The information society

National policies

Lecture 10

Ewan Sutherland


Typical state actions

Infant industries

United Kingdom


Lord Halsbury:

... felt, with some reason, that the NRDC had done all it could to stimulate the British computer industry, but that it had no answer to the chronic indecision and conservatism of British industry as a whole when it came to ordering new equipment. Even the computer manufacturers had often been slow to become computer users.

Hendry (1989) page 152.

NRDC = National Research and Development Corporation.

International Computers Limited (ICL)


Post-1979 government


The current view is that:

Telecommunications is increasingly key [sic] to innovation and efficiency, not only in research and development, but to all phases of production and marketing. It offers major opportunities for growth and employment, particularly for small and medium sized firms and in the knowledge-based industries.

The UK is up with the best of its international competitors in the construction of these competing high capacity networks.

HMG (1994) Cm 2563


  • long history of étatisme
  • le défi americain (Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber, 1969)
  • la société bloquée (Michel Crozier)
  • changes with the political cycle

    Parisian control

    De Colbert à de Gaulle en passant par Napoléon III, la conjunction de la centralisme et du dirigisme a conduit l’Etat à se comporter tout à la fois en entrepreneur et en guide de l’economie. Saloman, 1987, page 13.

    Post-war change


    The weight of evidence leads this observer to conclude that in competitive conditions, without state support, many French firms would have lost their own domestic markets to imports long before they had adjusted to international competition. The central political executive manipulated foreign competition to generate pressure for domestic economic modernization, but since the capacity of French firms to adjust was limited, the pressure itself had to be modulated.

    Zysman, 1983, page 145.

    Government direction

    As a result, they indiscriminately encouraged business state links that were appropriate for government procurement but that were ill-suited to help firms competing in international markets. They also insisted on products that were better fitted to the choices of mature firms with established markets than to the needs of the new and often weak entrants to international competition.

    Zysman (1983) page 148.


    At least in electronics, the French, whether they like it or not, are indeed part of an international industry, facing foreign competitors at home and fighting for markets outside of France, and therefore unable to escape the need for efficiency in the continuous product development that rapid innovation requires.

    Zysman (1977) page 3.

    Le complexe Astérix

    There are three ways to ruin yourself: women, gambling and technology. Women are the most pleasurable, gambling the fastest and technology the most certain.

    Georges Pompidou

    French electronics




    Smart cards

    Sophia Antipolis

    European Union

    Eastern Europe


    Activities of MITI

    Ministry of International Trade and Industry

    Failings in other countries

    Other Asian countries




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