On National (Under)Development

Examining the problem of underdevelopment in a scientific and technological perspective
STS WFY - Group 2, 23 February 2011

I. The Problem of Underdevelopment The comparative underdevelopment of Third World countries, such as the Philippines, results to interrelated problems ranging from small-scale local poverty issues to large-scale national economic regression. According to the National Statistical Coordination Board, in 2009, Philippines has a poverty incidence of 26.5 percent. This means that in every four Filipinos, one is considered to be poor.

A. What makes a country underdeveloped? There are three characteristics of underdeveloped countries: domination, disarticulation and incapacity to provide an adequate standard of living for the majority.

Domination on underdeveloped countries by developed ones show an extreme form of dependence of the first to the latter. Its primary form is economic; although it’s closely related to cultural and technical domination. Due to this, DCs primarily benefit from the resources (both goods and services) of UCs, leaving the UCs’ resources depleted for themselves. Disarticulation (or disunity) among the different socio-cultural strata in UCs affect the improvements in socioeconomic conditions of the country. Generally, only some segments of the population (such as professionals and landowners) improve, leaving the rest (farmers, etc) comparatively unchanged. Lastly, the incapacity of UCs to provide an adequate standard of living for the majority characterizes their underdevelopment in such way that their people experience deficiencies in most, if not all, aspects of living.

B. What factors limit the development of countries? Economic growth is a widely-accepted contributing factor to the progress of a country. The scientific and technological progress, which refers to the autonomous capacity of a country to generate, disseminate, and utilize technological knowledge in its productive and social processes, assists the national industry in designing productive techniques adequate for local conditions. Lastly, the proper distribution of the fruits of economic growth and of technical progress throughout the population both eliminates disarticulation and raises the living conditions of all to an acceptable level.

II. The Potential Solution against Underdevelopment The advancement of science and technology is increasingly becoming an important factor in the development of a country. Not only does modern science-based technologies greatly affect the competition among manufacturers worldwide, science and engineering also help in the construction of a more secured community against disasters and terrorism. In order for S&T to take effect on the development of Third World countries, there must be a major transformation in the S&T structure both locally and internationally. But this requires a firm commitment by both developed and underdeveloped countries. There are indeed several ways to promote national development through S&T, and some of these must be contextualized for every country. Listed below are but a few of these potential scientific and technology solutions that UCs can use for their growth and development.

A. Establish S&T awareness In order to successfully infuse S&T in national development, every sector in the country (especially the government) must be aware of the role that S&T play in the development process. S&T must not only be promoted at schools but in the whole community. Here technological domination is emphasized as a factor for underdevelopment. The concept of intermediate technology is also introduced. Intermediate technology is the set of technologies between the capital-intensive technologies that DCs export to UCs, and the indigenous technologies that UCs already possess. It is aimed directly at the social needs of the country such as poverty and general low standards of living. This kind of introduction gives an insight on the technological resources that the country already possess, and the technologies it needs to acquire.

B. Develop S&T policies There should be a difference in science policy and technology policy. Science policy covers scientific research. In this policy, the scope of scientific research is defined. It is advised that the kinds of research projects that can be conducted should not be bounded by specific national needs. Thus the criteria for the evaluation of these projects should be internal to the scientific community. Technology policy, on the other hand, covers the acquisition of technology to be used in productive and social processes. Contrary to science policy, it is more concerned with national development. Activities that fall into this policy include technology transfer, adaptation of existing techniques, and reverse engineering. During the planning stage, all of the S&T resources of the country are to be identified. These resources include human, infrastructural, informational, financial and international S&T resources. This is to secure the kinds of resources that are available (like in intermediate technology), to reduce the cost of pooling resources from others, and to avoid the duplication of work. Part of the development of these policies is the increase of demand for local technology. Increasing local demand also increases local technological capacity. This can be done by channeling the demand from external to local sources. Of course, good policies and policy instruments should be combined with good political power to achieve the desired objectives.

C. Reinforce S&T manpower In line with the national S&T policies, the human resources for scientific and technological services must be established. Scientific and Technological manpower is the basis of all S&T activities. It has been known that shortage of high-quality manpower constitutes the principal bottleneck in the scientific and technological development of UCs. Included in these human resources are: scientists, engineers, R&D professionals and technicians. UCs must also be aware of the brain drain phenomenon, where either S&T professionals migrate to other countries for better opportunities (external) or they are misemployed in their own country (internal). One great example of internal brain drain in the Philippines can be seen in call centers, where science and engineering graduates choose this kind of work (rather than in their own respective fields) for immediate source of income.

D. Manage technology transfer Technology transfer happens everywhere, national and international, from one industry to another. There are several ways on how an underdeveloped country can acquire technology from foreign countries. It can be through turnkey agreement where foreign investors set-up their business locally and leaves the operation to the government. It can also be through quick purchase of technologies. There are also several criticisms that go alongside with these methods. The objective technology transfer is to facilitate industrialization. In order to manage technology transfer effectively, the country must consider the following: (1) the selection of technologies to be imported are to be based both on the national needs and usable resources in the country; this differentiates appropriate technologies with the nice-to-haves. (2) imported technologies should fit the local surroundings; it will be a waste of money, time and effort if the technology transferred is not usable locally. (3) repair and improvements should be done by local trained manpower; this both strengthens the technological capacity of the country and reduces its dependency on others. (4) foreigners are hired only to provide effective training; this prevents brain drain, both externally and internally.

UCs must have better understanding on their partnership with other countries, especially with DCs. This will prevent abuse and exploitation. There should also be a mutual agreement on both parties to prevent any form of disparity.

III. Conclusion In conclusion, the development of science and technology in underdeveloped countries helps these countries progress not only economically but in other aspects as well. The current trend in trade (most especially in international exchange of goods and services) requires a balance between quality and cost. And here, science and technology can play a great role in the designing and manufacturing of high-class yet affordable products, making the producing countries globally competitive. Therefore, science and technology must be established, developed and continually promoted in underdeveloped countries to ensure their growth and development.

For specific examples on these concepts, see On National (Under)Development - Cases Specified.pptx.

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