Friday, November 29, 2002


Web sites of enterprises, I suppose, ought to be managed to achieve the objectives of the enterprises themselves. For a commercial enterprise, one assumes that the motive is profit. For a non-profit, how does one measure success? The figure of merit discussed in the following paragraphs will not really measure success, but still may be useful in managing and improving a web site.

I suggest that a web site should have a target audience, and that indeed it is usually helpful to disaggregate that audience into groups. Thus a web site may have a preferred target audience forming a “community of practice”, a secondary target of people from related communities of practice, and additional audiences of lesser perceived importance such as students, members of a larger “community of interest”, media, etc. I suggest not only that it is frequently useful to disaggregate the intended audience into such groups, but also to define a weight identifying the importance of serving each group. Thus one can define:

w(i) = the weight (say one for least important to 5 for most important) to assign to group i

In general I suspect that one would be interested in two measures of the use of the site by each target group:

n(i) = the number of people in group i using the site, and
f(i) = the average frequency (e.g. times per month) that users from group i visit the site.

One could estimate these figures in some cases from the email addresses of visitors to the site. For example, if one were seeking to attract an audience from certain countries, one could look for domain names from the countries. Alternatively, one could use simple pop-up questionnaires with a portion of the users of the site to estimate to which group they belonged, and how frequently they used the site.

I would suggest that such survey methods also be used to estimate two other parameters:

y(i) = the average importance (say on a scale of 1 to 5) that visitors from group i ascribe to the purpose of his/her visit, and
s(i) = the average satisfaction (say on a scale of 1 to 5) that visitors from group i ascribe to the outcome of the visit.

The figure of merit would then be simply the sum of:

w(i) * n(i) * f(i) * y(i) * s(i)

where the sum is taken over the groups of users.

I suggest such a figure of merit would be useful in tracking the changing value of a web site. It would be useful in allocating resources to improving the site. Thus one might decide that the figure of merit was most sensitive to improvements of one or another kind. If the issue limiting the figure of merit is not the number of eyes attracted, but rather that the users are not satisfied once attracted, there is one solution. If alternatively, the site was getting a lot of visitors, but most from relatively low priority user groups, different steps to improve the situation might be appropriate.

Of course data from survey instruments I am suggesting could be used for more sophisticated purposes. Thus if the users were satisfied with the site for their less important needs, but not for the more important, that would be a significant finding that could be made from cross tabulation of responses to two questions.

I would note that I have specifically left out a commonly used indicator – time on site. Satisfaction of user needs seems more likely to be important to non-profits. (Commercial sites seem to believe that the longer the user is at the site, the more that they will sell; for a non-profit, helping the user get what he/she needs as quickly as possible may be an even more important objective.)

The figure of merit approach is suggested in the context of a sustained effort by those responsible for a web site to improve that site. Variants of the formula given above would probably be more useful for specific non-profit sites than the formula itself. The important thing is to think what the site is to achieve, rather than simply accepting commonly used indices because they are available.

Tuesday, November 26, 2002

The World Bank Knowledge for Development web site ( provides the following framework “to help countries articulate strategies for their transition to a knowledge-based economy:
· An economic and institutional regime to provide incentives for the efficient use of existing and new knowledge and the flourishing of entrepreneurship.
· An educated and skilled population to create, share, and use knowledge well.
· A dynamic information infrastructure to facilitate the effective communication, dissemination, and processing of information.
· An efficient innovation system of firms, research centers, universities, consultants, and other organizations to tap into the growing stock of global knowledge, assimilate and adapt it to local needs, and create new technology”
The Framework is echoed in the related Knowledge Economy page of the Development Gateway portal ( I suggest that this framework is best understood within the context of the World Bank and its mission.

The Framework provides a focus on the economic and institutional regime, while emphasizing three sectors in which investments can be made. The Bank has rightly recognized that without an appropriate economic and institutional regime not much good will happen; it uses the leverage of its ability to mobilize financial resources to bargain for policy and institutional reforms, and indeed will fund technical assistance to improve these regimes. Thus policy conditions and reforms are frequently included in Bank projects.

