Free Access
Volume 14, Number 3, 2000
Page(s) 209 - 228
DOI: 10.1051/ejess:2000118

European Journal of Economic and Social Systems 14 N$^\circ$ 3 (2000) pp. 209-228

The productivity paradox and the diffusion of generic technologies

Sandrine Paillard

Commissariat Général du Plan, 18 rue de Martignac, 75700 Paris 07 SP, France


The productivity paradox poses the problem of the coexistence, since the seventies, of a slowing down of productivity gains and an acceleration of technical progress, in particular in the field of information technologies (IT). The existence of delays between the arrival of a new technology and the realisation of productivity gains constitutes one explanation of the paradox. In this article, we present a simulation model which illustrates the relations between the diffusion of a generic technology and the dynamics of the productivity gains at the macroeconomic level. In this model, the diffusion of a new generic technology is a process marked by positive feedback; any obstacle to the diffusion also hinders the pace of learning which, in turn, slows down the process of diffusion. A low rate of the diffusion of the knowledge among the sectors of the economy slows the diffusion down. In a similar way, the heterogeneity of the stock of capital and the problems of technological compatibility resulting from it make the full potential of the new technology more difficult to obtain.

Keywords: Productivity paradox, information technologies, generic technologies, technological learning

Correspondence and reprints: Sandrine Paillard

Copyright EDP Sciences 2000