Technology has been a driver for innovation, trade, industry and economic growth throughout human history. The ease of moving ideas, people, products, and technology itself has dictated the extent to which economies and nations can connect. The ability to communicate with others at a distance enhanced this connectivity worldwide. Telecommunications developed in the 20th century, and the ongoing advancements this century are have significantly affected globalization. Technology has been improving exponentially since the end of the 20th century. Moore’s law is a prime example stating that every 18 months the power of a microprocessor doubles while their cost is cut in half; a computer in made in 2009 could operate at 100 times the speed at .01% the cost of a computer made in 1975 (Popescul, 29-30).
International communication is following a similar trend. During most of the 20th century, contacting someone in another country was expensive and slow in contrast with the methods utilized today. The shift from the use of radio and telephones, to the widespread use of cell phones and virtual communication brought people together like never before. The Internet evolved in the late 20th century and further interwove societies.
The invention of the World Wide Web (an interface that made browsing the Internet possible as a means for exchanging ideas) in 1990 (Huurdeman, 587) sparked a global phenomenon creating a forum where ideas can flow freely and rapidly. The utility and impact of the Internet has multiplied since its early stages in the 90s. During the last two decades the number of Internet users has soared from under 5% of the world’s population in 1998 to over 45% today. (data.worldbank.
org/indicator/IT.NET.USER.ZS). Developments in information and communication technologies spurred a new wave of expansion for commerce.
As the cost of contacting associates in other countries decreased to almost nothing, outsourcing labor and manufacturing became easier than ever. Businesses could effectively dictate and control complex processes at far distances while also taking advantage of lower working wages and lenient labor laws in the global south Baldwin, 8. With a race to the bottom, the industrial development, formerly that centralized in the global north during the 20th century, moved to countries that could offer the cheapest and least regulated labor. Local economies, relatively separate entities before, became tied with this dispersion of production and distribution networks. Today the life of a product links people all over the world. Products are designed in one country, their raw materials sourced from another, while the manufacturing and point of sale occur in different locations altogether. Globalization this century is a part of every consumer’s daily purchases. As the presence of multinational corporations around the world grew, so too did their consumer base.
The decrease in production costs achieved through off shoring allowed for cheaper products and more consumers who could afford them. The middle class in developing nations is increasing every year creating more potential consumers. Homi Kharas of the Brookings institute estimated that at the end of 2016 the global middle class reached 3.2 billion people (2). This massive new group became a major target market for international firms to increase profits.
Western ideals, luxuries, fashion, food, and technology products have become ubiquitous, influencing consumer behavior. Brands are global icons, publicized as symbols of status and success. People all over the world are increasingly exposed to popular culture, through the Internet, social media and other news outlets, films, and creative marketing. Corporations create a perceived desire for their products and generate demand through extensive market research and specific product adaptations to suit consumers’ cultural and demographical differences. Technological improvements since the turn of the 21st century changed the face of globalization. The creation of the Internet coupled with advances in information and communication technologies forged trade paths previously unimaginable. The enormous changes we see in the 21st century stem from the technological boom that occurred in the last decade of the 20th century. The affects of globalization have radically accelerated since 2001 touching nearly everyone on the planet.
Works Cited Baldwin, Richard. The Great Convergence: Information Technology and the New Globalization. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2016.
Huurdeman, Anton A. The Worldwide History of Telecommunications. John Wiley, 2003.
“Individuals using the Internet (% of population).” Individuals using the Internet (%of population Data, data.worldbank.org/indicator/IT.NET.
USER.ZS.Kharas, Homi. “The Unprecedented Expansion of the Global Middle Class – an Update.” Global Economy and Development at Brookings. Working paper 100, February, 2017.
Popescul, Daniela. “Information and Communication Technologies – One engine of Globalization”. CES Working Papers, vol. 1, no.
2, pp. 20-36.