Technology Adoption: Variation by Country and Technology (HBS)

by Erin McCune on April 16, 2008

in Research Round Up, Technology

[via HBS Working Knowledge]

How long does it take the average country to adopt a typical technology? The surprising answer: nearly half a century, or 47 years. "There is, however, substantial variation in these lags, both across countries and across technologies," write HBS professor Diego A. Comin and colleague Bart Hobijn of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Their working paper available for download, "An Exploration of Technology Diffusion," looks at the whys and wherefores of these adoption lags—the time between invention and diffusion—for 15 technologies in 166 countries. Technologies that Comin and Hobijn studied were related to transportation, telecommunication, IT, health care, steel production, and electricity.


We develop a model that, at the aggregate level, is similar to the one sector neoclassical growth model, while, at the disaggregate level, has implications for the path of observable measures of technology adoption. We estimate our model using data on the diffusion of 15 technologies in 166 countries over the last two centuries. We evaluate the implications of our estimates for aggregate TFP and per capita income. Our results reveal that, on average, countries have adopted technologies 47 years after their invention. There is substantial variation across technologies and countries. Over the past two centuries, newer technologies have been adopted faster than old ones. The cross-country variation in the adoption of technologies accounts for at least a quarter of per capita income differences.

Exploration of Technology Diffusion
Diego A. Comin and Bart Hobijn

Download the paper:

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