The United National Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) recognises1 the knowledge industries as “the cycles of creation, production and distribution of goods and services that use creativity and intellectual capital as primary inputs across a value range that stretches from economic growth to social cohesion”, noting that they are a set of knowledge-based activities focused on but not limited to the arts and generate significant income from the trade of intellectual property rights. UNCTAD regards them as “a growing dynamic area in world trade”.
The knowledge industries comprise the following sectors:
Information Communication & Technology (ICT)
However the knowledge industries are defined, they are a fast-growing and increasing part of both the national and global economy. The knowledge industries are now recognised as a key feature of the post-industrial world, accounting for between 3 and 9 per cent of most nations’ economic activity and employing millions of people globally.
The knowledge industries were first identified in a report to Britain’s Blair Government in 1998 which saw them defined as a key driver of the UK’s “post-industrial” service economy, and one that was growing at twice the rate of the economy as a whole. In the US the knowledge industries are now estimated to account for 7-9 per cent of GDP, and 3-5 per cent in countries as diverse as China and South Africa. Australia’s knowledge industries are estimated to contribute around 3 per cent of GDP every year and account for about 5 per cent of the total workforce, making it worth around $A30 billion per annum.
Consensus is hardening around the idea that the knowledge industries can deliver real employment opportunities. Increasingly, at government policy levels, there are very few countries in the world where the knowledge industries are not being pursued as an opportunity for economic growth and employment.