19 Nov 2022


Do ICTs Improve Productivity?

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A thought about the role of information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) on human life prompts a consideration of its usage in different spheres of life. The fact that ICTs can be used in almost all aspects of human life has driven most institutions globally to adopt them. A general notion, which is not difficult to argue against, is that the use of technology improves both the quality and quantity of output for businesses. Most firms that have adopted ICTs have done so because of the motivation to better their production and save on the costs of production. Therefore, the trend in adoption rates of ICTs has continued to rise because of the desire by institutions to make profits, which is also productivity. However, it is also reported that different parts of the world have different rates of adoption of ICTs. The reason could be, in part, because of the costs of adoption and maintenance and because of the lack of motivation to do so. 

This observation, therefore, is the basis of studying the relationship between the use of ICTs and productivity. For instance, do ICTs improve productivity at work? The current study examines this question through exploring secondary literature. It reports that the general notion of the public about the desirability of ICTs for organizations is related to the fact that it improves the rates of productivity among the workers. However, as much as most of the studies reviewed for this work indicate a positive correlation between ICTs and productivity, a counter argument is that the use of ICTs has a negative impact on staff morale, which could be one of the factors that decrease their productivity. The relationship between ICTs and work is of critical importance to the contemporary corporate world because of the desire for companies to achieve high levels of productivity, remain competitive, and retain their pool of workers. This paper presents the argument on the impact of the adoption of ICTs at work by first presenting the sources used before the two sides of the argument synthesized in literature. After the developed of the argument, the opinion of the researcher will follow based on the concepts of the adoption of new technologies. 

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Source Methodology 

The present paper uses six scholarly sources to develop the argument and opinion on the impact of ICTs on productivity at the workplace. The first reference is De Vries and Koettera’s study titled How does ICT enhance productivity? Evidence from latent retail technologies in Chile , which was done at the University of Groningen in 2008. The second reference is Swaratsingh’s 2015 doctoral thesis called Enhancing Workplace Productivity and Competitiveness in Trinidad and Tobago through ICT Adoption. The paper also draws reference from Sanghani’s 2013 article published in the online version of the Telegraph titled Technology Leads to 84pc Increase in Office Productivity , which was published on 22 October 2013. The fourth reference used in this paper is the works of Chesley and Johnson published in 2010 called Information and communication technology, work, and family in the Work and Family Encyclopedia. The paper also references Biagi’s (2013) working paper called ICT and Productivity: A Review of the Literature . Lastly, the paper cites an article in the Economist by Whadcock called Technology Isn’t Working published online on 4, October, 2014. 

Three of the included studies, Whadcock (2014), Shanghani (2013), and Swaratsingh’s (2015), do not directly meet the criteria for scholarly sources stipulated by the university. However, their inclusion in this study is justified using different reasons. For instance, Swaratsingh’s paper is a doctoral thesis, which was submitted to and accepted by Walden University for academic certification. Shanghani is a popular writer for the Telegraph on Work Economics and other fields. Her works are mostly drawn from published researchers intertwined with public opinion in a journalistic fashion. In addition, Whadcock is a renowned professor at the Manchester Metropolitan University, which makes their works to be acceptable for academic referencing for the fact they are founded on scholarly backgrounds. 

Research Results 

Production at the workplace based on technology has risen by over 480% per hour during the last four decades (Shangani, 2013). This rise is reported in literature to have resulted from the impact of ICTs on productivity at the workplace. For example, Shangani (2013) reports that the use of ICTs and related technologies have seen a rise in the levels of productivity at the workplace by about 84 percent per hour in 2013 compared to the 70s. Shangani further reports that business software, email and mobile phones have been the primary pieces of technology that have steered the growth. There is an expected continued growth in productivity by approximately 22 percent by 2020, which nearly 2.5 percent each year because of the increase in the rates of usage of tablets and a rise in internet speed (Shanghani, 2013). 

The adoption of ICTs and related technologies is also reported in literature as having a fundamental impact on the rates of growth of different economies in the world because of its impact on the workplace. For example, Whadcock (2014) reports that the differences in the levels of productivity of the workplaces of the US and Europe could allude to the different rates of adoption of ICTs. For instance, it is noted that between 1950 and 1973, there was a faster rate of productivity in Europe because of the strength of the conventional pattern of catching up, which was sustained by strong supporting institutions and investment. However, after 1973, the rates of productivity of both the US and Europe started to slow down, but Europe still had a higher labor productivity than the US (Whadcock, 2014). However, the US overtook Europe in terms of labor productivity, and by 2004, the rate in the US was 10 percent more than that of Europe (Biagi, 2013). This change in the pattern of growth is related to the levels of investment in and adoption of new ICTs in the US compared to Europe. A similar tone is adopted in (Swaratsingh, 2015) who reports that the adoption of ICTs has been a critical factor in the improvement of productivity of workers in the public sector in Trinidad and Tobago. However, (Swaratsingh, 2015) reports the connection between the levels of national development and its investment in ICTs. It is reported that like most other Latin American nations, Trinidad and Tobago have lagged behind the rest of the developed world in terms of international best practices because of little investment in ICTs. 

Despite the consensus on the positive impacts of adoption of ICTs on productivity, Biagi (2013) argues that ICTs cannot be truly productive if there is no further investment by firms in complementary assets, which include managerial, organizational, and human capital. Biagi notes that such an investment is a part of the creation of the spillover impacts of ICTs. He argues that ICTs should not be expected to improve productivity as soon as they are implemented because of the need for their users to adapt to them. However, after a successful adoption, the spillover effects contribute to the improvement of the productivity of workers. It is reported that the use of ICTs at work has improved the rates of delivery for individual workers in addition to eliminating the physical barriers to effective working such as the need for workers to report to their offices. For example, Shanghani (2013) reports that ICTs have enabled virtual team formation, which is one of the fundamentals of the global world of business. 

