Sunday, June 8, 2014

Technology Assessment (TA): Importance, Surroundings, Process, and the Application Perspective in Bangladesh



-AKM Golam Baharul

1.0 Introduction
Technology is the human activity that changes the material world around us to satisfy our needs. The ability to apply technological methods separates men from other animals. Technology is closely related to science and engineering. Science deals with human’s understanding of real world around them- the interesting properties of space, matter, energy and their interactions. Engineering is the application of objective knowledge to the creation of plans, designs and means for achieving desired objectives. Technology deals with the tools and techniques for carrying out the plans. It has long been recognized that the adoption of modern technology in various sectors of economy is the key to economic progress and national development. The major objectives of technology planning are to identify or develop right kind of technologies and apply them in productive activities. Accomplishment of the objective of course, requires knowledge about the strength, weakness and implications of technologies in various sectors of development. This means that technology assessment is an important first step towards disciplining the technological initiative.
2.0 Special features and basic component of Technology
World is becoming increasingly interdependent because of Technological advancement. We cannot set technological clock back as many changes are irreversible. But we have to remember that uncontrolled technological development is suicidal. Special features of Technology are:
a) Technology is man-made.
b) It is produced in R&D cell of both private and public sectors.
c) There is a price of a Technology. It is not given away free.
d) Technology is a marketable commodity, it has market value.
e) Its price depends on bargaining strength.
f) It is a new form of currency.
g) It provides comparative advantage. For developing countries like Bangladesh, a sustained effort for a controlled technological development & systematic application is necessary. Judicious management of tech to maximize benefits and minimize negative effects is required. The Basic Components of Technology are:
1) Techno ware: Equipment, machinery, tools, structures, etc.
2) Human ware: Knowledge, skill, creativity, expertise, proficiency, experience, etc
3) Info ware: Theories, relations, designs, specification, blue print, manual, Population, Documents, blue-print, etc.
4) Orgaware: Management practices, linkages, consulting & design firms, legal framework etc.
* Divisional Engineer, Bangladesh Telecommunications Company Limited
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Fig1: Four Basic Components of Technology.
3.0 Technology Assessment
Technology assessment (TA) is a scientific, interactive and communicative process that aims to contribute to the formation of public and political opinion on societal aspects of science and technology. Technology assessment was originally conceived of as an analytic activity, aimed at providing decision makers with an objective analysis of effects of a technology. Early in the history of technology assessment, it became clear that assessment projects must involve multiple perspectives. The main concept of Technology assessment:
► TA is a Policy research which provides a comprehensive evaluation of tech to decision makers. It identifies the policy issues; assess the consequences of alternative causes of action & presents findings as guidelines for decision making.
► TA can be defined as both an intellectual and socio-political process of exploring, evaluating & selecting options made possible by technology including those technologies which will actually be developed, applied and diffused.
► TA consists of ascertaining the trend of technological change & the resulting
implications for all relevant sectors of society, systematically evaluating the consequences which may be direct and indirect, intended and unintended, beneficial and adverse of such
developments in terms of their probability, severity, and distribution. Figure 2: Positioning Technology Assessment within the policy-making/ technology Development process.
4.0 Main Characteristics of the TA
Technology Assessment is a Multi-criteria decision-making (MCDM) problem which is a sub-discipline of operations research that explicitly considers multiple criteria in decision-making environments. In TA there are typically multiple conflicting criteria that need to be evaluated in making decisions. The characteristic of TA:
(a) It includes multi-variant analysis: Many variables with different units of measure are considered.
(b) It concerned with multi-order impacts: Direct as well as indirect impacts are considered.
WORLD TELECOMMUNICATION AND INFORMATION SOCIETY DAY 2014
(c) It Incorporates multi-constituency effects: Needs of a wide range of social groups are considered.
(d) It implies multi-disciplinary approach: All aspects of human life are considered.
(e) It demands multi-timeframe balancing: Both short terms wants and long term needs are considered.
