ILO Report ‘Blending of New and Traditional Technologies’

ILO submits a report on ‘Blending of New and Traditional Technologies’ to The UN Advisory Committee on Science and Technology for Development

At its Third Session (New York, February 1-8, 1983), the Advisory Committee considered the Report of the Los Baños Panel from 1982 on the integration of ‘new’ and ‘traditional’ technologies. In addition to recommending that interested governments and concerned organisations initiate pioneer and pilot projects on integration, the Committee urged that existing experiments and case studies be reviewed to draw lessons from the successes and failures of such past and ongoing activities in both developed and developing countries. 

The Advisory Committee’s recommendation to compile a ’portfolio of experiments and projects’ on technology blending resulted in a first extensive review by the ILO Technology and Employment Branch (ILO 1984), a report on ‘Blending of New and Traditional Technologies’.  This report offers a survey of projects, but is lacking in attention to vital aspects of projects’ socio-economic and environmental impacts, costs, and in what way projects integrate with local learning and capacity building.

In the compilation of such a “portfolio of experiments and projects” by appropriate organisations in the United Nations system, the following guidelines were to be considered:

(i) Access to the economic and social costs and benefits in the light of cultural compatibility, consumer acceptability, decentralisation potential and employment impact;
(ii) Ensure that the integration model is capable of replication and will promote sustainable development;
(iii) Adopt a systems approach in project formulation particularly taking into account marketing opportunities.
(UN, 1983)

Since the recommendation of the Advisory Committee, the International Labour Office (ILO), in collaboration with the United Nations Centre on Science and Technology for Development (UNCSTD), the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), and the United Nations Financing System on Science and Technology for Development (UNFSSTD), undertook the task of preparing such a portfolio. (Bhalla et al (eds) 1984)

The volume is a collection of case studies from various countriesm and covers five categories of emerging technology: microelectronics, biotechnology, space satellites, new materials technology, and solar energy. The sentiment held that there was an urgent need for case studies to evaluate how to integrate new technologies into developing country economies, though the editors note that there is limited coverage in the case studies on important issues of: cost-effectiveness, socio-economic and environmental impacts, and local supports (e.g. use of local material, skill requirements and learning, maintainability of the new technology) in the case studies. Nonetheless, it seems the premise of the volume is optimistic:

“Newly emerging technologies are ushering in massive changes in the world socio-economic landscape and it is inevitable that Third World countries will be caught up in these shifting contours. Since these frontier technologies are science-intensive, capital-intensive and information-intensive, developing countries seem to be heading for a round of technological upheaval for which their capabilities are limited. While recognising these clear danger signals and not in any way attempting to underrate them, this volume attempts to address the following question: must the introduction of frontier technology into traditional economic regions and sectors always be detrimental to their socio-economic welfare?” (Preface, Bhalla et al (eds) 1984)



United Nations Report of the Advisory Committee on Science and Technology for Development at its Third Session, Intergovernmental Committee on Science and Technology for Development, New York, A/CN. 11, February, 1983.

ILO (International Labour Organization) (1984) Blending of New and Traditional Technologies: A Portfolio of Experiment and Projects. Document submitted to the 4th session of the UN Advisory Committee on Science and Technology for Development, New York ; Geneva: ILO

Bhalla, A., James, D.  and Stevens, Y. (eds) (1984) Blending of New and Traditional Technologies – Case Studies  Geneva: ILO – WEP