Technology Leapfrogging for Developing Countries

Technology Leapfrogging for Developing Countries

Michelle W.L. Fong (Victoria University, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-026-4.ch591


Developing countries are generally latecomers to the ICT revolution, but if they can emulate industrialized countries in their adoption of ICTs, they will be afforded the same technological opportunities. Successful exploitation of such opportunities by developing countries can significantly narrow the economic gap between them and developed countries as they catch up in economic development. In ICT’s advancement trajectory, the opportunities offered by a newly emerged ICT tend to be superior to those of prior versions of technology. If a developing country leapfrogged to a newly emerged ICT, it would then be exposed to unprecedented potential in alleviating poverty and securing economic growth, as well as the possibility of surpassing developed and industrialized countries in economic development. Thus, technology leapfrogging is an attractive notion to developing countries, but is it a realistic goal?
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“Technology leapfrogging” refers to the adoption of advanced or state-of-the-art technology in an application area where immediate prior technology has not been adopted. Discussions of ICT leapfrogging have largely focused on developing countries, which generally lag behind on technology adoption, and unlike the developed countries, are not inhibited by entrenched intermediate technology. New and advanced technology provides developing countries with the opportunity to accelerate economic development (Hanna, Guy, & Arnold, 1995; Prayag, 2001; OECD, 2005; UNDP, 2001b). In addition, the advancement of ICTs has reduced costs and imposed lesser demands on the skill of the users due to user-friendly features (Ensley, 2005). The possibility of achieving significant economic growth through advanced and less costly technology thus seems exceptionally attractive to developing countries. It has also been suggested that developing countries do not have any alternative in technology adoption, except to leapfrog to new and advanced technologies (Choucri, 1998; Mansell & Wehn, 1998; Davison, Vogel, Harris, & Jones, 2000).

Key Terms in this Chapter

ICT: Encompasses all the technology that facilitates the processing, transfer and exchange of information and communication services.

Digital Divide: Refers to the disparity between two or more groups of people in their access to digital technology. Digital divide can occur at national level (between different groups within the economy) and/or global level (between different countries or regions).

GPS: A global positioning system that uses satellites, computers, and receivers. It can be used for navigation and tracking purposes, based on computer calculation of time difference between signals emitted from satellites and received by receivers.

Productivity: In economic terms, is the value of output produced using one unit of input. Workplace productivity generally means output per worker. For a considerable period of time, economists failed to determine the relationship between investments in ICT and productivity. This phenomenon was known as “productivity paradox”. Although evidence of this relationship has emerged from studies at the firm level in recent times, measures of it at the aggregate or industry level remain nebulous (Pilat, 2005 AU28: The in-text citation "Pilat, 2005" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. ).

E-Collaboration: A process by which internal and external individuals and/or groups work together on a practical endeavour through integrated electronic networks enabled by ICTs or coordination technologies.

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