’m going to be motivated to do math anywhere else.”

Gamification sometimes tries to make “chocolate-covered broccoli,” Schwartz said, by adding art and rewards to make speeded response tasks involving single-answer, factual questions more fun. He hopes to see more creative play patterns that give students points for rethinking an approach or adapting their strategy, rather than only rewarding them for quickly producing a correct response.

Data-gathering and analysis

The growing use of technology in schools is producing massive amounts of data on students’ activities in the classroom and online. “We’re now able to capture moment-to-moment data, every keystroke a kid makes,” said Schwartz – data that can reveal areas of struggle and different learning opportunities, from solving a math problem to approaching a writing assignment.

But outside of research settings, he said, that type of granular data – now owned by tech companies – is more likely used to refine the design of the software than to provide teachers with actionable information.

The promise of personalized learning is being able to generate content aligned with students’ interests and skill levels, and making lessons more accessible for multilingual learners and students with disabilities. Realizing that promise requires that educators can make sense of the data that’s being collected, said Schwartz – and while advances in AI are making it easier to identify patterns and findings, the data also needs to be in a system and form educators can access and analyze for decision-making. Developing a usable infrastructure for that data, Schwartz said, is an important next step.

With the accumulation of student data comes privacy concerns: How is the data being collected? Are there regulations or guidelines around its use in decision-making? What steps are being taken to prevent unauthorized access? In 2023 K-12 schools experienced a rise in cyberattacks, underscoring the need to implement strong systems to safeguard student data.

Technology is “requiring people to check their assumptions about education,” said Schwartz, noting that AI in particular is very efficient at replicating biases and automating the way things have been done in the past, including poor models of instruction. “But it’s also opening up new possibilities for students producing material, and for being able to identify children who are not average so we can customize toward them. It’s an opportunity to think of entirely new ways of teaching – this is the path I hope to see.”

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Impact of Technology on Society

Impact of Technology on Society: In the past few decades, technology has proliferated. The use of technology has also increased drastically. It affects the lives of people and changes the way they learn, think, and communicate. It plays a major role in society, and now it is very tough to imagine life without technology. Both technology and society are co-related, co-dependent, co-influence with each other. Technology has an impact on society, including the potential for society to progress or decline, in both good and bad manner. Our society is shaped by technology, which has both beneficial and harmful consequences.

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Table of Content

Impact of Technology

What is society, what is technology.

Human societies and technology have grown inextricably linked since technical systems like mobile phones, computers, TV, etc. are produced by humans and reflect the very basis of a population’s needs and lifestyle. Although technology improves the lifestyle of human beings, it is also a major concern for future generations. Nowadays, people are excessively using technology which reduces their physical activities and directly affects their health. Also, due to the excessive use of technology, there are so many cybercrimes happen every day in which someone steals the identity or personal information of the victim, such as a Unique ID number, PAN number, Debit Card, etc. and uses it to conduct a crime or perpetrate fraud without our permission. Some other cyber crimes are:

  • Hacking: An effort to manipulate a computer system or a network within a computer is known as hacking. It is unauthorized control of computer systems to commit a crime.
  • Credit/Debit Card theft: Credit card fraud refers to any type of fraud involving a payment card, such as a credit or debit card. The objective could be to obtain products or services or to transfer the funds to a criminal-controlled account.
  • Malware installation: Any program or file that is dangerous to a computer user is known as malware. Viruses, worms, Trojan horses, and spyware are all examples of malware.
  • E-mail threat: The use of email to deceive another person for personal benefit or to harm another person.
  • Phishing: Depending on the offender, phishing attempts can target a wide spectrum of people. It’s possible that these are generic phishing emails aimed at anyone with a PayPal account. These are frequently identified as phishing attempts.
  • Spams: An undesired, uninvited digital message that is sent in large quantities is known as spam. You can get spam via email, phone calls, text messages etc.
  • ATM cards theft: ATM fraud refers to a crime in which the criminal make the payments for the criminal activities via some other person’s ATM card using the PIN.

Society is defined as the group of among human beings sharing social relationships. Or in other words, a society is a group of people that lives together in a community that includes some form of government, along with some rules and economy.