(f) It Requires multi-criteria optimization: Both maximum of positive and minimum of negative effects are considered.
(g) It involves dynamic features: Continuous interaction between technology and surroundings are considered.
5.0 Major Purposes of TA for Developing Countries
Developing countries is the importer or buyer of Technology and the developed countries is the exporter or seller of Technology. So, TA is very much important for Developing/LDC countries because of:
(1) Evaluation of appropriateness of technologies for transfer and adaptation: Identify existing technology (available in developed countries) that are somewhat compatible and have scope for adaptation within the surrounding in developing countries.
(2) Selection of technologies for development: Identify those existing indigenous or existing exogenous technologies for development that are consistent with national goals.
(3) Control of inappropriate technologies for the protection of environment: Identify corrective measures for all local & imported technology for protection of environment.
6.0 Seven Surroundings of Technology Assessment
For Technology Assessment the following seven Factors must have to be considered for
selecting the Appropriate Technology (AP):
1) Technological Factors: Technical utility (capability; reliability; efficiency),Options of technology (flexibility; scale),Availability of infrastructure (support; services).
(2) Economic Factors: Economic feasibility (cost-benefit), Improvement in productivity (capital; resources), Market potentials (size; elasticity).
(3) Resource Factors: Availability of material and energy sources, Availability of financial resources, Availability of skilled manpower.
4) Environmental Factors:-Impact on physical environment (air, water; land),
Impact on living conditions (comfort; noise), Impact on life (safety; health).
(5) Population Factors: Growth of population (rate; life expectancy),Level of education (literacy rate),Labour characteristics (unemployment; structure).
(6) Socio-Cultural Factors: Impact on individual (life quality), Impact on society (values), Compatibility with existing culture.                                                                                                     (7) Politico-Legal Factors: Political acceptability, Mass need satisfaction, Compatibility with institutions and policies. Figure 3: Interaction of Technology with Human Surroundings
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7.0 The Process of Technology Assessment
There are several steps for the Technology Assessment. The steps may be identified as:
Step-1: Identification of the problem:
Stock-taking of existing situation and regulations, determination of time horizon and level of analysis, setting boundaries and objectives.
Step-2:Description of alternatives being assessed:                                                                    Inventory of relevant technological alternatives, current state-of-the-art Technology and Technological forecasting.
Step-3: Establishment of assessment Factors:
Description of relevant factors, identification of variables and types of effects, classification of variables (change with different alternatives).
Step-4: Evaluation of expected effect:
Analysis and measurement of effects, representation of various effects, and integration of all expected effects.
Step-5: Formulation of action options:
Identification of all possible action options, development of programs for action, analysis of consequence for each option.
Step-6: Choice of suitable action:                                                                                        Influence of various decision makers, justification of the final choice, and choice of the most suitable alternative. Figure4: The Overall Assessment and Follow-up Plan of TA
8.0 Application of TA in Bangladesh:
As a developing/LDC country, Bangladesh can take the advantages of late starter situation of Technology and can avoid mistakes of predecessor. But it is only possible when TA will be done properly before taking any project. The surroundings and the process which is mentioned above are completely ignored in most of the cases before taking any project in Bangladesh. This is happened due to some real and practical constraints of economic, social and political (National and International) situation. But Bangladesh has to come out from these hurdles for the development of indigenous Technology and the adaptation of Technology by our Engineers, Scientists and Technologist. To attain the goals of becoming middle income country of Bangladesh by 2021, the Technological capability must have to be attained and it is possible to adopt the technology from developing country by proper Technology Assessment. Otherwise present uncontrolled technological development will be suicidal for Bangladesh. If the present uncontrolled situation prevails, gap between the goals (2021) will be higher and higher which leads to Bangladesh as a big Technology buyer but no Technology adaptation and diffusion.
References:
1) Kamal Uddin,M, Management of Technology, IAT,BUET.
2) Web Site.

WORLD TELECOMMUNICATION AND INFORMATION SOCIETY DAY 2014

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