The bottom line for the Bank is financing development, and so its initiatives are best conceptualized to result in “Bankable” projects. The above Framework suggests the development of projects that fund certain kinds of investments in education (especially higher education), in the information infrastructure (telephones, computers, etc.), and in the innovation system (involving firms innovating in products and processes, research centers, intellectual property rights, etc.).

It has been possible to conceptualize coherent projects combining financing for such activities, and relatively clear that such projects could be economically justified as producing economic returns consonant with their investment. Note that Bank projects have size constraints: too small and the development and implementation costs can not be justified by the return on the project; too large, and division of the project into smaller units tends to be preferred. Thus in large countries one might see a K4D program divided into several subprojects.

I think the Framework is a good one, which will work for many developing nations and stimulate useful Bank projects and efforts. It is not the only Framework however, and may not be adequate for some K4D needs or opportunities. In my next few postings I will try to consider some alternative ways to conceptualize K4D and projectize K4D approaches.
What is the Digital Divide in terms of the Human Development Index

The Human Development Index used by the UNDP was defined as a way to improve on the traditional economic indicators in measuring development. The HDI is based on life expectancy at birth, education (adult literacy and gross enrollment in primary, secondary and tertiary education), and Gross Domestic Product per capita (at purchasing power parity). ( The index is obtained by normalizing the value of each indicator and summing the three. Essentially the HDI is then:

HDI = a * x + b * y + c * z + d

a, b, c, and d are constants (derived from the ranges of these statistics),
x is live expectancy at birth
y is a composite index from adult literacy and gross school enrollment
z is per capita GDP

One way to look at the effect of ICTs is to look at the first order approximation to HDI with changes in connectivity:

DHDI = (a * dx/dw + b * dy/dw + c * dz/dw) Dw

w is a measure ICT connectivity
d /dw is the differential of the variable with respect to ICT connectivity.

Thus we can assume that (through various processes) that ICTs affect life expectancy, education and GDP. For example, ICTs penetration can affect life expectancy by improving the dissemination about health issues to the population, improving access to health service, improving the availability of health services by allowing increased efficiency in health service delivery, and other means.

One interesting concept of the “digital divide” would be in how much of the potential improvement in the Human Development Index estimated as available with expansion of ICTs in a country one actually achieved. An estimate of the digital divide between two countries might be the difference in HDI attributable to the difference in ICT penetration between them.

I would note that this kind of analysis tends to assume that the penetration of ICTs in a country only increases, and that it is only the absolute value and not the value of penetration as compared with other nations. However, countries with more rapid penetration of ICTs might take market share for world markets from competing countries with less rapid penetration, and per capita GDP might be reduced in a country that was standing still in ICT penetration.

I would suggest that the most important dimensions of the digital divide are not those measuring connectivity per se, but those measuring the effects on the human condition related to connectivity. It is important that people are dying who could be saved and living in misery that could be alleviated by investment in ICTs and their appropriate use. There is no intrinsic merit that I can see to having a lot of infrastructure except in its use to help people.

Wednesday, November 20, 2002

I want to think a little about intangible forms of capital. If knowledge can be capital, it would seem to be intangible capital.

Paul Meyers defines capital as “something owned which provides ongoing services.” Alan Deardorff notes that it is “one of the main primary factors, the availability of which determines the productivity of labor, comparative advantage, and the pattern of international trade.” We tend to value capital investments in terms of the added income flows we can expect to realize utilizing the capital.

When I think of human capital, I tend to think of the knowledge, understanding and skills that are created, especially those created through education and training. Of course there are other aspects of human capital; investment in health services can result in improved physical and mental wellbeing with consequent enhancement of earnings.

