Silicon sustenance

Technology and Poverty Reduction in Asia and the Pacific
OECD Observer

Can technology help to reduce hunger and eventually poverty, and if so, under what conditions? When Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe refused to accept 20,000 tonnes of maize from the US to feed his starving people, the world collectively gasped. The problem, of course, was that it was genetically modified.

This presented a number of sticky issues having to do not only with possible health and environmental effects, but with long-term market independence and possible effects on trade.

As Technology and Poverty Reduction in Asia and the Pacific points out, 40 years ago the Green Revolution promised to abolish hunger by increasing crop yields through a set of “miracle seeds”. The use of better fertilisers, potent pesticides, modern irrigation and high-yield grain seeds did have a dramatic effect on agriculture, reducing malnutrition in much of Asia and Latin America as well as parts of Africa, despite a trebling of the population. Cereal production in Asia has doubled over the past 30 years, and calorie availability per person increased by over 20%, while real food prices have fallen by 50%.

Yet some argue that most of the benefits of higher production go to the employers, not the labourers. Traditional farming methods have been lost, the environment compromised, and crop yield has stabilised. This book, a collection of presentations from a Development Centre seminar, assesses the lessons learned from the Green Revolution and looks at the promises held out by the modern “Gene Revolution”. It goes on to question the harmful effects on the poor of over-protective intellectual property rights and examines the current state of information technology in Asia, and what role it can play in reducing poverty.

The mere provision of technology is not enough. Bangalore in India is a kind of Silicon Valley, claiming to have more engineering colleges than any other city in the world. Yet, the region suffers more poverty than many other regions and its literacy rate is not much higher than the Indian average of 65%. Many graduates may well emigrate to lucrative positions at NASA or Microsoft, but the city’s impressive focus on IT excellence is not yet combating poverty.

©OECD Observer No 34, October 2002




Economic data

E-Newsletter

Stay up-to-date with the latest news from the OECD by signing up for our e-newsletter :

Twitter feed

Suscribe now

<b>Subscribe now!</b>

To receive your exclusive paper editions delivered to you directly


Online edition
Previous editions

Don't miss

  • Trade is an important point of focus in today’s international economy. This video presents facts and statistics from OECD’s most recent publications on this topic.
  • How do the largest community of British expats living in Spain feel about Brexit? Britons living in Orihuela Costa, Alicante give their views.
  • Brexit is taking up Europe's energy and focus, according to OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría. Watch video.
  • OECD Chief Economist Catherine Mann and former Bank of England Governor Mervyn King discuss the economic merits of a US border adjustment tax and the outlook for US economic growth.
  • Africa's cities at the forefront of progress: Africa is urbanising at a historically rapid pace coupled with an unprecedented demographic boom. By 2050, about 56% of Africans are expected to live in cities. This poses major policy challenges, but make no mistake: Africa’s cities and towns are engines of progress that, if harnessed correctly, can fuel the entire continent’s sustainable development.
  • OECD Observer i-Sheet Series: OECD Observer i-Sheets are smart contents pages on major issues and events. Use them to find current or recent articles, video, books and working papers. To browse on paper and read on line, or simply download.
  • How sustainable is the ocean as a source of economic development? The Ocean Economy in 2030 examines the risks and uncertainties surrounding the future development of ocean industries, the innovations required in science and technology to support their progress, their potential contribution to green growth and some of the implications for ocean management.
  • The OECD Gender Initiative examines existing barriers to gender equality in education, employment, and entrepreneurship. The gender portal monitors the progress made by governments to promote gender equality in both OECD and non-OECD countries and provides good practices based on analytical tools and reliable data.
  • They are green and local --It’s a new generation of entrepreneurs in Kenya with big dreams of sustainable energy and the drive to see their innovative technologies throughout Africa. blogs.worldbank.org
  • Interested in a career in Paris at the OECD? The OECD is a major international organisation, with a mission to build better policies for better lives. With our hub based in one of the world's global cities and offices across continents, find out more at www.oecd.org/careers .

Most Popular Articles

OECD Insights Blog

NOTE: All signed articles in the OECD Observer express the opinions of the authors
and do not necessarily represent the official views of OECD member countries.

All rights reserved. OECD 2017