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Economic disparity yet resulting similarity: The 'double paradox' of Argentina's and Mexico's electric telegraph and telephone diffusion, 1851-1997.

Gonzalez, Arish Tatiana (2010) Economic disparity yet resulting similarity: The 'double paradox' of Argentina's and Mexico's electric telegraph and telephone diffusion, 1851-1997. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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The process of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) diffusion today is one of the major determinants of a country's economic growth and development. A greater understanding of the factors driving this is therefore critical in developing countries. Whilst the literature presents a range of potential factors that explain the difference in diffusion rates across countries, it is the relative level of economic development in one country compared with another that is cited most frequently. This would suggest that the diffusion of the telegraph and the telephone in Argentina should have been decidedly faster than in Mexico, given the former's significant inherent economic advantage throughout the period. This was not found to be the case. Instead, Argentina underperformed while Mexico outperformed, giving rise to an interesting historical episode which I dub the 'Double Paradox'. This unexpected result is verified via the application of the 'Flexible Logistic Growth Model' (FLOG) and linearisation techniques, which demonstrated that both technologies diffused at strikingly similar rates. The quantitative and qualitative analysis established that the 'Double Paradox' is best explained by the role and actions of the state, rather than the countries' economic development, or the intrinsic traits of the given technology. The findings showed that state action can act as a substitute to the otherwise commonly held prerequisites for fast diffusion, such as economic drivers, thus allowing for Gerschenkronian style catch up. Further investigation determined that Mexico's closed political system was supportive of successful diffusion while Argentina's more open, decentralised and quasidemocratic structure was not, indicating that the state can act as both a promoter and an inhibitor of diffusion. The thesis contributes to the literature on the comparative history of traditional ICT diffusion and growth. This is important both in understanding the economic history of developing countries, and because it has valuable implications for political planning in developing countries regarding future ICT diffusion. The thesis concludes that not only is the choice and implementation of the right reform paramount in inducing faster diffusion, but also the degrees of stability, autonomy and concentration of power within the state. In the discovery and examination of the 'Double Paradox', the overwhelming impact of the role of the state in the traditional ICT diffusion process is illuminated, which lays a framework from which to stimulate and develop further research.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Economics, History, History, Latin American, Speech Communication
Sets: Collections > ProQuest Etheses
Departments > Economic History

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