National strategies for technology adoption in the industrial sector

Lessons of recent experience in the developing regions

2001 Occasional Paper
By Lall, Sanjaya

The concept paper for HDR 2001 starts thus: “New technologies – especially biotechnology and information/communication technology – are the driving forces of competition between nations and people in the global knowledge economy of the 21st century. Access to and a share in the financial returns from technology will be an important determinant of whether an individual or a country is a winner or a loser in the global economy.” It goes on to say “Acquisition of industrial technology has been an underlying factor in diversification, export growth and economic growth of Asian countries – what are the options for poor countries to adopt technological innovations to improve productivity and incomes in the context of a global competitive economy?” This paper analyses the uneven spread of new technologies in the developing world, in terms of the success of different countries in using their potential to build viable and dynamic industrial sectors. It describes the structural factors that affect industrial success in terms of competing in a world of rapid technical change, shrinking economic distance and rapid policy liberalization. It illustrates the growing divergence between the ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ and explains why the process may be cumulative and selfreinforcing unless concerted policy remedies are undertaken at the national and international levels.