Demand, Users and Innovation
Edited by Rod Coombs, Ken Green, Albert Richards and Vivien Walsh
Chapter 14: The missing link: innovation and the needs of less-developed country users
14. The missing link: innovation and the needs of less-developed country users Andrew Tylecote and Claudia Galvao INTRODUCTION Demand, market signals and user needs are regarded as stimuli for innovation but their role in the process is an area that requires discussion. This chapter seeks to do that by exploring an important area in which in a key respect innovation (and diffusion) almost totally fails to respond to user needs – as it has done for decades, and will continue to do so (we argue) until there has been a radical change in the policy of governments and international bodies. This is the adoption of technology by ‘Southern’ or ‘less developed’ countries (LDCs). We argue that ‘Northern’ technology in general is grossly unsuited to the needs of Southern societies taken as a whole, because it demands 1. 2. 3. too high a ratio of capital (physical and human) to labour, too high an initial technological capability, and usually too large a scale in usage. However, ﬁrms in the South (native as well as multinational companies) continue to adopt it, and Southern governments (together with the World Bank, etc.) continue to promote it, in preference to adopting or developing more appropriate alternatives. We show, with examples including the Brazilian food-processing industry, how this unfortunate distortion occurs. Before that, however, we show with the example of 19th and early 20th century Japan, how it has not happened in every LDC. WHY NORTHERN TECHNOLOGY IS INAPPROPRIATE FOR THE SOUTH Ever since Ricardo, neoclassical economics...
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