Technology is defined as the body of knowledge that deals with the innovation, invention, and application of technical means, as well as their interrelationship with life, society, and the environment. Or in other words, technology means the use of scientific knowledge to achieve some specific goal or create applications that are used in industry or in everyday life. So, if we are using some scientific knowledge to achieve some goal means we are using technology. 

We utilize and rely on technology in our daily lives, and our technical requirements and demands continue to grow. Technology is used by humans to explore, connect, study, and do work. The manner in which we use technology decides whether its effects are beneficial or detrimental for society.

Positive Impacts of Technology on Society

Technology has a more positive impact on humans or society as compared to negative. It makes our life easier and reward us by providing resources or tool that make our life much easier. Following are some positive changes that technology brings to our life:

  • Improved Communication: Communication is the most important part of society, we build or transfer our thoughts with each other with the help of communication. Earlier people used pigeons or birds to transfer their messages to their loved ones. After that technology slowly grows and the medium of transferring information is changed to mobile phones, email, etc. Nowadays, we send messages to loved ones or known people via email, social media platforms, etc. It is the fastest, efficient, and effective medium. People can talk or share information with their loved ones easily even if they are very far away from them.
  • Improved Education and learning process: Technology enhances the education and learning process. Nowadays, people can easily enhance their knowledge using the internet. Most of the data is present on the internet is free of cost, and you can access this data anytime and anywhere.
  • Mechanized Agriculture: Technology changes the working mechanism of farmers. Lots of machines and technical instruments were introduced in the agricultural area which makes farming very easy, effective, automated, etc.
  • Easy to access information: We can easily access information via the internet anytime and anywhere. Most of the information is present on the internet are free of cost, so you can use them to enhance your knowledge, skills, etc.

Negative Impacts of Technology on Society

As we know that everything present on this planet has both advantages and disadvantages. The same goes for technology it also has negative impacts on society and some other negative impacts are:

  • Increase in unemployment: Nowadays, large and small business uses machinery and technical equipment because of their low costing and high efficiency due to which the rate of unemployment is increasing continuously.
  • Increase in pollution: Not only humans but technology also affecting our environment. Due to vehicles and machinery, the rate of pollution is increasing continuously which causes global warming, etc.
  • Increase in health and mental concerns: Nowadays, technology effecting the physical as well as mental health of human beings. It makes people lazy, emotionally weak, sleeping problems, reduce physical activity, also people are spending less time with their family and friends.
  • Increase in cybercrimes: Due to the excessive use of the internet, the rate of cybercrimes are also increased. Some people (attackers) harm innocent people (victims) or children for money or fun.

Societal Issues and Cultural Changes

Social issues.

Following are some social issues that we face while using the internet:

  • Identity Theft: To use the identity of some other person by getting his financial/ personal information in a fraud manner in order to commit a crime.
  • Gaming Addiction: An individual’s capacity to perform in multiple life domains is severely affected as a result of the excessive use of internet games over a long period of time.
  • Health and Fitness: Using a lot of the internet lay an impact on health and fitness, it may impact your eyesight, backbone, etc.
  • Cyberbullying: The use of technology to bully, abuse, criticize, or target another person is known as cyberbullying.
  • Terrorism and Crime: Theft of our cyber-infrastructure, as well as digital information such as software, hardware, data, or information, is considered cyberterrorism.
  • Communication Breakdown: A communication breakdown occurs when information is not exchanged, resulting in a loss of interaction.
  • Defamation of Character: The act of transmitting a piece of false information in order to do serious harm to another person’s goodwill is known as defamation of character.

Cultural  Changes

Our culture has been radically transformed by technology. From our ideals to our modes of communication, we’ve come a long way. Many people now find it difficult to conduct a face-to-face chat. People use their phones, tablets, or computers to spend time with their buddies. Also, individuals now evaluate others based on how technologically, whether or not they own the latest mobile phones or cars. Nowadays, listening to music on headphones is preferred over listening to another person. Most individuals nowadays prefer the internet because that is all they have ever known. Cell phones with touch screens are all the rage these days. Technology just serves to separate people from actuality. People nowadays lack the ability to interact in real-life situations such as individual connections, problem-solving, and showing adult actions. All this is influencing our culture. Technology influences culture every time we may get anything from an internet seller rather than going to a local business. Every moment someone always sits down to watch our night on-demand enjoyment, we are shaping culture through technology.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to authenticate biometric.

