21 December 2008

Data across the divide

Technology transfer means an astonishing number of things to different people, in almost as many contexts – from large scale international cooperation programmes through internal corporate dispersion of methodologies to local reusability of information. Underpinning it all, regardless of scale or purpose, are data analytic needs/benefit assessments – data analysis, or data itself, may often be the technology to be transferred.

Perhaps the most widely familiar current case is strategic transfer of industrial technologies in pursuit of commercial or foreign policy objectives. Export of ‘cleaner’ (lower CO2 emission) energy generation methods into developing economies is probably top of the bill here, though providing low-cost nuclear facilities as a disincentive to proliferative development of local expertise runs close behind.

Less dramatically visible, but perhaps just as significant and far reaching, is the transfer of information and communication technologies (including scientific computing manifestations) which can, and does, happen rapidly at all levels from the governmental to the informal. Transformation of many developing economies by arrival not only of such technologies, but of the thinking and approaches that accompany them, can be profound, unpredictable and uneven. Chatting about events in the mountain village from which she comes, a Pakistani colleague mentions in the same sentence GPS micromanaged agriculture and vendetta killings planned using a well-known data analysis product. In the seas off Somalia, both foreign seismologists and local pirates use the same data analysis product in conjunction with satellite communications to inform their very different professional practices. [more...]

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