Service Communautaire d'Information sur la Recherche et le Développement - CORDIS

Information society, work, and the generation of new forms of social exclusion: Co-ordinating various policy areas

The concept of technological practices directs policy makers’ attention from the supply-side to the demand-side perspective of the information economy. It also underlines that companies can benefit most when they combine advanced technology use with a bundle of social innovations, including intra- and inter-organisational restructuring, the use of skilled employees, new forms of employee participation, flexible work regulations, and the introduction of innovation as the main achievement criterion. Above we have discussed how policy makers can support the development of these productive and innovative technological practices.

The agenda suggested often cuts across departmental and ministerial responsibilities. There is a need for an integrative approach that involves various policy areas, including science policy, labour market policy, education policy, and technology and innovation policy. Here we want to stress the three elements of such an integrative approach: the development of a national or regional Leitbild which gives some overall guidelines for future socio-economic development, the formation of policy networks, and discursive co-ordination as a new form of governing the development process. A Leitbild, as argued above, includes a set of general ideas of socio-economic development, but it also has a normative dimension, as which it becomes the basis of practical restructuring processes. In some of the participating regions, the 'networked informational economy' has become some kind of Leitbild for socio-economic development.

Policy networks represent a new understanding of the role of the state in socio-economic development processes. The relationship between government, on the one hand, and economy and society, on the other hand, is no longer seen as a hierarchical one with the government as the central authority to develop and implement policy programmes. Instead, the concept of policy networks reflects a growing participation of non-government organisations and agencies, such as large companies, unions and trade associations in political decision-making. In policy networks the role of the state in technical macroeconomic management may decrease, but its role as a facilitator and orchestrator of private economic actors remains strong.

Discursive co-ordination means that co-ordination of economic activities among various decision makers takes place through continuous discourse and mutual adjustment. Systemic discourse can be viewed as a platform to jointly create and exchange information among economic actors. Discursive co-ordination is not intended primarily to create consensus among the participants; it rather aims at initiating learning processes.

It is important to mention that an umbrella policy for developing the information society has to combine the restructuring perspective with the social exclusion perspective, as the benefits and costs related to the widespread use of modern ICT and its organisational embedding are often unequally distributed among various groups of employees. If the emerging information economy leads to increased social segmentation and social exclusion, we can expect that restructuring losers registering only the negative side of the information economy will oppose the transformation process. This is why social cohesion is crucial for the information economy. Focusing only on the diffusion of modern ICTs and related social innovations to make their use more effective may not be a sustainable strategy in the information economy.

Such an integrative approach should not deal with the two aspects separately, that is, support the techno-organisational transformation process while leaving the negative side of the emerging information economy to a labour market policy compensating for the costs among the most disadvantaged people. Instead, a comprehensive approach is needed which tackles both aspects together. This may imply a transformation of the traditional 'caring welfare state' into a 'co-operative social state'. The latter can be characterised more as an intermediator and an enabler than as a producer of benefits. The co-operative social state no longer concentrates on social aid as a compensation for resource deficits; it rather supports self-organising entities. This means that the main aim is to empower people to participate in the learning processes taking place within companies.

Reported by

University of Tampere
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