The technical difficulties of automated individual recognition based on biological and behavioral features are fundamental in the conversion of analog (facial image, fingerprint, voice pattern…) to digital (patterns, minutiae) data that can then be produced and matched with the effective algorithm.

What is the role of technology in modern society?

Technology helps in lending support in the automating various tasks, which include setting up reminders, communicating efficiently, payment of bills at click of a button and also shopping for simplest things.

What should we do if we find identity theft?

Put  a fraud warning on your credit reports so that we help us to identify identity theft. Put a hold on your credit. Use credit card monitor service and increase the level of security on your accounts.

What is cybercrime?

An illegal activity that makes use of a computer or targets a computer is known as cybercrime. Example: hacking, phishing, spamming, child pornography etc. Cyber thieves carry out illicit actions by use of Computer technology.

What is cybersecurity?

The technique of protecting servers, mobile devices, laptops, networks, data, etc. from malicious invasions is known as cybersecurity. Being secure online is what cyber safety entails. Threats to our safety and security abound in the online world.

What steps should be taken to safeguard online identity?

The following steps should be taken to safeguard online identity: 1. When providing personal information on the internet, be cautious. Just because a website requests information from you doesn’t mean you have to provide it to them. Inquire as to who wants the data and why they want it. 2. Do not open the link or attachment if it comes from someone you do not know. 3. When shopping or banking online, use a secure network. 4. Install sophisticated security software on your electrical device.

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The scientific and technological advances of world war ii.

The war effort demanded developments in the field of science and technology, developments that forever changed life in America and made present-day technology possible.

technology and its effects on modern america assignment

Of the enduring legacies from a war that changed all aspects of life—from economics, to justice, to the nature of warfare itself—the scientific and technological legacies of World War II had a profound and permanent effect on life after 1945. Technologies developed during World War II for the purpose of winning the war found new uses as commercial products became mainstays of the American home in the decades that followed the war’s end. Wartime medical advances also became available to the civilian population, leading to a healthier and longer-lived society. Added to this, advances in the technology of warfare fed into the development of increasingly powerful weapons that perpetuated tensions between global powers, changing the way people lived in fundamental ways. The scientific and technological legacies of World War II became a double-edged sword that helped usher in a modern way of living for postwar Americans, while also launching the conflicts of the Cold War .

When looking at wartime technology that gained commercial value after World War II, it is impossible to ignore the small, palm-sized device known as a cavity magnetron . This device not only proved essential in helping to win World War II, but it also forever changed the way Americans prepared and consumed food. This name of the device—the cavity magnetron—may not be as recognizable as what it generates: microwaves . During World War II, the ability to produce shorter, or micro, wavelengths through the use of a cavity magnetron improved upon prewar radar technology and resulted in increased accuracy over greater distances. Radar technology played a significant part in World War II and was of such importance that some historians have claimed that radar helped the Allies win the war more than any other piece of technology, including the atomic bomb. After the war came to an end, cavity magnetrons found a new place away from war planes and aircraft carrier and instead became a common feature in American homes.

Percy Spencer, an American engineer and expert in radar tube design who helped develop radar for combat, looked for ways to apply that technology for commercial use after the end of the war. The common story told claims that Spencer took note when a candy bar he had in his pocket melted as he stood in front of an active radar set. Spencer began to experiment with different kinds of food, such as popcorn, opening the door to commercial microwave production. Putting this wartime technology to use, commercial microwaves became increasingly available by the 1970s and 1980s, changing the way Americans prepared food in a way that persists to this day. The ease of heating food using microwaves has made this technology an expected feature in the twenty first century American home.

More than solely changing the way Americans warm their food, radar became an essential component of meteorology . The development and application of radar to the study of weather began shortly after the end of World War II. Using radar technology, meteorologists advanced knowledge of weather patterns and increased their ability to predict weather forecasts. By the 1950s, radar became a key way for meteorologists to track rainfall, as well as storm systems, advancing the way Americans followed and planned for daily changes in the weather.

