Digital telecommunications technology and the Third World : The theory, the challenge, and the evidence from Brazil.
During the 1970s the rapid diffusion of microelectronic
technology profoundly and irrevocably altered the international
telecommunications (TC) industry. Competition between the major
corporations increased dramatically, and the industry began a
process of restructuring around the new technology. Digital
techniques brought about the merger of TC technology with
computing technology, giving rise to a new range of services and
products collectively known as the information fechnology (IT)
industries. Very little investigation into the impact of these
changes on the Third World has yet been undertaken. The purpose
of this thesis is therefore to explore the economic and
technological impact of these changes on one major developing
country - Brazil.
Part 1 begins by reviewing the current theoretical
approaches to technology diffusion and the developing countries,
and proposes an amalgamation of two, traditionally separate areas
of analysis. By combining the empirical and analytical insights
of the 'learning' school, with the neo technology 'diffusion'
approach, a conceptual framework for the study is proposed.
Using the neo technology perspective, Part 2 analyses the
technological and industrial upheavals which currently beset the
international TC industry. A set of preliminary arguments are
offered regarding the prospects facing Third world countries, both
from the point of view of installing modern TC :facilities, and
from the perspective of locally manufacturing and developing
Part 3 examines Brazil's attempt to absorb and diffuse
digital TC technology. In the mid 1970s the government
introduced a deliberate policy of expanding the domestic TC
infrastructure, and building up local technological capabilities.
measures were introduced to set up a national R&D facility in
digital TC, and a strong effort was made to reduce Brazil's
dependence on the multinational corporations as well as to foster
the development of indigenous industry. In each of these areas
economic and technological indicators of Brazil's performance are
presented and analysed, both in the light of the stated policy
objectives of the government, and in the broader context of
microelectronic diffusion and the developing countries.
During the empirical research an effort is made to explore
the nature of the accumulation process with digital, information
technology, by contrasting this new technological form with
previous, electromechanical forms of TC. Using the theoretical
concepts developed in Part one, the mechanisms by which Brazil
acquired and diffused the technology during the learning process
are analysed. By these means the study tries to isolate the ways
in which digital technology was accumulated at the levels of R&D,
firm, sector, government and macroeconomy. While it is
recognised that Brazil is a unusual case among the developing
countries, special attention is payed to possible issues of
relevance to other Third World nations. In terms of technology
policy, it is hoped that Brazil's achievements in managing the
technology gap will prove useful to other developing nations
currently attempting to efficiently absorb the new technology,
and avoid the dangers of a widening technology gap.