|Blending of New and Traditional Technologies - Case Studies (ILO - WEP, 1984, 312 p.)|
ON SEVERAL IMPORTANT fronts the pace of technological advance is quickening and the application of new technologies is intensifying and spreading. Basic scientific discoveries, developmental research by both private and public sectors and competitive pressures to adopt the new technologies are constantly shifting the frontiers of knowledge and applications of space technology, solar energy, microelectronics and information sciences, biotechnology and new materials, for example. Over the next several decades these newly emerging technologies will alter the global economy and significantly affect the cultural, social and political dimensions of our lives.
Included within the broader framework of these impending socio-economic changes are areas in which the International Labour Office has a clear mandate, namely, the level and composition of employment, wages and working conditions, labour qualifications and training, and employer-employee relations. Considerable effort is being devoted to assessing new technologies, and in measuring and projecting their impact on labour. These technologies are like a double-edged sword: they may be both beneficial and harmful. Policies are therefore needed to maximise the gains from their use while minimising their concomitant social and economic disruptions. However, the preponderant amount of literature, conferences and policy discussions have focused on developed countries. Little thought and even less serious research have been directed to formulating appropriate Third World strategies for coping with a new wave of revolutionary technologies.
This relative neglect is disturbing, since developing countries are already beginning to witness the effects of newly emerging technologies. Since the new scientific and technical knowledge tends to be research-intensive, capital-intensive, and knowledge-intensive, comparative advantage lies clearly with the North. Furthermore, the transfer and application of these technologies may exhibit a labour-displacing tendency that will cause even more pronounced North-South employment and income gaps. Thus the Third World faces an urgent and formidable challenge in framing, implementing and creatively adapting policies and managing the smooth introduction of newly emerging technologies. This collection of experiments and projects on the Blending of New and Traditional Technologies examines an important element in a sound technology policy. Initiated as a pioneer project at the suggestion of the United Nations Advisory Committee on Science and Technology for Development (ACSTD), the volume explores the feasibility and scope of integrating newly emerging technologies with traditional economic sectors. The object of scrutiny, successful blending, entails the technological upgrading of traditional sectors while preserving much of their institutions, skills, know-how and supporting infrastructure.
The case studies presented in this volume contain a rich variety of results, and although not universally beneficial in all respects, the proportion of successful cases is encouraging. It is important to note, however, that these marriages of newly emerging and traditional technologies were not inspired, supported or promoted by a well-defined set of blending principles, much less by established policies. The next step towards increasing the incidence of blending and enhancing the chances for success is the conscious formulation of policies that encourage the integration of frontier technologies with traditional sectors. The experimentation, assessment and analysis of blending projects that are prerequisites for intelligent policy-making is an enormous undertaking and is far beyond the resources and capabilities of any single agency. I am therefore hopeful that the appearance of this volume will do much to stimulate and attract national, regional and international organisations to join in this challenging venture. Only then can technological blending realise its potential as a new dimension of Third World development policy.
International Labour Office