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Information Technology Policy in Britain, 1945-1990

The aim of this project is to produce a comprehensive and balanced account of the impacts of government technology policy on information technology (IT) supply and usage in the UK in the post-war period. Particular aspects of technology policy to be analysed will include: the creation of the British IT industry and the work of the National Research Development Corporation and Ministry of Technology; the impact of defence procurement and defence-related research on the computer industry; the diffusion of IT in industry and the public sector; and the diffusion of IT in education and science.

This project corrects the impression of several recent "failure studies" that portray UK IT policy as a one-dimensional failure, because it has failed to foster a thriving computer industry. While it is true that the UK's computer industry has declined steadily since the 1960s, this has to be set against demand-side policies which aimed to modernise the whole of British industry, commerce, government and education, using the best available computers from any source. These policies appear to have been relatively successful.

Funding: SERC, £102k, completed 2000.

Staff involved: Martin Campbell-Kelly, Terry Gourvish (Director, Business History Unit, LSE), Richard Coopey (Senior Research Fellow, LSE)