Similar to radar technology, computers had been in development well before the start of World War II. However, the war demanded rapid progression of such technology, resulting in the production of new computers of unprecedented power. One such example was the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC), one of the first general purpose computers. Capable of performing thousands of calculations in a second, ENIAC was originally designed for military purposes, but it was not completed until 1945. Building from wartime developments in computer technology, the US government released ENIAC to the general public early in 1946, presenting the computer as tool that would revolutionize the field of mathematics. Taking up 1,500 square feet with 40 cabinets that stood nine feet in height, ENIAC came with a $400,000 price tag. The availability of ENIAC distinguished it from other computers and marked it as a significant moment in the history of computing technology. By the 1970s, the patent for the ENIAC computing technology entered the public domain, lifting restrictions on modifying these technological designs. Continued development over the following decades made computers progressively smaller, more powerful, and more affordable.

Along with the advances of microwave and computer technology, World War II brought forth momentous changes in field of surgery and medicine . The devastating scale of both world wars demanded the development and use new medical techniques that led to improvements in blood transfusions , skin grafts , and other advances in trauma treatment . The need to treat millions of soldiers also necessitated the large-scale production of antibacterial treatment , bringing about one of the most important advances in medicine in the twentieth century. Even though the scientist Alexander Fleming discovered the antibacterial properties of the Penicillium notatum mold in 1928, commercial production of penicillin did not begin until after the start of World War II. As American and British scientists worked collectively to meet the needs of the war, the large-scale production of penicillin became a necessity. Men and women together experimented with deep tank fermentation, discovering the process needed for the mass manufacture of penicillin. In advance of the Normandy invasion in 1944, scientists prepared 2.3 million doses of penicillin, bringing awareness of this “miracle drug” to the public. As the war continued, advertisements heralding penicillin’s benefits, established the antibiotic as a wonder drug responsible for saving millions of lives. From World War II to today, penicillin remains a critical form of treatment used to ward off bacterial infection.

technology and its effects on modern america assignment

Penicillin Saves Soldiers Lives poster. Image courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration, 515170.

Of all the scientific and technological advances made during World War II, few receive as much attention as the atomic bomb . Developed in the midst of a race between the Axis and Allied powers during the war, the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki serve as notable markers to the end of fighting in the Pacific. While debates over the decision to use atomic weapons on civilian populations continue to persist, there is little dispute over the extensive ways the atomic age came to shape the twentieth century and the standing of the United States on the global stage. Competition for dominance propelled both the United States and the Soviet Union to manufacture and hold as many nuclear weapons as possible. From that arms race came a new era of science and technology that forever changed the nature of diplomacy, the size and power of military forces, and the development of technology that ultimately put American astronauts on the surface of the moon.

The arms race in nuclear weapons that followed World War II sparked fears that one power would not only gain superiority on earth, but in space itself. During the mid-twentieth century, the Space Race prompted the creation of a new federally-run program in aeronautics . In the wake of the successful launch of the Soviet satellite, Sputnik 1 , in 1957, the United States responded by launching its own satellite, Juno 1 , four months later. In 1958, the National Aeronautics and Space Act (NASA) received approval from the US Congress to oversee the effort to send humans into space. The Space Race between the United States and the USSR ultimately peaked with the landing of the Apollo 11 crew on the surface of the moon on July 20, 1969. The Cold War between the United States and the USSR changed aspects of life in almost every way, but both the nuclear arms and Space Race remain significant legacies of the science behind World War II.

From microwaves to space exploration, the scientific and technological advances of World War II forever changed the way people thought about and interacted with technology in their daily lives. The growth and sophistication of military weapons throughout the war created new uses, as well as new conflicts, surrounding such technology. World War II allowed for the creation of new commercial products, advances in medicine, and the creation of new fields of scientific exploration. Almost every aspect of life in the United States today—from using home computers, watching the daily weather report, and visiting the doctor—are all influenced by this enduring legacy of World War II.

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Kristen D. Burton, PhD

Kristen D. Burton is the Teacher Programs and Curriculum Specialist at The National WWII Museum in New Orleans, LA. 

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How technology is reinventing education.