Literature also points at the fact that ICTs are considered to improve the levels of productivity at the workplace because they present a chance for their users to cut down on the costs of operation (Biagi, 2013: Swaratsingh, 2015: Shanghani, 2013). For instance, some companies have been able to lay off a section of their workforce because of the improvements in their productivity occasioned by the use of ICTs. This implies that a piece of work that could be done by ten workers, for example, can now be done by fewer workers because of the efficiency of the use of technologies (Shanghani, 2013). Swaratsingh (2015) reports that the rapid rise in the rates of adoption of ICTs has been occasioned by the fall in the costs of adoption, which directly means that companies have a real chance of cutting down on their costs of operation and still achieve higher rates of production. On the other hand, Biagi (2013) posits that firms are now able to improve their rates of production per employee because of their adoption of new technologies. What the issue of lowered costs of operation means in this context is that if the production levels are held constant, companies are able to attain higher rates of profitability because the costs of operation are greatly lowered. A trend such as this supports the idea that the implementation of ICTs improves the productivity of the workforce (De Vries and Koettera, 2008). De Vries and Koettera (2008) argue that productivity for businesses can only be interpreted in terms of cost-benefit comparison of the process of production and that ICTs are positively related to benefits and inversely to costs. 

Literature arguing against the usefulness of ICTs in improving productivity at the workplace is scarce. However, Chesley and Johnson (2010) report a negative relationship between ICTs and worker productivity. For example, they report that adoption of ICTs has inflicted more pressure on workers than when the firms had not resorted to the use of such technologies. They report that workers that work in ICT-related environments have to spend more time in their work than those without such technologies. For example, bosses are more likely to assign more duties to their juniors or to check on the progress of previous duties if they have supportive technologies such as social media and emails (Chesley and Johnson, 2010). Therefore, what other scholars consider as being an improvement on worker productivity could be pressure by employers on employees to attain perfection and meet deadlines to sustain profitability (Shanghani, 2013). Such pressures have been reported in Whadcock (2014) as being causes of undesirable worker experiences such as burnouts that will mean they will most likely want to stay off duty. If these undesirable events happen, the reported improved worker efficiency levels are likely to be overshadowed (Chesley and Johnson, 2010). 


It is not easy to argue against the importance of ICTs in the improvement of worker productivity. For example, it is factual that the US has made significant levels of improvement in terms of labor productivity because of its commitment to invest in ICTs (Biagi, 2013). While this could be debatable, it is worthwhile understanding that most of the developments that the US has attained in terms of productivity have come from ICT-dependent sectors such as banking and other service sectors. In comparison to Europe, the US has had the largest levels of investment in the service sector, which is why it has a relatively higher level of productivity for workers than most of the European nations (Whadcock, 2014). These improvements realized by the US are consistent with the findings in the doctoral thesis of Swaratsingh (2015) concerning the use of ICTs in Trinidad and Tobago. The use of technology, therefore, has the impact of raising the levels of productivity of workers, which is reflected in the improvement of the economy of a nation and the profitability of a firm. One of the biggest successes of the use of ICTs has been the ability to reduce the costs of operation for institutions, which explains the overall impact on productivity of workers. 

The argument against ICT’s impact on productivity is a psychological one and might have little ground to economists. For example, while it is agreeable that ICTs might increase the working pressure on workers, it might be argued that productivity is measured per unit time. For example, if a worker can produce 10 more units in a given hour because of the pressure of using an ICT, then their productivity shall have been improved. 


ICTs have a positive impact on productivity at the workplace measured in two aspects. The first aspect is the reduction in the costs of operation and improvement in the profitability of the firms and other organizations. The second aspect is the ability of the ICTs to improve the rates of production for a single worker in a fixed period. These two factors could have been the motivation for companies to continue investing in new ICTs. The counter-argument against the usefulness of ICTs could be termed a relating to psychology and only with a narrow relationship with economics. Therefore, if new technologies are adopted by firms, their chances of improving their productivity are raised, which also means that workers might find more comfortable working environments when they use ICTs in their operations at the workplace. 


De Vries, G. J., & Koettera, M. (2008). How does ICT enhance productivity? Evidence from latent retail technologies in Chile ⋆ .  University of Groningen

Swaratsingh, K. J. (2015). Enhancing workplace productivity and competitiveness in Trinidad and Tobago through ICT adoption. 

Biagi, F. (2013). ICT and Productivity: A Review of the Literature.  JRC Institute for Prospective Technological Studies, Digital Economy Working Paper 9

Sanghani, R. (2013).  'Technology leads to 84pc increase in office productivity' Telegraph.co.uk . Retrieved 15 March 2017, from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/news/10396263/Technology-leads-to-84pc-increase-in-office-productivity.html 

Whadcock, I. (2014).  Technology Isn’t Working. Retrieved 15 March 2017, from http://www.economist.com/news/special-report/21621237-digital-revolution-has-yet-fulfil-its-promise-higher-productivity-and-better 

Chesley, N., & Johnson, B. (2010). Information and communication technology, work, and family.  Work and family encyclopaedia. Boston, MA: Sloan Work and Family Research Network Chestnut Hill. Retrieved November 2 , 2014. 

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