New Technologies

...what are they and how can they impact on development?

The awareness and indeed the attention given to the study of new technologies and development are increasing.   The latest silver bullet of technology is, by popular consensus, nanotechnology.   In the future there may well be other new technologies that become the centre of attention for the media and policy makers.   There is a need to be prepared to work on understanding the impact that new technologies might have generically on developing countries in addition to a focus on the specific technologies identified on this page.   

The term “new technologies” is wide ranging.   We recognise that there is often innovation and adaptation of technologies by people in developing countries.   Much of this is outside the scope of our programme and is in fact covered by much work that is carried out in the fulfilment of the other strategic aims.   So, for operational clarity the term new technologies should be taken to mean “science-led new technologies”: in other words those technologies that arise from the generation of new knowledge by scientific activity.

Three specific new technologies are identified as likely to have an impact on developing countries: ICTs, nanotechnology and biotechnology.

Information and Communications Technology

"The ultimate goal of using ICTs for human development is to empower people to actively shape the world around them, enabling solutions that promote economic prosperity with equity, fostering democracy that is socially just and opening new opportunities for the realisation of our full human potential."  Gomez et al (2003).   Read more >>>


The Royal Society defines nanotechnology as:
“Nanoscience and nanotechnology involve studying and working with matter on an ultra-small scale. One nanometre is one-millionth of a millimetre and a single human hair is around 80,000 nanometres in width. Nanoscience and Nanotechnology encompass a range of techniques rather than a single discipline. The technology stretches across the whole spectrum of science, touching medicine, physics, engineering and chemistry.”  
Royal Society (2003).   Read more >>>


Modern biotechnology emerged in the early 1970s, and expands upon the current ability to improve plant, animals and micro organisms.   It is defined as “the industrial use of recombinant DNA, cell fusion, novel bio-processing techniques and bioremediation”.   This modern biotechnology allows scientists to isolate and transfer genes expressing specific characteristics between living species. This has opened the door to genetic engineering.   There is also a newly emerging field of "synthetic biology" which can be viewed as a merging of biotechnology, engineering and nanotechnology.   Read more >>>

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