Thursday, September 07, 2006

Internet developments and enduring issues

This week I welcome another new group of students to one of my Economics and the Internet classes. Since September 1999 I have been teaching final year undergraduate students on the BSc Business Economics at the University of Surrey on a module called The Internet for Business Economists. I also teach a similar module called Economics of the Internet to postgraduate students at the University of Portsmouth. As the Surrey course comes in the first semester and the Portsmouth one comes in the second semester I have to update my material twice each year, which is just as well as Internet related matters change on almost a daily basis. Brad DeLong once said (1998) that "Competing on the Internet is like leading a dog's life - it compresses seven years into every one". Things can change very quickly and there is a lot to keep track of.

The other courses that I teach also need updating each year, of course, but the changes that are needed are usually very minor. I might have to add in a couple of references to some recently published articles or a new edition of the textbook but this can usually be done at a single sitting. But with the economics and the Internet courses I might even have to change stuff in the week that I give a lecture to recognise a new advance, to acknowledge a new milestone in the development of the Internet or to incorporate the latest figures on the amount of e-commerce. If you want to keep up to date with developments it is a good idea to sign up to one or more news alert service, which comes either in the form of a regular e-mail newsletter or as a news feed such as the ones from the BBC, Google, The Register or E-Commerce Times. You can specify appropriate keywords such as Internet, e-commerce etc. if you want to narrow down what you get. Some other sources that I find it very useful to watch are the Pew Internet and American Life project, Nielsen-NetRatings, and Information Week. For links to up to date statistics see my earlier blog Internet statistics. Of course I will try to use this blog to direct you to important news that is relevant to the course.

But even though the technology may change there are plenty of enduring questions that remain the same that we shall be considering on the course. How can economics help us understand the rapid growth of technologies like the Internet and e-commerce? [See my blog on bandwagons and network effects]. Would an e-stamp help in the fight against spam? [See my blog Controlling spam via e-mail charges]. What has been the impact of the Internet on the prices of goods and services? [I have got a blog on this too.] Why not browse now through this and all my other previous blog postings to get a better idea about what economics has to say on these and other Internet issues?


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