Formal organizations (including enterprises) have intangible capital (as I mentioned in a previous posting). I have worked in several newly formed organizations, and my experience is that such organizations become more productive over time as work routines are established and as people learn to work better with one another; part of the effort of establishing routines and learning to work together then may be seen as an investment in organizational capital. Indeed organizations seem to spend a lot of time in reengineering, reorganizing, and other efforts that can be seen as investing in intangible organizational capital. Moreover, there is a consulting industry focusing on organizational learning, organizational development, building organizational capacity, etc. – services that allow organizations to invest in developing intangible organizational capital.

My colleagues at the World Bank and similar organizations sometimes talk about institution building, including investing in the development or improvement of markets. Some markets of course have physical capital – as the New York Stock Market is housed in expensive real estate, and operates via expensive ICT systems. There has also been a lot of investment in human capital, such as in the formal and continuing education about the market of people who buy and sell shares, brokers, analysts, reporters reporting on the market, etc. The market also depends on a lot of tacit knowledge, about where to go and what to do in investing.

One could go on to discuss the intangible capital involved in other institutions such as local communities, professional communities, clusters of businesses, chambers of commerce, trade associations, and other communities of practice.

The term Social Capital is described by PovertyNet at the World Bank as referring to “the norms and networks that enable collective action.” I would suggest that some of the intangible capital in people, organizations, markets, and other institutions would fit within this definition. Indeed, I wonder if the Bank’s concept is too restrictive, in that only a part of the knowledge embodied in these institutions is in the form of norms and networks. It seems to me that a key issue in Knowledge for Development programs should be in adding knowledge to institutions and thus building social capital.

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

Bill Gates, on his recent trip to India, announced the donation of Windows software for Indian Government applications. This donation has been the occasion for an expansion of the debate on the advantages of open source versus proprietary software. It has also been the occasion of discussion of the role of such donations in securing the market for Microsoft proprietary software.

I just want to add a thought on how countries might analyze the issues relevant to the decision between open source and commercial software aquisition.

There is the issue of the cost of developing the software, packaging it, and distributing it. What we might term the “economic” cost is the value of all the resources that go into this effort. The “financial” cost might be the money that an organization puts into this effort. They are generally different. The economic costs to a nation in the development of open source software may be hard to determine, since many people and organizations may provide in-kind resources to the effort. The costs are easier to measure if a firm carries out all of these functions, as firms developing commercial software do. One should not necessarily infer that the economic costs are less for open source than for commercial software. We, as a society, have been learning how to manage software development in formal organizations for decades, and it certainly seems possible that that process uses less manpower and less of other inputs than the informal processes that are involved in the production and distribution of open source software. One may also consider the scalability of open source software development; while there are important examples of such development that have been efficient, would open source approaches be efficient if used much more extensively? Indeed, would we have the same level of software innovation without profit motivation, or would we have more innovation based on more collaborative institutions, with other than monitary rewards for success (such as seems to occur in the physical sciences)?

I wonder about the software distribution costs. I suspect that firms spend more on marketing commercial software than the developers do on “marketing” open source software. Economics would suggest that the added marketing may be socially beneficial, resulting in greater consumer benefits. Could governments that choose to utilize open source software inadvertently reduce their nation’s benefit from new software because they make the market “unattractive”, and less investment in dissemination is made than would be optimal? If so, should the government add the costs of itself marketing software to the general public to its budget to make up for the “negative externality” of its software acquisition policy?

More generally, the reason we buy computers and software is to allow us to do things better and/or more efficiently. The question of whether open source or commercial software best contributes to these end objectives seems the most pertinent. I suspect that the answer will depend on the software and application, and that societies learn to make reasonably good decisions on such matters. Today open source software is dominant in areas such as Internet servers, while commercial software is dominant in other “commodity” applications such as word processing or spreadsheets. However, some economic analysis of the social and economic costs of software policies might be helpful in confirming the desirability of the current pattern, and in modifying the patterns of use of open source and commercial software as circumstances change.

