Management of infrastructures What can the internet developers learn from the history of railways?

Management of infrastructures What can the internet developers learn from the history of railways? Purpose – The aim of this paper is to compare the railway and internet revolutions. What do they have in common and what is different between them, considering the 150‐year time difference in their occurrence? As time passes, can internet developers learn something from the railway industry? Findings – The two industries have a lot of common. Both railways and the internet represent national infrastructures that cannot be managed just based on business management principles. As both are concerned with traffic, either that of physical goods or of messages, the two industries also seem to have a lot in technical terms when one takes a sufficiently abstract point of view. The main message is that in the long term, the railway revolution vanished and the industry turned into a low profit/interest field. The internet might follow the same path. Research limitations/implications – The paper in its current form is based on a literature review only. Its quality could be improved with a detailed empirical study. Other similar infrastructure‐type industries could also be involved. Practical implications – There are several things that could be improved in the management of the internet, but they are large‐scale issues needing co‐operation between the many stakeholders in the internet. Examples are those of avoiding the digital divide and catering for critical “last mile” connections, as well as managing the diversity of different standards. Originality/value – As far as the author knows this is the first paper of its kind comparing these two industries. The message is that more cross‐industrial studies need to be performed. Also, the message of the paper – that the internet might turn into a low‐interest business in the long run – has not been discussed sufficiently. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Management Decision Emerald Publishing

Management of infrastructures What can the internet developers learn from the history of railways?

Management Decision, Volume 43 (6): 10 – Jul 1, 2005

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Publisher
Emerald Publishing
Copyright
Copyright © 2005 Emerald Group Publishing Limited. All rights reserved.
ISSN
0025-1747
DOI
10.1108/00251740510603628
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Purpose – The aim of this paper is to compare the railway and internet revolutions. What do they have in common and what is different between them, considering the 150‐year time difference in their occurrence? As time passes, can internet developers learn something from the railway industry? Findings – The two industries have a lot of common. Both railways and the internet represent national infrastructures that cannot be managed just based on business management principles. As both are concerned with traffic, either that of physical goods or of messages, the two industries also seem to have a lot in technical terms when one takes a sufficiently abstract point of view. The main message is that in the long term, the railway revolution vanished and the industry turned into a low profit/interest field. The internet might follow the same path. Research limitations/implications – The paper in its current form is based on a literature review only. Its quality could be improved with a detailed empirical study. Other similar infrastructure‐type industries could also be involved. Practical implications – There are several things that could be improved in the management of the internet, but they are large‐scale issues needing co‐operation between the many stakeholders in the internet. Examples are those of avoiding the digital divide and catering for critical “last mile” connections, as well as managing the diversity of different standards. Originality/value – As far as the author knows this is the first paper of its kind comparing these two industries. The message is that more cross‐industrial studies need to be performed. Also, the message of the paper – that the internet might turn into a low‐interest business in the long run – has not been discussed sufficiently.

Journal

Management DecisionEmerald Publishing

Published: Jul 1, 2005

Keywords: Internet; Railways; History

References

  • The implications of network use, production network externalities and public networking programmes for firm's productivity
    Koski, H.
  • More than a failure? The computerized reservation systems at French Railways
    Mitev, N.N.

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