In a world such as ours, shock-full of change, development, and uncertainty, it feels smug to hold on to something substantial, especially if this can serve as a guidance and reference. The TELDOK Yearbook 1997, published – probably for the last time in print – in January 1998, is such a substantial beacon: more than four hundred pages filled with graphs and tables, factoids and fact sheets, introductions and backgrounds, covering the immediate past and the probable future of information technology, computers and telecom.
The TELDOK Yearbook 1997 sets out to ”define Sweden’s place in an even more complex telecommunications and information technology world, in the information society, and to put (Sweden) firmly on the international IST map”, and in particular to present the data and insights ”from a user’s perspective”. Figures and graphs are amply employed to compare Sweden to other nations of the western world in terms of IT stock and usage, and to depict the IT penetration and use among the nine million Swedes.
A great variety of sources have been drawn on to present data that sometimes appear to be dazzling in quite different ways. Ms Gull-May Holst, always the Editor of the Yearbook, has come to rely heavily on Statistics Sweden, the OECD, the EITO Task Force, the UK DTI, and the ITU, but also on masses of other findings, in print as well as on the web. Separate chapters present reference data on IT acronyms and organizations, telecom operators and equipment suppliers, IT publications and web sites of particular interest.
And the net result? Quite impressive, according to the mail messages that keep arriving on Ms Holst’s doorstep. The leading Swedish morning paper Dagens Nyheter hails the TELDOK Yearbook 1997 as ”the most complete gathering of facts on telecommunications and IT in Sweden”, with data ”on everything from Internet usage to the number of industrial robots. Many statistics unfortunately are a few years old but the Yearbook works fine anyway thanks to the many descriptive articles”.
Regretfully there is no chance of reporting in print happenings as fast as these develop in reality or on the web (as news media have discovered recently). For some of the areas covered in the Yearbook, sources more recent than a few years back simply are unavailable. ”More and more information sits on the WWW these days”, remarks Gull-May Holst. ”The Internet information devoted to IT and telecom already can be counted in millions of web pages.” This by the way also helps explain that some time has passed since the previous ”Yearbook” was published.
This is the sixth ”Yearbook” in ten years. Combined they contain sixteen hundred pages of graphs, tables, and text, all under the supervision of Ms Gull-May Holst, now with the small consultancy Metamatic AB.
It is unclear to Gull-May Holst how much of the enormous information overload on the web can be used in a print publication such as the TELDOK Yearbook. ”The amount of information steadily increases no matter how you try to measure it”, Ms Holst remarks, ”but public access steadily is decreasing.” Information and knowledge is being regulated, copyrighted, commercialized, or simply kept secret as markets have to be opened and competition grows even more global.
Already in 1996 the global information and communications technology market saw total revenues of USD 1,400 billion, a dazzling amount out of which telecom services accounted for 600 billion. Some projections are particularly steep – especially forecasts of e-commerce on the Internet. In hindsight one can readily see that PC sales in Sweden seems to slow down; that IT jobs are being out-sourced; and that the PC penetration correlates markedly with well-known characteristics such as age, gender, education, and income.
Surely the reader will be flabbergasted not only by the height and slope of the curves in the graphs, or the sizes of the pies, but also by the blinding rate of change. Says Dr Bertil Thorngren, Chairperson of the TELDOK Editorial Committee, with Telia Research and now a professor with the Center for Information and Communications Research at the Stockholm School of Economics: ”You simply cannot issue Yearbooks such as this anymore. We will have to go for a combination of print and web-based publishing.”
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