Monday, November 18, 2002

Hernando de Soto's, "The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else," and Lawrence Lessig’s “The Future of Ideas: The Fate of the Commons in a Connected World” are both worth reading, and have complementary messages in terms of K4D.

De Soto’s work discusses “property” and its transformation into “capital.” While poor people in poor countries often have community-acknowledged rights to hold and work property, they often do not have legal title to that property; often they can not sell property that they own and more often they can not borrow against it. Their societies lack institutions that allow such transactions. The modern public corporation (a prototypical institution of the capitalistic society) is not an option for the poor in developing nations. De Soto shows how poorly economies work without these institutions that allow capital to be created from property.

I recently read that the average ratio of price of corporations to book value of corporations in the U.S. is 2.8. The book value should be a reasonable approximation of the value of the physical and financial assets of the corporation. Thus the intangibles owned by corporations contribute much more to the public valuation of corporations than do their physical assets. The corporation and the stock market are institutions that create capital out of intangible property.

Lessig’s book focuses on how the open nature of the Internet has been instrumental in promoting innovation, and how beneficial that burst of innovation has been. Thus the protocols that allowed transmission of information were available to all; Internet server software and other Internet software were open source; and the source coding for Internet pages could be viewed, copied and adapted freely. Lessig shows how some firms now seek to change the institutional framework of the Internet in ways that would move the Net from a commons to a controlled environment. Societies choose whether the Internet will be primarily a commons or primarily controlled (be it by market or government forces). The relevant national policies will indirectly affect both the rate of investment in the Internet and the rate of innovation around the Internet. He councils that we seek balance, and do so through an informed debate on these policies. He fears that few of us or our policy makers understand the nature of the issues underlying the debate we should be having.

De Soto’s book tends to focus on real estate and physical property, but his point is perhaps even more relevant to knowledge. The institutions that provide intellectual property rights are evolving quickly in developed nations, but poor people in poor countries have very little possibility of exercising rights over their intellectual property, and still less chance of utilizing such property as capital. Lessig’s book recognizes the value of providing (physical and intellectual) property rights to encourage people to invest in the creation of infrastructure and the development of innovations. But it also recognizes that for non-rivalrous goods (e.g. goods such as scientific knowledge where one person’s use does not diminish the value of the goods to others) a well-functioning commons seems to best promote innovation. Indeed, modern scientific institutions are perhaps an appropriate prototypical model for some aspects of the knowledge economy.

I think both Lessig and de Soto would agree that institution building and good policies are needed if developing nations are to better utilize K4D. Moreover, as we develop the technologies to embody knowledge in new ways, and as we make innovation a greater priority, institutions must also change. I think both Lessig and de Soto would agree that there is need for a serious policy debate on the appropriate institutionalizations for the development of knowledge societies in the Third World. Both would probably agree that innovation and stimulation of investment are both important, and that there is an appropriate balance between controlled economic spaces and commons. The devil is of course lie in the details: just where that balance is to be struck, what form the institutions and policies should take, and how should they be achieved/built?

Tuesday, November 12, 2002

The United States should rejoin UNESCO, and should encourage UNESCO to expand its program, and hire more U.S. citizens on UNESCO’s for its professional.

President Bush has announced that the United States will rejoin the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The U.S. quit UNESCO some 18 years ago, citing a number of problems the Government saw with UNESCO at that time, including poor leadership, excessive bureaucracy, and (a Cold War inflated) concern with UNESCO’s communication program. The leadership issues have long been resolved, the Cold War ended, and UNESCO has lived within budget limitations caused by the withdrawal of its largest contributor(s).

The U.S. is scheduled to resume membership October 1, 2003. However, the current discussions call for no increase in UNESCO’s budget. The U.S. pays more than one-fifth of UN Agency regular budgets, and is expected to contribute about $60 million per year to UNESCO. If UNESCO’s budget does not increase with the return of the U.S. then our return will simply substitute U.S. funds for those which other donors have already been providing. UNESCO had to cut its budget when we left, and its program merits expansion as we return.

