Friday, July 25, 2008

Further Thoughts on Technology for Development

The emphasis of many of the people who write about science, technology and innovation for economic development seems to be manufacturing technology. That of course is a very important topic, and we even use the term "newly industrializing countries" to describe the most successful developing countries.

As I have pointed out, technological innovation in extractive industries is also important. We are learning to our distress that failure to attend to the need for innovation in agriculture can be very costly, not only financially but in terms of hunger and misery in the poorest nations. Artisanal fishing is being revolutionized, as I understand the situation, by the introduction of communications technology to allow the fishermen to find markets offering the best prices, the introduction of fish-finding technology, and the introduction of stock management technology. Mining depends of advances in exploration technology, extraction technology, and mineral beneficiation technology. Forestry is benefiting from the development of better growing trees and other technological advances.

In services one should recognize that all the infrastructure services are dependent on engineering. The engineering technologies not only involve the transfer of advances in engineering techniques from developed to developing nations, but the tailoring of engineering practice to developing country needs. Road building, for example, can benefit from the exploitation of local materials and designs to meet the special requirements of the local environment; the techniques used in labor intensive construction and maintenance of dirt roads are quite different from those involved in capital intensive construction of major highways.

Of course there is great interest in the impact of the information revolution technologies as applied to communications in developing nations, but there are also differences in electrical technologies for power applications in developing nations, especially in the application of off grid, small scale power generation.

Banking has been revolutionized by ICT, and health services have been made vastly more cost effective by advances in vaccines and other pharmaceuticals as well as by new diagnostic and epidemiological technologies. Education is only beginning to benefit from e-learning technologies which will be applied far more widely in the future. Indeed, think about the McDonnalds revolution, which is in part due to technological innovations in franchizing and commercial sales.

The process of technological innovation needed to contribute optimally to economic growth in developing nations involves this full spectrum of technologies and applications.

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