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OECD sees signs of tech turnaround

A new report has found signs of recovery in the ICT industry worldwide, even among those countries and sectors that have been hard hit
Written by Matthew Broersma, Contributor

The global ICT industry is showing signs of recovery from the economic downturn, according to a report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

The report, The Impact of the Crisis on ICTs and Their Role in the Recovery, found that while the ICT industry started off 2009 in a bad way, key indicators turned around in May and June.

"There are signs of recovery, with the rate of decline bottoming out and turning up in the most recent cyclical data (May/June 2009), with positive month-on-month growth for most countries, and inventories running down sharply," the OECD said in the report, published on Tuesday.

The report found that Asian countries have been particularly affected by the downturn, with Japan hard hit by "slumping production and soaring inventories".

But the recent month-on-month upturn in those countries has been "very rapid", particularly in Japan, Korea and Chinese Taipei, the report found. China has also returned to positive growth after slipping below zero growth, year-on-year, at the start of 2009.

"Korean ICT manufacturing was one of the first to turn up in early 2009, helped by a weaker KRW [Korean won]," the OECD stated.

The semiconductor business, a bellwether for developments in the ICT industry, has also shown some signs of improvement, according to the OECD.

Semiconductor production fell particularly rapidly at the end of 2008 and in the first quarter of 2009, with world capacity use dropping towards 50 percent, and semiconductor equipment manufacturers seeing "very rapid" falls in orders, the OECD said.

"However, the crash has not yet reached the scale of 2001-2002, except in Asian OECD countries, and there has been a recent sharp upturn in total month-on-month semiconductor billings," the report found. "Large semiconductor firms are generally in good financial shape, with net cash positions considerably higher than in 2001. R&D and innovation activities continue to be financed from internal sources as revenues contract, and so far, semiconductor R&D has declined much less than revenues."

The improvement has been in part due to the influence of government economic stimulus packages, and the OECD argued that the current crisis should be an occasion for governments to re-evaluate their policies around ICT.

In particular, governments need to consider to what extent the short-term ICT-oriented relief measures they are putting into place during the recession should be considered viable as longer-term policies, according to the report.

"The question is how current ICT policies should be maintained or rethought in the context of the economic crisis and what is the appropriate balance between continuity in proven ICT policies and change in the form of ad hoc crisis measures," the OECD stated.

The report was prepared by an OECD Secretariat team. It covers industry data from May and June, and has been updated to take into account all available data up to 17 July, the OECD said.

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