The role of IT and telecommunications technologies in improving productivity

Sabia, president and chief executive officer of BCE Inc., said not enough companies are taking full advantage of information and communications technologies, and Canadian telecom regulations stifle innovation because they protect competitors, rather than competition.

It was ironic that the executive of a telecom carrier was encouraging more use of telecommunications at a conference where everyone spent at least a day out of the office, instead of communicating by Webcast or teleconference.

This is not to suggest that no business communication should take place face to face, but it does raise the question of whether productivity depends more on the adoption of communications technologies, or the manner in which they are used. Presumably, telecommunications makes companies more productive because it lets people communicate more quickly with more people, and allows more electronic transactions. But the ability of telecom technology — or any other technology, for that matter — to reduce costs depends in large part on how business managers use it, and this probably plays a greater role in productivity than either the regulation of carrier services or the adoption of technologies.

Take e-mail as an example. Assuming the cost of the software licence, hardware, networks and support do not offset the money saved by making workers more efficient, e-mail can cut costs by reducing the time it takes to communicate with large numbers of people. But unnecessary e-mail, not including spam, can actually reduce productivity as office workers sift through their inboxes looking for messages that are actually pertinent to their jobs.

Then there’s Internet access, which is an essential tool for many firms, but comes with the cost of firewalls and other security measures, and is only as good as a business’s overall communications strategy. Will deregulation play a greater role in productivity? Send your opinion to

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