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How to make technology transfer work for human development

This is a briefing paper prepared in advance of the World Summit on Sustainable Development, which was held in Johannesburg in August 2002. Published by one of the architects of the concept of appropriate technologies in development, the non-governmental organisation (NGO) Intermediate Technology Development Group (now known as Practical Action), the paper sums up the position on technology transfer of many other development and campaigning NGOs.

The brief focuses on the potential and actual impacts of technology transfer, particularly through trade and foreign direct investment on poverty reduction and human development in developing countries. The paper argues that most private-sector-mediated technology transfer (for example, through foreign direct investment) makes a limited contribution to poverty reduction in less developed countries. Only through the development of local capabilities to select, use, absorb, adapt and autonomously develop technologies can technology transfer be effective for human and economic development. This demands the development of broad innovation systems and pro-poor research and development efforts in developing countries.