|Technological Independence The Asian experience (UNU, 1994, 372 pages)|
|7. The lessons from Asia: From past experience to the future|
The transformation from a pre-industrial economy to a technology-based agricultural and industrial economy which was attempted in many Asian countries - and which has been fully or partially achieved in several countries -occurred at a time when the developed countries themselves were undergoing a further profound technological transformation. If the beginnings of industrialization were associated with steam power and its later developments with electricity, the automobile engine, and chemical industries, the new "third-wave" technologies were those of information and biotechnology. They are more "generic" than any technology since the Industrial Revolution.13 Within the next few decades, they and their products are expected to penetrate many aspects of the economy, the workplace, and the home, and hence any discussion of technological self-reliance in Asia today must take them into account.
Commentators have pointed out that, for the developing countries, information technology offered scope for "leap-frogging" in development.14 The other new technology, biotechnology, could possibly have an equally pervasive impact in agriculture and medicine.15
With major chip manufacture and computer-related industries in Japan and the Republic of Korea, the East Asian region is one of the strongest manufacturing bases for information technology. This manufacturing also exists to varying degrees in India and China and in the next generation of would-be NICS, which include Thailand and, to some minimal extent, the Philippines. Some countries, such as India, have also been developing software as an export product, and this by 1991 had become a dynamic sector.16
Several of the country reports have taken note of the implications of the new technologies. The approaches can be roughly differentiated between the Republic of Korea and Japan, where strong organic links between S&T and industry exist, and India and China, where these links are weak. With product cycles in information technology counted in a few years and changes in biotechnology that are equally rapid, the technologies change faster than the five-year or ten-year planning cycles of governments. This implies that, for these new technologies, rigid S&T structures with weak links to industry are inappropriate and that more direct and fluid mechanisms for connecting the two are the ones that will succeed.