| Diffusion from Country to Country
- Ongoing technological advance requires (a) an infusion of ideas,
tools and material from other places and (b) an ability to make good
use of them.
- The willingness of Europe and America to accept ideas, tools and
material from other places accounts for their leadership in
technological innovations. History shows that no nation that
isolates itself will continue to advance technologically.
- The "ability to make good use" of the ideas, tools and
materials require an indigenous labor force with a broad range of
skills Put another way, success depends upon the active
participation of the recipients of the foreign technology.
- The idea of appropriate technology questions the assumption
that technologies of foreign origin are always a desirable means of
development. Indeed, the adaptation of technology by poor,
developing nations poses numerous dilemmas:
- Many countries are poor in both skilled labor and capital,
making it impossible to substitute one for the other.
- The greatest needs is often the creation of jobs; yet,
technology is often meant to be save labor.
- It is doubtful that the world could sustain the
diffusion of technologies to all developing countries.
- Technologies that are appropriate to the needs of the country
(alternative technologies/ intermediate technologies) should:
- increase employment
- redress maldistribution of wealth
- empower people
- create economic independence
- preserve the environment.
Business Firms and Technological Diffusion
- The diffusion of technology is a learning process that depends
upon individuals ("translators") who can make new
knowledge understandable and useful.
- A number of economic factors - especially the expectations of cost
and potential benefits - influence the speed and extent of the
diffusion of technology. Potential benefits are often difficult to
assess. Obviously, companies will not invest in a technology unless
they are reasonably sure that it will work as expected. This
requires that uncertainties (inability to predict benefits) be
reduced to risks (ability to formulate at least a rough probability
- Non-economic risks must also be considered. Just because a
technology works it does not follow that people will buy it.
- Technological diffusion can be restricted by the attitude of
potential recipients. In particular, the NIH ("not
invented here") attitude; that is, a suspicion of any
technology that was not created and owned by the potential
- Technological diffusion can also be restricted by the
holders/inventors or the technology. However, since technological
innovation requires the interchange of knowledge, efforts to
restrict the diffusion of technology are rarely successful and may
be counterproductive. The most important secret is that a technology
exists. Knowing that a problem can be solved is often the most
important step in its solution.
- Patents can encourage or restrict innovation. A patent is a
legal monopoly that confers exclusive use of an invention. Patents
can be used to restrict competition, but in reality the public
nature of the patent provides a great deal of information to others.
This information can be used not to copy the invention, but as a
basis for other possible solutions as well as improvements on the
original invention. One cannot hold a "master patent" such
as a patent for the automobile or the personal computer.