High-Tech/Low-Tech: Appropriate Technologies for Developing Nations

High-Tech/Low-Tech: Appropriate Technologies for Developing Nations

Peter Loh (National University of Singapore, Singapore), Christopher Marshall (National University of Singapore, Singapore) and Cj Meadows (Asian Institute of Management & Praxis R&C, Singapore)
Copyright: © 1998 |Pages: 9
DOI: 10.4018/jgim.1998040101


A central (and long-standing) debate in the fields of Information Technology (IT) and Economic Development has centered around what (if any) information and communications technologies are ethically “appropriate” for developing nations. IT has largely been developed in the industrialized West under capital-rich, labor-scarce economic conditions, and inherently, a technology will address the special constraints in its generative environment. Indeed, Schumacher pointed out long ago that “intermediate” technologies (developed especially for a developing nation’s special circumstances) might be preferable. Now, with the resurgence of interest in industrial technology (a la Schumpeter) as the driving force for economic development, policy makers, business leaders, and citizens in developing nations are asking whether advanced information and communications technologies are appropriate for the capital-scarce, labor-rich developing nations. Indeed, the real question may not be whether they are appropriate, but whether there is an inherent difference between industrial and information technology (which would make “intermediation” unnecessary or even detrimental), whether IT can be (or needs to be) effectively adapted, and whether lack of access to advanced IT bars developing economies from the global marketplace, thus impeding economic advancement. The current paper first presents the context in which “appropriateness” has been argued, including the question of whether being part of the global marketplace really benefits developing nations. The paper then outlines and provides criticism of the bipolar debate and activity to date, and offers a new approach to the question in the context of an “information age” world economy.

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