Image credit: Claire Scully

New advances in technology are upending education, from the recent debut of new artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots like ChatGPT to the growing accessibility of virtual-reality tools that expand the boundaries of the classroom. For educators, at the heart of it all is the hope that every learner gets an equal chance to develop the skills they need to succeed. But that promise is not without its pitfalls.

“Technology is a game-changer for education – it offers the prospect of universal access to high-quality learning experiences, and it creates fundamentally new ways of teaching,” said Dan Schwartz, dean of  Stanford Graduate School of Education  (GSE), who is also a professor of educational technology at the GSE and faculty director of the  Stanford Accelerator for Learning . “But there are a lot of ways we teach that aren’t great, and a big fear with AI in particular is that we just get more efficient at teaching badly. This is a moment to pay attention, to do things differently.”

For K-12 schools, this year also marks the end of the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding program, which has provided pandemic recovery funds that many districts used to invest in educational software and systems. With these funds running out in September 2024, schools are trying to determine their best use of technology as they face the prospect of diminishing resources.

Here, Schwartz and other Stanford education scholars weigh in on some of the technology trends taking center stage in the classroom this year.

AI in the classroom

In 2023, the big story in technology and education was generative AI, following the introduction of ChatGPT and other chatbots that produce text seemingly written by a human in response to a question or prompt. Educators immediately  worried  that students would use the chatbot to cheat by trying to pass its writing off as their own. As schools move to adopt policies around students’ use of the tool, many are also beginning to explore potential opportunities – for example, to generate reading assignments or  coach  students during the writing process.

AI can also help automate tasks like grading and lesson planning, freeing teachers to do the human work that drew them into the profession in the first place, said Victor Lee, an associate professor at the GSE and faculty lead for the AI + Education initiative at the Stanford Accelerator for Learning. “I’m heartened to see some movement toward creating AI tools that make teachers’ lives better – not to replace them, but to give them the time to do the work that only teachers are able to do,” he said. “I hope to see more on that front.”

He also emphasized the need to teach students now to begin questioning and critiquing the development and use of AI. “AI is not going away,” said Lee, who is also director of  CRAFT  (Classroom-Ready Resources about AI for Teaching), which provides free resources to help teach AI literacy to high school students across subject areas. “We need to teach students how to understand and think critically about this technology.”

Immersive environments

The use of immersive technologies like augmented reality, virtual reality, and mixed reality is also expected to surge in the classroom, especially as new high-profile devices integrating these realities hit the marketplace in 2024.

The educational possibilities now go beyond putting on a headset and experiencing life in a distant location. With new technologies, students can create their own local interactive 360-degree scenarios, using just a cell phone or inexpensive camera and simple online tools.

“This is an area that’s really going to explode over the next couple of years,” said Kristen Pilner Blair, director of research for the Digital Learning initiative at the Stanford Accelerator for Learning, which runs a program exploring the use of virtual field trips to promote learning. “Students can learn about the effects of climate change, say, by virtually experiencing the impact on a particular environment. But they can also become creators, documenting and sharing immersive media that shows the effects where they live.”

Integrating AI into virtual simulations could also soon take the experience to another level, Schwartz said. “If your VR experience brings me to a redwood tree, you could have a window pop up that allows me to ask questions about the tree, and AI can deliver the answers.”

Gamification

Another trend expected to intensify this year is the gamification of learning activities, often featuring dynamic videos with interactive elements to engage and hold students’ attention.

“Gamification is a good motivator, because one key aspect is reward, which is very powerful,” said Schwartz. The downside? Rewards are specific to the activity at hand, which may not extend to learning more generally. “If I get rewarded for doing math in a space-age video game, it doesn’t mean I’m going to be motivated to do math anywhere else.”

Gamification sometimes tries to make “chocolate-covered broccoli,” Schwartz said, by adding art and rewards to make speeded response tasks involving single-answer, factual questions more fun. He hopes to see more creative play patterns that give students points for rethinking an approach or adapting their strategy, rather than only rewarding them for quickly producing a correct response.

