Today, we are pleased to continue our series of guests posts by MCEDC students.
Coming from the developed world, I tend to take technology for granted. I think many of us do. Technology is so commonplace in our world that we exaggerate its importance. The internet and smart phones have certainly been a great boon to our economy. Thus, it seems natural that we could use technology as a solution to developing underdeveloped economies. This seems to be the main idea behind Information and Communication Development for Technology, an approach that has gained a lot of traction in recent years. Even at CU, students in the ATLAS department can get a Master’s degree in this field. It seems like we, the developed world, would like to impose “our” technology upon the rest of the world. However, we don’t seem to understand the impact that the developing world has on “our” technology.
The best example of this impact is India. While India remains a developing country, its work in the IT sector has caused the economy to rise rapidly. The technology sector has multiplied more than 20 times between 1998 and 2011, according to Telstra Global. It also has one of the largest market shares in engineering research and development, making it a leader in developing technology. China, also, is gaining market share in technology development.
Alternatively, in many parts of Africa, cell phone minutes are used as currency — an entirely new use for an existing technology. According to The Economist, this is an extremely stable way to trade, since cell phone minutes retain roughly the same value over time, while the country’s official money may become useless due to hyperinflation. This leads to a steadier rise and fewer shocks in the economy.
The payoff that technology can have on an economy is truly astounding. Technology leads to economic gains from more efficient production, better product quality and, generally, improved worker health. However, throwing technology at the developing world is not in itself a solution. Certain regions of the world do not have the infrastructure to handle highly technological development work. What use is it to train children in computer skills when that region has virtually no electricity? It is likely that they will not use these skills in their jobs, unless new jobs are developed that encompass these skills along with the necessary infrastructure to support them.
I propose a more holistic approach to technological development. Where infrastructure development is feasible, encourage countries to develop technology. The recent, rapid rise in cell phone use worldwide, especially in rural developing regions, is indicative of the viral spread of modern technologies and their infrastructure. Investment into research and development can have huge benefits, spurring both entrepreneurial minds and the economy as a whole.
In closing, I would like you to imagine this scenario. A farmer with ten employees is struggling financially, but able to pay his workers a living wage. If he is merely given technology to increase his efficiency, he need not employ the ten men. The benefits to the farmer from this technology are huge: his profits increase tenfold. However, ten people in the same community are left jobless. On the other hand, were these men to have jobs developing farming technology, the community as a whole would benefit. When we acknowledge and encourage technology development around the globe, everybody wins.
Bashi, Vikas. “India’s growth in the last decade and its impact on technology growth and its leadership.” Telstra Global. February 21, 2013. Web. http://www.telstraglobal.com/blog/entry/india-s-growth-in-the-last-decade-and-its-impact-on-technology-growth-and-its-leadership
“Airtime is money.” The Economist. January 19, 2013. Web. http://www.economist.com/news/finance-and-economics/21569744-use-pre-paid-mobile-phone-minutes-currency-airtime-money