An Electronic Watch Consortium report.
Information and communication (ICT) products and the ICT industry itself are archetypal examples of our increasingly globalised world. ICT products play a major role in our lives in terms of global communication and providing information – both in our private and professional lives. This is true for both private consumers as well as for public purchasers, in industrialised countries as well as in developing countries. Public procurers are major consumers of ICT. In Europe alone, public procurers spend billions of euros on ICT hardware every year.
The ICT hardware sector is also a complex and diversified industry with supply chains crisscrossing the globe – from the extraction and processing of raw materials to the worldwide manufacturing of various components right through to the final assembly of products. Then, at the very end of the whole process, there is the illegal return of problematic e-waste to Asia and West Africa – a result of products with a very rapid life-cycle. As in other sectors, unfortunately globalisation goes hand in hand with the exploitation of workers in the ICT sector throughout the supply chain.
ICT hardware manufacturing, which is the focus of this report, emerged from integrated forms of production to outsourcing and specialisation in complex networks of ‘fabless’ 1 brands, large contract manufacturers and a variety of small- and medium-sized component suppliers in low-cost countries.