The U.N. family of organizations, in addition to UNESCO, includes: the UNDP, WHO, FAO, UNIDO, UNEP. UNICEF, ILO, etc. These organizations are technical in nature, providing technical standards and information, as well as technical assistance to developing nations. Together they have a very strong professional staff and a fundamental role to play in development. Note particularly, that while the international financial institutions (IFIs, such as the World Bank) continue to play a key role in financing, they depend heavily on the technical leadership and services provided by the UN agencies. Similarly, bilateral aid agencies, such as USAID also depend on UN agency programs, information and support.

UNESCO of course is the primary UN agency dealing with education, with science, and with culture. Its five programmatic areas are: Education, Communication and Information, Culture, Natural Sciences, and Human and Social Sciences. Thus UNESCO is the a key player in the UN system in terms of promoting Knowledge for Development. Since K4D is increasingly recognized as important, then UNESCO’s K4D program should be growing.

I have been following UNESCO for decades, first focusing on its science programs, and then on its communication and information programs. These programs are important, and have contributed importantly to development. Increasingly it is recognized that culture is an important determinant of development success, and that cultural products offer potential for development projects – and UNESCO is the only agency with culture specifically in its charter. UNESCO clearly plays a critical role in the international community in education~

The U.S. is of course dead last among developed nations in the portion of its GDP devoted to international development, providing much less than we have pledged in the past, much less than our allies would prefer, and much less than our foreign policy needs. The Bush Administration has pledged to increase development assistance. Doing so by allowing a needed increase in UNESCO (as one among many initiatives) seems most appropriate.

Moreover, support for UNESCO’s program and an enhanced U.S. role in UNESCO seem very appropriate to U.S. science policy. There seems to be a growing consensus that the NSF and other U.S. Agencies should do more in international scientific cooperation, including with developing nations. Support and a strengthened presence in UNESCO could contribute to this end. And of course, if UNESCO increases its budget, the U.S. pays only about one-fifth of the tab.

U.N. Agencies are under pressure to employ nationals of the countries that contribute to them. Since the U.S. has not contributed to UNESCO for 18 years, the organization has responded to the pressures of its continuing donors, and the proportion of U.S. citizens on the staff is reported to have dropped significantly. Given U.S. leadership in the areas of UNESCO programs, we should encourage UNESCO to employ more Americans. Paying the salaries of some added staff (by approving an increase in the UNESCO regular program budget) would help to encourage UNESCO to hire Americans quickly.

My last couple of posting have been about engineering sustainable development. Engineers should play a major role in the UN family, and in fact they do. Biomedical engineering as well as civil engineering of potable water and sanitation infrastructure are included within WHO, agricultural engineering within FAO, industrial and chemical engineering within UNIDO, etc. UNESCO has also played a role, dealing with engineering education as part of its higher education program, with telecommunications and parts of electronics engineering in its Communications and Information Program, and with various aspects of engineering in its Natural Science program. But areas such transportation and energy infrastructure, engineering science, and water resource management there is no lead UN agency supporting engineering. Moreover, there is no central Agency that provides support for the cross-cutting and interdisciplinary areas of engineering.

UNESCO could play a central role with regard to the engineering profession, much as the World Health Organization does with the professions dealing with health technology, the Food and Agricultural Organization with the professions dealing with agricultural technologies, or as UNESCO itself does with the scientific professions. A U.S. initiative to encourage UNESCO to take on the task of promoting engineering in the UN system in should be considered, and such an initiative might very well justify an increase in the UNESCO budget.

Thursday, November 07, 2002

My last posting was related to a meeting titled “Sustainable Development: A New Role for the American Engineering Community.” There were a lot of good ideas at the meeting about goals for the profession and first steps to improving the role of engineers in sustainable development. There follow a few thoughts on the subject.

