How to own modern development tools
November 26, 2017 | 10:05 PM
by Mohammed Mahfoodh Al Ardhi Al Ardhi
Oman celebrates its 47th National Day on Saturday, November 18. Photo - File

Oman has just concluded its glorious 47th National Day celebrations – an occasion that set me thinking about how technology and modern inventions can indeed ensure a positive impact on development if employed judiciously.

Throughout history, inventions have played a pivotal role in driving and sustaining human life. The discovery of fire, for example, helped humanity to mark a transition from primitiveness to modernity and civilization. Centuries later, electricity helped shape large urban communities and enabled the establishment of industries - triggering the manufacturing revolution at the beginning of the 18th century.

The 21st century for its part, marked the arrival of the ICT revolution, transforming our modern world into an interconnected landscape that impacts domains such as culture, sciences, economy, and politics and gets impacted in turn.

One of the prominent outcomes of technological and scientific advancements is the emergence of a globalized economy that is based on sustainable knowledge, cutting-edge tech and innovation, and increased competition among economic ecosystems in an open global market. While globalization has provided a boost to both competition and innovation, countries that did not have – or could not garner - the required knowledge were not included in this journey of development.

This disparity in development is a threat to the growth of the global economy. With a startling 1,600,000,000 people excluded from the purview of the global trading markets for commodities, products and services, the economy is missing remarkable opportunities to enhance production and industry. What has exacerbated this situation is the weak purchasing power of people in nations that used to be vital hubs for trade activities in the past.

Despite the tremendous challenges, solutions do exist. The knowledge and technology we have at our disposal today is powerful enough to ignite a revolution in pre-emerging markets and developing countries within a relatively short time span. However, such a revolution cannot be achieved through using dated, traditional tools of development. It can only be triggered through deploying technologies and inventions that have been specifically tailored to address present-day challenges.

The core challenges individuals in developing countries face today include an inability to access and utilize resources, declining education, poor quality healthcare, and lack of modern knowledge. These factors lead to low production levels, lands that are not being effectively utilized for agriculture, and an absence of institutions to enhance the quality of human life.

Such obstacles should be a thing of the past in contemporary environments where scientific and technological products provide effective and quick solutions. For example, securing water for drinking or irrigation purposes is no longer difficult, owing to desalination technologies and wastewater treatment. Agriculture does not require seasonal cycles as was the case in the past due to the existence of strong fertilizers and modern irrigation techniques.

Likewise, in the energy space, we now have technologies that generate solar, wind and hydroelectric power. An excellent arsenal of tools is available for nations to achieve comprehensive and sustainable development even in the early development stage. Such advancements will reflect positively on the socioeconomic status of these frontier economies and simultaneously boost the global economic and political landscape.

In this context, I am reminded of the popular adage: ‘Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.’

Its premise is simple - advanced technologies are best shared by all the world’s nations and governments, enabling local cadres to operate and manage them according to national and global interests.

As Omanis, we are fortunate to enjoy the technological capabilities and requisite government support to drive our nation in the right direction. What we now need to do is to own the tools of development, such as the Tanfeedh program, economic diversification, and enhancement of national income resources.

These tools are not expensive and cannot exceed the losses that we may incur if we do not use development technologies.

On the occasion of the just-concluded National Day of our beloved Oman, I congratulate His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said and all the people of the Sultanate. I look forward to seeing our people continue to work synergistically together for optimum national and global advancement in the years to come.

*The author is the Executive Chairman of Investcorp and an International Advisor to the Brookings Instituition. All the views and opinions expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not reflect those of Times of Oman.

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