The knowledge economy exists in vertical value chains that tend to run in three levels of activity:

technology suppliers → network operators → content, service providers.

The technology providers supply information and communications technology (ICT) products such as computer hardware, connection equipment, and software. Network operators acquire these ICT products to create physical data and voice communication networks. On these networks, service providers run services (applications) to distribute information goods (content) or to enable communication between people. Products from different companies need to connect together to make these services work. Pieces of hardware and software need to interoperate. Compatibility is the condition that describes the connectivity and interoperability of these technologies, components, and products. Compatibility is an important condition for a flourishing knowledge economy.