This chapter examines the provision and codevelopment of electronic services, content, and applications at the conceptual level. There is focus on the provision of services electronically (e-services) and the development of user-produced electronic content and applications (nonservices). The chapter points at codifiability, digitization, and interpretation as three crucial conditions for the development of e-services and nonservices. Codifiability is the basic prerequisite, but even if knowledge is codifiable, it does not necessarily follow that it can be entirely digitized or that it will be interpreted in the same manner in different contexts. Regarding implications, an important issue is whether the development of e-services and nonservices leads to specialization and/or convergence in the production and marketing of informational services. Is there reason to anticipate that the production and marketing of informational services will develop differently from other production areas with respect to the implications of technology on the combination of specialization and convergence?
During especially the past two to three decades, services have increasingly come to the fore in social sciences. Consequently, discussions on the concept of services have erupted time and again, from Hill (1977) to Chesbrough and Spohrer (2006). The present chapter, however, does not venture into a long-winded definitional exercise of the service concept but stays with the basic definition of services. In contrast to goods, which can be separated from the immediate producers and sold on an anonymous market, services are not anonymous (Henten, 1994). Consumers will know who the immediate producers are (or will at least have the possibility to do so). It is often said that services are produced and consumed simultaneously and, therefore, require face-to-face contact between the producers and the consumers in the production/ consumption phase. This may not always hold entirely true, but the consumption will at least start right after the end of production – as in the case of repair work.
The basic definition of services has nothing inherently to do with whether the product is material or immaterial. The repair work of a plumber, for instance, is material in nature, but is a service. Indeed, information and communication technologies (ICTs) affect all kinds of goods and services with respect to their transaction on the market (e-business). However, in the case of data, information and knowledge services (informational services), it is the service itself which is affected. With ICTs, it is possible to enter data, information and knowledge (to the extent it can be codified) on digital media and use communication networks for transportation. This means that data, information or knowledge services increasingly can be separated from the immediate producers and sold on anonymous markets. They become goods in a sense. Formerly, paper was the primary physical medium for turning informational services into goods. Presently, electronic media increasingly dominate.