Press Releases

ITIF Report Shows Self-service Technology a New Force in Economic Life

WASHINGTON – More widely deployed use of self-service technology could add $130 billion to annual GDP, up to $1,100 per household, according to a report released today the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF).

“Self-service technology is becoming increasingly common. From check-in kiosks at airports to check-out scanners at grocery stores, consumers are taking advantage of new technologies to enjoy convenience, efficiency and lower costs,” said Daniel Castro, ITIF senior analyst. “By tomorrow’s federal tax filing deadline, many of us will have completed complex forms with tax preparation software at a fraction of the cost of hiring a tax accountant. Self-service technology is the latest example of how technological innovation is benefitting individual consumers and creating dynamism throughout the economy.”

The report surveys the adoption of self-service technologies delivered via kiosks, the internet, mobile devices and the telephone and the many benefits to consumers, businesses and the economy. It also explores how advancements in technology such as touch screen displays, and card readers, combined with wireless networks and the availability of broadband Internet access, are leading to a growing number of self-service options and opportunities for companies to boost productivity. The report also helps makes the case for the government to embrace self-service technology to deliver services more efficiently and more conveniently to citizens.

The report acknowledges that the adoption of new technologies can lead to job losses and provides examples of opposition to self-service technology from realtors, optometrists, gas stations attendants, wine wholesalers, and grocery checkout clerks, among others.

At the same, the report stresses that historical and contemporary marketplace dynamics make clear that short-term dislocations are more than made up by benefits to consumers and increased productivity over the medium and long term. People are able to focus on more productive and useful activities that often pay more. The report calls for policies that enable workers to train for new types of jobs and benefit from the higher wages that go along with high-skill jobs.

“More self-service means that medical staff that currently spend their time on paperwork can be retrained and redeployed to provide better care for patients,” said Castro, citing one example of the phenomenon. At the same, with an aging population, it is essential for the U.S. to maintain high levels of productivity and economic growth in the years ahead.

The report recommends that policymakers:

• Actively resist policies restricting the use of self-service technology by groups threatened by these innovations.

• Support “prosumer” technologies like broadband, electronic IDs and mobile payment systems that allow consumers to take on the role of a producer in the economy.

• Encourage more government use of self-service technology to promote increased efficiency, transparency and responsiveness.

• Create a Center of Excellence for Accessible Design in IT-enabled Self Service so that new technologies can be used by people with disabilities.

• Increase the minimum wage in order to boost self-service technology adoption. As wages rise, employers and workers gravitate from low-skill, low-wages jobs to higher-skill, higher-wage jobs.

• Provide stronger safety nets for workers adversely affected by technological change. Technological changes often mean job displacement. The answer is not to impede these advances but to help workers adapt and learn the skills a changing economy demands.