|Science and Technology in the Transformation of the World (UNU, 1982, 496 pages)|
|Session II: Technology generation and transfer - Transformation alternatives|
Cuthbert K. Omari
The report of this section is divided into two main parts. The first highlights the main points of the plenary session and the second gives the main points raised during the workshop discussions. The main theme of this section is rural-urban relationship to technology in the transformation of the world. Five papers were presented.
1. The paper by Ristic dealt with the collective self-reliance of the Third World in the development of science and technology. He stated at the beginning that present socio-economic development shows a growing independence and complexity of dynamic changes. Further he stressed that science and technology have been recognized not only as instruments and catalysts of growth but also as vital factors of progress, power, and prestige in every country. However, since 97 per cent of all resources allocated for research and development are still concentrated today in developed countries, this has created a dependence of scientific and technological potentials in developing countries on developed ones. Since there is no value-free science, this affects very much the socio-economic development of developing countries.
He stressed the need for co-operation among the developing countries in developing national potentials. But before such a step is realized, an intercommunication system must be established as one prerequisite. This will help in building a strong relation especially between North and South in a collective way.
Collective self-reliance was called an important instrument in development for two reasons.
It is an instrument for improving negotiations between developing and developed countries, for example by establishing systems of information.
It is an instrument of complementarily in national development. He pointed out that one of the limiting factors in expanding mutual co-operation in different fields, including science and technology, is the scarcity of financial resources.
The paper concluded by stressing the main areas which, according to the author, are very important in the whole question of collective self-reliance. These are resources, strategies for development, management problems, building intellectual creativity, the bridge between research and practice, and better negotiation between the developed and developing countries.
Kawano's paper stressed the fact that Japanese history shows that science and technology were introduced to Japan from Europe long ago, especially before World War II. Since World War II, Japanese society has been influenced by the United States.
It was noted that since the Meiji Restoration government has predominated in the process of industrialization in Japan. However, recently, a new move called "localization" has been stressed not only by the government, but also by people themselves. The aim is to decentralize power and economic activities for the benefit of local populations. Such a move is combined with the desire for a new type of technology that can be controlled through the direct participation of the population - "small decentralized technology." This will involve also policy-making.
The trend is to introduce small-scale industries rather than the existing large-scale modern industries. It is hoped that by doing so the bad side-effects of large-scale industries will be minimized. Also it is within the new trend of developing industries which harmonize with the natural environment.
The paper by Marton dealt with the problem of science and technology in relation to African experience. The paper stressed the fact that science and technology as em pressed in the writings of people such as Fanon, Senghor, and Laroni is the expression of a privileged few.
Science and technology enable men to dominate and control nature and harness it for human development. But man cannot have total control, for to control nature is not an absolute domination. There are side-effects of science and technology; e.g., a car helps to minimize (shorten) time and space in the service of men, but there is the likelihood of accidents, of pollution, etc.
There are two views of science and technology - optimistic and pesimistic. Both see science and technology as a fetish. The optimistic one considers that technology will solve every social problem. Science and technology will dominate men and nature. There is no consideration given to social organization.
The pessimistic view sees the side-effects of science and technology. It brings about alienation and may dehumanize people.
These views were cited to show the predicament of the African when adopting science and technology. The choice is not an easy one. How can an African, for example, adopt science and technology without losing his African identity? Another problem raised was how can an African adopt science and technology for development according to western models of development.
The legal aspect of the transfer of technology was adequately dealt with in a paper presented by Dr. Besarovic. The paper stressed that in developing countries an average 0.7 per cent of the GNP is spent on research while in developed (industrial! countries it is between 1 and 3 per cent on average. Key technology is controlled by multinational corporations and for the benefit of the developed world. The paper stressed that transfer of technology today is one-way only: that is, from developed countries to developing ones. The developing countries lack adequate infrastructure and history of modern technology. Thus developing countries are forced to conform to the existing technological development due to the existing economic systems prevailing in today's world. Intellectual ownership of science and technology becomes the way of transfer - it helps the flow of foreign capital to the developing countries.
It was suggested that laws affecting the transfer of technology must suit national cultures and aspirations.
Stambuk's paper dealt with concepts and philosophy of science and technology. In his paper he suggested that we cannot look at development and underdevelopment from an evolutionary point of view. There is a need for redefinition of the concepts, taking other elements and variables into account.
Also the idea of "intellectual creativity" has some nuances of "progressiveness" and an individualistic tendency. This has a danger. The author suggested that there is a need to develop different technology rather than to "appropriate" technology. This may help when coupled with the concept of self-reliance.
Science and technology must be applicable to the realities of the societies in which they operate. In this way science and technology will become society-oriented and problem-solving processes. This will be possible if societal problems like production level and development are taken into consideration.
The author defined several concepts and terminologies related to his paper.
At the discussion session Abdel-Malek, el-Kholy, Maraj, Khan, Hassan, and Wallerstein made comments and contributions. Questions and points were raised with regard to the transfer of technology in relation to today's world systems. For example, the relation between transfer of technology and the political power structure. It was pointed out that if political power is left out in the process of transfer of technology, there is a problem in realizing the function of science and technology in the society. The decision-makers must be involved in the process of transfer of science and technology.
Also the prevailing contradictions in economic development in the world were pointed out. The in balance not only between developed and developing countries, but also between rural and urban areas in developing countries were pointed out. Also the globalization of cultures and sub-cultures due to the development of worldwide communication systems which are helping the western-oriented cultures and economies to spread.
2. At the workshop group discussions, some elaboration of some points was made.
In relation to the transfer of technology from developed to developing countries it was observed that there is a problem of language. Usually the technological tool or technique developed in western countries has a functional role. There is meaning attached to it. When it is transferred to the developing countries whose language is not the original language in which the technology was invented, it becomes a problem, for the people using it will have no relation to the original meaning of the name given to the tool or the part of the machine. Always the language of invention has a symbolic meaning. This problem of imitation and appropriation was further elaborated by giving examples of African experiences.
(a) Most countries have different languages within one country but if there is one language, transfer may be easier.
(b) The problem of under-population was also noted; this is a problem in relation to the mobilization of productive forces and the marketing system.
It was noted, however, that a country whose traditional technology had reached a certain level might adopt a foreign technology with fewer problems.
In relation to Africa a question was raised as to what extent an African can become modern without losing his/her identity. How one can remain in the past, tradition, without bringing about stagnation in social development? This point was not discussed fully.
It was also pointed out that we are witnessing universalism in our days. People share the same cultures, but this again has its perils. It may bring about conflicts and endanger the survival of men.
The problem of self-reliance in relation to transfer of technology was discussed. It was pointed out that it is impossible to resist science and technology in developing countries, but how can we adopt them without being dominated by the developed countries?
The suggestion was made that the communication system among developing countries should be strengthened. This will help to control information and it is within the area of collective self-reliance in the Third World. From there, then, information can go to the developed countries. This may further help to prevent the side-effects of imitation of science and technology.
The problem is how to change from the interdependency of domination to mutual interdependency.