Technology assessment in developing countries: A proposed methodology

Technology Assessment in Developing Countries – A Proposed Methodology was prepared by UNCTAD under the United Nations Development Account project on technology assessment in the energy and agricultural sectors in Africa to accelerate progress on science, technology and innovation.

Technology assessment (TA) is a well-established interdisciplinary methodology for assessing opportunities and risks of new technologies, mainly in developed countries.

In many countries, its emergence was embedded in a somewhat sceptical or concerned attitude towards technologies, with possibly far-reaching impacts, such as the use of nuclear energy to generate electricity. However, new technologies also have huge potential to help reconcile economic, social and environmental development goals. Technological innovations can contribute to many of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

TA is a crucial tool that helps assess the pros and cons of a given technological development; informs policymakers; induces public dialogues and debates; and helps frame supportive policies and instruments. Developing countries need to know in advance about the features of new technologies and their possible impacts.

This document summarizes the existing knowledge about TA processes and good practices and reflects on these in the context of the current conditions in African and other developing countries.

This paper proposes a step-by-step approach to TA. There is little experience with TA implementation in the context of sub-Saharan Africa and in developing countries in general. Therefore, the document is supported largely with analogies and experiences from other regions, especially Europe and North America.

key steps of Technology Assessment project design

The approach will be tested, verified and possibly modified within the UNCTAD / United Nations Commission on Science and Technology for Development project.

This TA project aims to assist countries in sub-Saharan Africa and other developing countries to achieve three objectives:

  • To focus on the issue of recent and emerging technologies that could be crucial for them.
  • To encourage discussion of economic, social and environmental impacts of the selected technologies.
  • To support the national public-sector efforts to access and master some priority technologies for the country.

The paper is, therefore, to be understood as a living document. Researchers and practitioners in TA and closely related science, technology and innovation (STI) disciplines, especially from African and other developing countries, are welcome to contribute to future developments of the document by providing comments and documenting experiences.

Even if there are overlaps between TA and some other concepts, TA should not be equated with other methodological approaches or tools of technology management such as technology forecasting, technology foresight, technology needs assessment, and technology roadmaps.