When I spent a couple years traveling through Africa, I often posted on the content of what I saw/learned/experienced. It was easy; every day I noticed or learned something new about the culture in which I was living or the field in which I was working.

Since starting my masters program in the UK, I have also learned something new every day. This knowledge is, I believe, equally as valuable as field experience, but it comes in a very different form that has been harder to distill into blog posts. Now that I have one and a half semesters behind me, though, I hope to focus more on the content of what I’m learning about technology and development, both in and out of lectures.

The focus of my learnings has shifted from on-the-ground observations (while traveling) to techniques and strategies for managing technology in a development context. To do this, I’m first learning about strategies used to manage technologies in industries in the West.

One of the first things I learned was Mike Gregory’s framework for the technology management process, which breaks down the process into five steps:

1. Identification: scan the market and competitors for potential product ideas
2. Selection: pick a technology based on competitive/market analyses, etc.
3. Acquisition: turn that technology into a product (R&D, manufacturing)
4. Exploitation: develop and sell that product (to bring in revenue)
5. Protection: ensure ownership and protect the trade secret

It’s not necessarily linear, nor is it necessarily circular, and there’s lots of feedback loops happening along the way. But it’s a simple way to break down the technology management process, and it’s something every successful technology company has done at some point.

In my experience, organizations working with appropriate technologies in Africa focus on identification and selection. Sometimes they get to acquisition. Few, if any, get to exploitation. My theory is that because most of these organizations are donor-dependent rather than revenue-dependent, they don’t really have to.

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