Technology in Developing Economies

A Note of Caution

Urban skyline, Kenya (public domain)

Despite the potential advantages that technological advancement and diffusion can provide in developing nations, rapid changes can also be detrimental to these countries. For one, it is difficult, if not impossible, to ensure an even distribution of technology across urban and rural locales. As a result, certain socioeconomic classes will probably benefit more from technological progress than others. Demand for skilled workers may intensify as new technologies increase in complexity, thus making higher levels of education a prerequisite for such positions. Automated machines could replace many mechanical jobs, displacing semiskilled workers in manufacturing plants. It seems that a situation like this would promote economic inequality and a widening gap between the rich and poor.

Rural field, Brazil (public domain)

Moreover, the introduction of advanced technology could be beneficial to the innovator, by providing new opportunities, and to the consumer, by reducing commercial prices, but could also place competitors using older technologies out of business. In Brazil, developments in the production and processing of sugarcane have increased efficiency, incomes, and employment, but at the expensive of foreign sugarcane suppliers who have not been able to compete. A delicate balance is therefore required for the successful integration of technology into developing economies, one that involves fulfilling the needs of the population without draining the government's resources.

by Joe Cackler, Emily Gu, and Mike Rodgers
for CS 201: Computers, Ethics, and Social Responsibility
at Stanford University
on March 17, 2008