Published on SciDev.Net on 12 October 2012
Muslim countries must alter their stance on the social sciences if they are to use technology to its full potential, says Athar Osama.
The last two centuries have reduced global hunger, poverty, and disease in ways that were previously unimaginable. The accelerating pace of technological development — computing, the Internet, the information and genetic engineering revolutions — only promises greater progress in coming decades.
But getting these developments to the people who need them is far from an exact science, as recent development experience has shown . For example, mechanisms for producing clean drinking water exist, but people continue to die of waterborne diseases, while millions — if not billions — go hungry, despite the fact that we have the capacity to eradicate world hunger.
On the one hand, technological innovation is a by-product of social processes; but on the other, an understanding of technology’s social dimension, and the context in which it must operate, is critical to deriving value from it.
Ideas, not ICTs
Jelel Ezzine, a cybernetics professor and director-general of international cooperation at Tunisia’s Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, cautions against “overestimating the role of technology as the original cause of [a] change”.
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