I would love to see the engineering professions educating their members about sustainable development. Indeed I think the engineering professions should profess publicly on the importance of policies and institutions that enable them to engineer sustainable development! Advocacy for sustainable development seems to me a responsibility of the profession.

One of the suggestions made by Norm Neureiter, Science and Technology Advisor at the State Department, was that there be more engineering fellowships in the U.S. Government agencies dealing with foreign affairs. I observed first hand the effects of the AAAS International Diplomacy Fellowship program, and strongly endorse that idea. While the AAAS is not the home professional society for most engineers, the program was open to them. I would note that there seemed to be a limited demand for engineer fellows and for engineering fellowships.

I suppose the most important ways in which American engineers can contribute to sustainable development in the Third World is through those of their firms working in developing nations, or through engineering schools in colleges and universities.

USAID and multilateral agencies such as the World Bank are an obvious vehicle allowing American engineers to contribute, but I would guess that they are less important than private sector initiatives. The UN agencies will be the subject of a later blog entry.

There is also a role for private philanthropy. Corporations could play a more active role in building engineering capacity in developing nations through their corporate philanthropy programs. There are tens of thousands of US foundations, many founded by engineers, and many working internationally. The contributions of the foundation sector to building engineering capacity could be greatly enhanced.

New Internet approaches to financing small development projects, such as Development Space and the Virtual Foundation are extremely interesting, and warrant both the participation of engineers and consideration as a model for support of small engineering projects.

Some modest initiatives occurred to me as worthy of consideration:
· The African Virtual University is using the techniques of distance education to improve higher-educational opportunities in engineering and other fields for African students. Participation in this and similar initiatives would rank high on my list of priorities.
· CISCO Academies, Motorola University, and other private sector initiative in the area of information and communication technology education illustrate the role that the private sector can take in improving engineering education in developing nations.
· The U.S. Telecommunication Training Institute provides a model that could be emulated in other engineering fields. Its secretariat is supported by donations from private industry. Placements in short courses on telecommunications topics are offered (without charge) by corporate and governmental training programs. In some cases grants from governments are made to pay for transportation and expenses. As a result, thousands of telecommunications professionals from developing nations have received training in the U.S.
· The infoDev Conference Scholarship Fellowships provide another model that could be emulated. The program provides block grants for travel support for developing country information and communications technologies professionals to attend international professional conferences and meetings.
· Volunteer in Technical Assistance (VITA) and the Retired Executive Service Corps have established a distinguished record of providing technical advice on technical and managerial problems. Engineers could participate more vigorously in these organizations, or a new non-governmental organization could be developed focusing on allowing American engineers to volunteer service to worthy projects in developing nations.
· The Peace Corps remains a vehicle through which engineers can volunteer to work or teach in developing nations.
· The Development Gateway is currently establishing a Petersburg Prize for leadership in the application of ICTs to Development. Several other prizes are offered for developing country scientists, and an engineering prize could stimulate both better engineering and more public recognition of the role of engineering.
· There could be exchanges placing engineers from developing nations in US engineering firms and schools. I recall that B.J. Habibie, former President of Indonesia, early in his career lead a team of Indonesian engineers in a German aircraft company, forming a nucleus of leaders who later developed the Ministry of Science and Technology in Indonesia. U.S. companies could provide similar opportunities, probably enhancing their workforce and international programs while providing a valuable contribution to development.
· Habibie, while Minister of Science and Technology, invited the U.S. Government to place an American S&T advisor to join his staff. A similar arrangement was used with the National Research Center in Egypt, in both cases successfully.
· The University Linkages program managed by the Association Liaison Office might be used more by U.S. engineering colleges to build linkages with counterparts in developing nations.

There is no shortage of models by which engineers could participate in sustainable development. Lets see more participation!
There was a meeting on Friday (November 1) titled “Sustainable Development: A New Role for the American Engineering Community.” The meeting was held in the conference room of the National Science Foundation, and followed a June meeting at the National Research Council. Both of course were related to the World Summit on Sustainable Development held in Joburg, South Africa a couple of months ago.

