The economic and environmental impacts of information and communication technology: A state-of-the-art review and prospects

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Journal Article

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Resources, Conservation and Recycling




Xiaomeng Zhang
Chu Wei

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Information and communication technology (ICT) is expected to stimulate economic growth and mitigate adverse environmental effects. However, studies of ICT's effects on the economy and environment have shown inconsistent results. This study investigates and interprets this research gap. It begins with a systematic assessment of 108 investigations into the economic and environmental effects of ICT, published between 1978 and 2022, and groups these into three categories. Thereafter, a meta-analysis is used to investigate the factors underlying the outcome disparities. The meta-analysis finds that the research scope, measurement approach, data availability, and analytical tool selection have been the most significant contributors to the variability of ICT's measured impacts. This study then provides a preliminary analytical framework for the ICT-economic-environmental nexus, which is used to discuss three mechanisms and to explain the disparities in previous studies. It concludes that ignoring the relevant system and its interaction effects will lead to a skewed evaluation of ICT's implications. This analysis explains the inconsistency and incommensurability in most existing literature. Additionally, it provides indices of economic and environmental systems and demonstrates the direct, indirect, and rebound effects of ICTs on the environment and economy. Finally, it addresses the implications of this paradigm for policymakers and academicians and recommends related avenues for future research.