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It has been routinely predicted that salvation will be found in tech- advancement; is all the government tech babble pure nonsense?

Considering that billions still live below the poverty line across the world, the fact that countries can justify raking up investments into so called futuristic tech-areas illustrating an unrealistic and impractical canvas of future technological development that would supposedly bring the advent of utopia, is not only ironic but cruelly criminal to those underprivileged billions. In this issue, the IIPM Think Tank analyses technologies that have either brought quasi revolutions or endangered the economic existence of nations.

Most of this Olympic tech-orientation can be attributed to developments that were being experienced in Japan in the early 20th century. But not without costs. Russia’s numerous failed space missions, the Chernobyl disaster, the infamous Three Mile Island nuclear accident (cleaning up cost around $975 million), the Ariane 5 explosion ($500 million) – all these and other incidents took economies of some countries a few years back.

But then, these are only totem pole examples. The ring leaders are others. Take for instance the money spent on space missions by the US during 1957-1975, which stood at $100 billion (USSR mirrored some facets of the insane spending; for example, by 1989, it was spending around $4 billion on space exploration annually). Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative, started in 1983, was even more legendary, with costs of over $100 billion. Some experts opine that this space-race eventually gave birth to numerous fissures in the economies of both the countries.

But on the other hand, there are many countries surviving and even thriving on their hi-tech research and hi-tech exports, built through decades of previously seemingly useless tech investments – particularly Japan, followed by other Asian countries like China, Taiwan, Japan, Hong Kong, Israel.

The on-going technology rivalry spree (especially in China) can be encapsulated in the words of Friedman, who in one of his books writes, “In China today, Bill Gates is Britney Spears. In America today, Britney Spears is Britney Spears.” Talking in numbers, in 2008, China’s software service industry generated 757.3 billion yuan or $110 million in revenue. Israel’s economy is largely backed up by its high tech industry; the percentage of Israelis engaged in the technology sector, and the amount spent on R&D is amongst the highest in the world.

South Korea is ranked first in the world in the Digital Opportunity Index, and first among major economies in the Global Innovation Index; likewise, Taiwan, Hong Kong and many other emerging economies are on a tech-spree to boost their economy. Malaysia is promoting its Multimedia Super Corridor topped up with tax perks and lenient censorship policies since long; Vietnam is all set to develop a local “knowledge economy”, while Myanmar is concentrating on connecting all its key industries on a single IT platform.

There have been amusing fallouts of tech-advancements too. Way back in the 1980s, the generally ‘walled’ East German government allowed access of West German television programmes to its citizens as their studies showed that East Germans who watched West German television were more satisfied with life in the communist regime.
In the last few years, Twitter, Facebook, search engines and similar media are playing a huge role in political and administrative mobilization and apparently hold the strength to raise the hackles of ‘the powers that be’; but these and similar sites also clearly traverse controversial waters as not only do they openly host porn gateways, but also despicably allow slanderous, libellous and defamatory content almost without restrictions in the garb of ‘free speech’. In the same breath, thanks to social networking, Iran’s Green Movement has found its space into numerous contending debate forums. Extending this thought to even nationalism and extremism, Hezbollah and Islamist extremists (and other fundamentalists) are very active online.

All in all, this whole wave of multi-level technology orientation towards building the “biggest, fastest, tallest and mightiest” innovation somehow never talks about how many billions, who currently defecate in the open, will get a self respecting place to stay in. Obama too seems to be playing to the rote. Even though he announced in early 2010 that he planned to eliminate funding for NASA’s manned moon missions, he increased NASA funding by $5.9 billion annually. For $5.9 billion, we estimate Obama could have built 30 million toilets in India’s most underdeveloped regions, catering to 600 million destitute Indians. Imagine how amazing a gesture of goodwill that move could have been!

By:- Sray Agarwal

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