I got to thinking about the difference between “sustainable engineering” and “engineering for sustainable development”. The first seems to rquire engineers to conceptualize engineering projects including the environmental impacts of the project, and sustainability of the things engineered. “Engineering for sustainable development” seems to me to be a much broader topic.

Let me make an aside, that sustainability without development seems simply immoral. Someone pointed out in the meeting that a child dies somewhere in the developing world every 8 seconds; most of these deaths could be prevented. Who would want to sustain that death rate rather than save the lives of those children? Who would want to sustain the situation in which 1.2 billion people are trying to survive on less than $1 per day rather than see these folk get richer? Nearly half the world’s population are living on less than $2 day – who wants to sustain such poverty?

Think about food production in the context of engineering for sustainable development. The world population will grow by a billion people in the next 10 or 15 years. We will have to provide enough to feed them. Moreover, a lot of people are now malnourished, and we need to increase the food for these folk. To improve diets, we need to produce a lot more milk, eggs, and meat. In order to do so, we will have to produce still more feed for livestock. If this increase in food production is to be done within the context of sustainable development, then we need to find ways to increase food production without destroying forests, increasing desertification, depleting fisheries, degrading topsoil, or increasing the rate of pollution from agricultural wastes.

The key to sustainable agricultural development is to increase the productivity of existing agricultural land. The Green Revolution is the great example of such an increase. The plant breeders have claimed the credit for the Green Revolution, emphasizing the role of improved plant varieties. These improved plant varieties were basically dwarf varieties with strong stalks, resulting in plants that would not fall down from the weight of the added grain obtained when they were irrigated, fertilized, and protected from plant pests and diseases. The engineers have received less credit for the Green Revolution, although they were largely responsible. Civil engineers built the irrigation systems and built the dams and drilled the wells that provided the water; mechanical and electrical engineers designed the pumps and were responsible for generating the power to run them; chemical and industrial engineers designed the factories that produced the fertilizer and pesticides. To further increase agricultural productivity, engineers will again play a central role, and indeed the engineers designing farm equipment may be more important in the next rounds.

But doubling food production within a framework of sustainable development means more profound changes. More specialization will probably be needed, producing on the best agricultural land, and moving that food to where people need it. Such changes mean great improvements in transportation, communications, and food storage and processing. Again the engineering professions will play key roles in these developments.

Then there arises the issue of the costs of food. I have suggested that food on the average should be grown with more irrigation, more costly inputs, and that it should be transported further, and better stored and processed. How are the poor to pay for all this? I think it clear that they must earn more, and to do so, they must be more productive on average. Productivity increases go hand in hand with technological change, and technological improvement is one of the businesses of the engineering profession.

This situation generalizes. More people, demanding a higher standard of living, will require more and better housing, more goods, more information, more education. The world will be more urban, and the challenge of urban development is not only finding ways to build livable megacities. Cities historically destroy the lands around them, and the larger the city and higher the standard of living of its citizens, the greater and more complete the zones of ecological destruction they have created. Sustainable development means finding ways to supply the goods and services for the developing world without destroying the environment in the process.

I could provide other examples, but all of them would probably miss the most important point. The push for sustainability is not coming from the poor, who are consumed with the efforts to survive and having a decent life; sustainability is a goal of the affluent. If we want the billions of people in the developing world to really focus on sustaining the global ecosystem, then we these people need to be more affluent. Thus, as in the past, engineers will have to provide the infrastructure and technology to help people become more affluent.

Development agencies are increasingly recognizing that development programs and policies don’t work in many countries – countries marked by incompetent and/or corrupt governments, violence, and a myriad of other fundamental problems. Engineering will not be successful in these environments. Good policies and adequate social and economic institutions come first. If the politicians and economists can help develop the policies and institutions in which wealth can be created, then the engineers can really go to work producing the technology and the physical infrastructure needed for development! And they can not only do sustainable engineering, but engineer sustainable development.