Upstream and Downstream Choices
It is fairly well understood that information and communications technologies (ICT) tools expand choice. We all have access to a very large set of information and have the freedom to choose what we want to read, watch, listen to, etc., etc. ICT expands our “downstream” choice. What is not as well understood is that it expands our “upstream” choice also. It is a two-way medium, unlike say broadcast and print media which only allows us downstream choice: using ICT we send back information indicating our choice and thus guiding what comes downstream.
In other words, ICT expands the menu of options we have and also gives us the ability to change that menu. Options that are not exercised fall off the menu and this leads to more efficient outcomes since resources are not wasted on things that people don’t value. All this is trivially true and one can be guilty of stating the obvious except for the fact that we have yet to make full use of the power of upstream choice that ICT affords in scores of areas which would make economic and political freedom more meaningful.