Data-gathering and analysis

The growing use of technology in schools is producing massive amounts of data on students’ activities in the classroom and online. “We’re now able to capture moment-to-moment data, every keystroke a kid makes,” said Schwartz – data that can reveal areas of struggle and different learning opportunities, from solving a math problem to approaching a writing assignment.

But outside of research settings, he said, that type of granular data – now owned by tech companies – is more likely used to refine the design of the software than to provide teachers with actionable information.

The promise of personalized learning is being able to generate content aligned with students’ interests and skill levels, and making lessons more accessible for multilingual learners and students with disabilities. Realizing that promise requires that educators can make sense of the data that’s being collected, said Schwartz – and while advances in AI are making it easier to identify patterns and findings, the data also needs to be in a system and form educators can access and analyze for decision-making. Developing a usable infrastructure for that data, Schwartz said, is an important next step.

With the accumulation of student data comes privacy concerns: How is the data being collected? Are there regulations or guidelines around its use in decision-making? What steps are being taken to prevent unauthorized access? In 2023 K-12 schools experienced a rise in cyberattacks, underscoring the need to implement strong systems to safeguard student data.

Technology is “requiring people to check their assumptions about education,” said Schwartz, noting that AI in particular is very efficient at replicating biases and automating the way things have been done in the past, including poor models of instruction. “But it’s also opening up new possibilities for students producing material, and for being able to identify children who are not average so we can customize toward them. It’s an opportunity to think of entirely new ways of teaching – this is the path I hope to see.”

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Technology and its Effects on Modern America

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  1. Technology and its Effects on Modern America Flashcards

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    00:00:20and its effect on modern day America, let's take a look at the role that technology has played in modern day businesses, and especially in the modern day job market. Section 2. 00:00:01TEACHER: If you look at these two pictures on the screen right here, you could really see how technology has drastically changed the world that we live in.

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  11. Here's how technology has changed the world since 2000

    Similar growth can be seen on a global scale; while less than 7% of the world was online in 2000, today over half the global population has access to the internet. Similar trends can be seen in cellphone use. At the start of the 2000s, there were 740 million cell phone subscriptions worldwide. Two decades later, that number has surpassed 8 ...

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  14. Impacts of digital technologies on education and factors influencing

    The impact of digital technology on learning: A summary for the education endowment foundation. Education Endowment Foundation and Durham University; 2012. [Google Scholar] Higgins, K., Huscroft-D'Angelo, J., & Crawford, L. (2019). Effects of technology in mathematics on achievement, motivation, and attitude: A meta-analysis.

  15. PDF Technology

    Student Objectives. Understand that modern technology has benefited human beings by increasing production of goods and services, reducing the amount of labor needed to produce these goods and services, and providing higher living standards. Understand that technology has also had negative effects on society—environmental pollution, depletion ...

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  17. Technology and it's Effects on Modern America Flashcards

    Terms in this set (18) How has the advancement of technology improved the workplace? Technology speeds up data analysis, making itt more efficient. What was ARPANET? A US government computer network for researchers. How did the World Wide Web transform the Internet? It allowed people to navigate easily between different pages.

  18. How technology is reinventing K-12 education

    In 2023 K-12 schools experienced a rise in cyberattacks, underscoring the need to implement strong systems to safeguard student data. Technology is "requiring people to check their assumptions ...

  19. Impact of Technology on Society

    Read. Impact of Technology on Society: In the past few decades, technology has proliferated. The use of technology has also increased drastically. It affects the lives of people and changes the way they learn, think, and communicate. It plays a major role in society, and now it is very tough to imagine life without technology.

  20. The Scientific and Technological Advances of World War II

    Penicillin Saves Soldiers Lives poster. Image courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration, 515170. Of all the scientific and technological advances made during World War II, few receive as much attention as the atomic bomb.Developed in the midst of a race between the Axis and Allied powers during the war, the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki serve as notable ...

  21. Technology and its Effects on Modern America Flashcards

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  22. How technology is reinventing education

    New advances in technology are upending education, from the recent debut of new artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots like ChatGPT to the growing accessibility of virtual-reality tools that expand the boundaries of the classroom. For educators, at the heart of it all is the hope that every learner gets an equal chance to develop the skills they need to succeed.

  23. Technology and its Effects on Modern America

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