The Pardee Papers, No. 14, July 2011

pp 14 coverAfrica’s Technology Futures: Three Scenarios

By Dirk Swart

July 2011 (41 pages)
IBSN 978-1-936727-00-1
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Technology has critical impacts on the future of nations and regions around the globe, and it can be especially important in developing countries by enabling increased efficiencies and rapid development.  This paper uses a scenario planning approach to explore two questions about Sub-Saharan Africa: 1) Can this region be effective at creating, owning, developing, and harnessing homegrown technology, and 2) can it successfully adapt non-African technologies into innovation cycles?  The situation today is discussed as a baseline, and the risks of assuming that Africa will take the same trajectory to technological sophistication as the West are noted. Three feasible technology futures are presented and discussed: “Use, don’t own”; “Pockets of innovation”; and “Leapfrogging.”

Dirk Swart is a graduate of The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and was a Pardee Visiting Graduate Fellow in 2008-2009. He currently works as the Assistant Director of IT for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University and is the founder of Wicked Device, an embedded systems laboratory.

This paper is part of the Africa 2060 Project, a Pardee Center program of research, publications, and symposia exploring African futures in various aspects related to development on continental and regional scales. For more information, visit www.bu.edu/pardee/research/ .