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close this bookScience and Technology in the Transformation of the World (UNU, 1982, 496 p.)
close this folderSession II: Technology generation and transfer - Transformation alternatives
close this folderLegal aspects of the transfer of technology in modern society
close this folderVestry Besarovic
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentThe relevance of the legal order to the transfer of technological knowledge
View the documentSome proposed measures on the national and international levels


The contemporary world has at its disposal, generally speaking, sufficient human and material resources; so for the time being the question of the insufficiency of resources is not raised. But the fact is that those resources are not evenly distributed within the international community, and for that reason some states abound with resources while others do not have a sufficient or sufficiently diversified share of resources (e.g., the mono-cultural type of economy). However, the fundamental cause of the existing differences is the unequal distribution of scientific and technological knowledge in the world, enabling a limited number of countries to make rational use of their natural wealth. The rest of the states, not having the necessary knowledge and experience, are forced to purchase it in order to exploit their natural wealth and engage their human and material potentials.

A large number of the developing countries are in a situation of having to import almost the whole technological basis of their national economies, relying little on their own capacities. Consequently, their dependence on foreign technology is enlarging and intensifying because of the general development trends of the developing countries. That relation can be illustrated by the fact that all developing countries contribute only 7 per cent to the world industrial production. This is due to the world set-up which puts many of these countries in the position of satisfying basic needs for industrial goods by importing them in exchange for raw materials.

The scientific and technological dependence of the developing countries can also be demonstrated in another example. Of the 400,000 inventions applied annually, developing countries take part in 1 per cent (the USA, the USSR, the Federal Republic of Germany, and Japan participate in 73 per cent). This should not be surprising, considering that only 2 per cent of total expenditures for research and development in the world is spent in developing countries.

Today's expenditures for scientific research in developing countries are 0.7 per cent of the GNP on the average, versus 1.3-3 per cent in the industrial world.

When we observe the differences in development between various countries as far as per capita income is concerned, noting the rate of industrial expansion and other economic indications, we actually only scratch the surface of the basic economic and industrial set-up. The very essence of these relations correlates with the gap between the invention activities and possibilities of one group of countries in applying new forms of technological knowledge and the slow pace of the other group in tarring part in the process. For the latter group of countries, importing technology is the imperative of economic survival. The transfer of technology, considered as a complementary exchange of available technological knowledge, represents by itself no danger for a national economy. Today's reality of that transfer, however, is overwhelmingly based on pure export from developed countries, lacking any kind of exchange of human knowledge.

The dependence of national economies on the import of technology can be a step in bridging the gap in invention activities - as it was, for example, in the case of Japan - provided such a transfer becomes organically implanted in domestic industrial production and stimulates local creative potential. This results in cutting technological imports down to the import only of more sophisticated technology which complements domestic technology and helps achieve further and more significant domestic technological improvements.

The expectations of such progress are not fulfilled in many countries, however. In spite of their best efforts, natural resources, cheap labour, and the existing economic structure remain their sole factors of economic development.

On the other side, no more than a dozen countries or a hundred multinational companies possess and control the key technology. The export and import of technology neglects the real needs of developing countries, leaving them at the mercy of big monopolies that dominate the market. We see old colonial powers as technology exporters who have adapted to the present situation by perpetuating the dependence of the former colonies in a relatively hidden manner. The methods are different, and are correlated with the participant in transfer, the kind of technology, and so on. The most common method is by neglecting to establish a satisfactory relation between the imported technology and the traditional culture in a broader sense. Otherwise the monopoly of transferred technology would be at stake. Technology remains the most subtle means of control and domination of many societies by the owners of the technology. Instead of contributing to the resolution of the vital problems of the third world, technology becomes a power which acts against the basic interests of Third World peoples.

The technology imported into developing countries is often too advanced and automated for the geophysical characteristics of the country, the demands of the market, and the limited output of production. Contrary to some assertions, the main danger for developing countries is not in the ability of the supplier of technology to transform the technology into capital but in the use of technology in a monopolistic manner - by excluding the acquiring country from exploiting the technological knowledge - and in the abuse of the monopolistic position.

The owners of technology, furthermore, carry out the exclusive distribution of technology in the world through the glorification of private ownership and the transformation of historical advantages into their own. In this context, the present position of the developing countries is compared to the situation when today's developed countries were underdeveloped themselves before they managed to overcome that situation and became developed. Such a comparison involves neo-colonialistic implications, because in the times spoken about, today's developed countries were surrounded by countries which were even less developed.

The developing countries are integrated into the world system dominated by the economically developed countries, which, having inherited advantages, provided for themselves the best position in the world interest-economies and converted it into their permanent monopoly. The highly developed technology of the industrial countries is based on two hundred years of industrial tradition, supported by the advancement of appropriate infrastructure. The developing countries have neither the tradition of technological development nor the appropriate infrastructure, so their position is considerably more unfavorable than the one today's developed countries had one or two centuries ago.

The developing countries, after achieving national independence, have to conform to the existing economic relations in the world (until the new economic order becomes universally accepted) and to the "international division of labour,'' as it is generously named by western economists, that exists at the time. The developing countries are compelled to be incorporated into contemporary macro-technology - the macro-organization of the production forces - which is dominated by technical elements. Macro-technology is founded on normalization, unification, efficiency, and stability; it has grown out of the capitalist system, and its bearers want to impose it upon all mankind. In the developing countries, centres for the development of macrotechnology are rare and without significant influence on the aggregate development of macro-technology in the world.

Another danger for the developing countries is the transfer of technology performed in the mode of today. The unequal technological and economic position of the contract parties enables the suppliers of technology to have the decisive control in determining conditions for the transfer of technology. Not only is the type of technology determined by the owners (technology that has not been adequately tested, for instance, so that the receiver has the role of testing polygon, or that is sufficiently amortized or already out of date), but the accompanying elements of so-called "tied purchase" are also decided upon by the owners, in order to enlarge their profit and make the position of the receiver even more subordinate, under the pretext of an efficient transfer of technology.

As the competition in the market of technology is imperfect, the price is decided upon by the owner, having in mind the economic position of the receiver. in most cases, the resources at the disposal of the receiver are limited, so the owner of technology is simultaneously in the position of giving a loan, and that makes the position of the receiver even worse. An enterprise from a developing country, needing foreign technology and not having enough financial resources and information about the available technology in the world, and being restrained by given social and economic conditions (the stage of development of the production forces, infrastructure, the profile of personnel), links itself to the first owner of technology who is willing to make it available to that enterprise by granting a loan. The terms of the transfer of technology are out of the primary concern, as well as the effect of the application of technology on the receiving country. In other words, the transfer of technology performed under restrictive conditions imposed by the developed countries is partly made possible by the developing countries themselves. The lack of interest or wrongly directed interest of the international community also plays a part in this situation.