CFSP brings development and industrial organization economists together

Workshop one of the first scholarly efforts of its kind
May 23, 2012

CFSP launched a groundbreaking workshop last month on the role industrial organization may play in the context of developing countries. Industrial organization (IO) is a field of economics that studies the structure and operation of markets while development economics examines the economies of emerging market nations.

The two-day workshop, titled “Financial Systems, Industrial Organization, and Economic Development,” drew more than 30 scholars to the MIT campus and sought to ignite a dialogue between these two fields. It is believed to be one of the first scholarly efforts of its kind.

Specifically, the workshop examined how IO could be applied to understanding the expansion and interoperability of banks and mobile platforms, particularly in light of the rise of mobile banking in developing countries. It also looked at the role of business networks, supply chains, and water infrastructure policy in developing countries.

“There are many very interesting industrial organization questions that are arising in developing countries,” noted Robert M. Townsend, MIT economist and CFSP faculty director, in his opening comments to the workshop.

"IO brings with it many techniques that are proving very fruitful in the U.S. and other advanced economies," said Townsend.  "We kind of have a hunch that this will be true in developing economies, too. But, it’s not just applying the same techniques to a new situation. Our guess is that these things will need to change to work in developing countries.” 

The workshop was organized by Townsend and Daniel Keniston of Yale University and sponsored by Consortium on Financial Systems and Poverty.  The presentation slides, agenda, and the participant list can be found on the workshop's homepage.

Photo: Pai-Ling Yin of MIT makes a point during a panel discussion of platforms and markets in developing countries.