Century of Endeavour

Ch 5.4: The Third World

(c) Roy Johnston 1999

(comments to rjtechne@iol.ie)

August 12 1970

Sir William Petty is sometimes regarded as the 'grandfather' of classical political economy. He flourished in the mid-seventeenth century and owned large tracts of land in Ireland. One of his technical achievements was the surveying on Ireland, on the basis of which the Cromwellian Plantation was carried out.....

Political economy became better-defined in the following century, in the writings of Adam Smith and Ricardo, who could be regarded as the continuation of the Petty tradition. It is not so widely known that their contemporary, Bishop Berkeley, as well as being a philosopher of note and a friend of Dean Swift, wrote with depth in the field of political economy. Contemporary economists tend to dismiss Berkeley; the latter however, with his 'Querist', deserves recognition as the classical economist of the colonial world; the analyst of the problems of the outer fringe of the English metropolitan system, unseen by Smith and Ricardo......

To return to Sir William Petty: he produced a scheme for Ireland whereby 200,000 Irish would be left to tend the cattle and sheep, and the remaining 1,800,000 taken to England to work at trades, an excellent politico-economic solution to the problems facing Cromwell's government.

My excuse for this excursion into historical matters is an article in the current 'New Scientist'....by Tony Greenfield, a statistician in the service of the Iron and Steel Federation....

The article itself.....outlines a few schemes for solving the world's nutritional and other problems, by making better use of existing technology, giving a series of specific examples. The only mention of Ireland is a positive reference to the Glenamoy work on peat-land reclamation. The author is clearly not a Petty follower. He concedes that the Irish, as a nation, can be creative.

What I wish to call attention to is the political economy implicit in the illustrations. These are of the character of marginal doodles by the staff artist.. Clearly this gentleman must have worked in close collaboration with the ghost of Sir William Petty, who apparently has taken up residence in the New Scientist office. There are three marginal doodles. Each is in the form of a map of Britain, criss-crossed by a symbolic Union Jack, with two of the radials extending to form a loop enclosing an external source of wealth. In one case the source of wealth is the North Sea fish; in both the other cases the source is Ireland, symbolised once by a sheep and once by a tree.

The author's points are (a)that the sheep is a very inefficient animal capable of much improved performance (b)that pseudo-hardwoods can be made by growing softwoods and impregnating them with plastic.... In neither case is there an explicit reference to Ireland.

I see in this tiny pin-prick a pointer to the subconscious mind of British imperialism, reflected into techno-economics via an artist's doodle, a distillation of years of impressions into the collective mind of the staff of a journal with its finger on the pulse of British technology. As a nation, we should be aware of this, and reckon with it in our dealings. No doubt the Indians and Africans can point to similar manifestations of the imperial tradition in their dealings with British science and technology.

August 15 1973

In May of this year I went to a conference in Algeria arranged jointly by the International Federation of Automatic Control (IFAC) and the International federation of Operational Research Societies (IFORS) under the title 'Systems Approaches to Problems of Developing Countries'.

I went with in mind specifically the problem of the cultural gap between the practitioners of advanced technology and the rest of the human race. That which I have observed in Ireland in microcosm I wanted to observe as a world-phenomenon. I found the effort rewarding; I had ample opportunity to meet the extremes of the spectrum among the participants; subsequently I met some leading people in Algerian technological education.

The President of IFAC is John C Lozier, of Bell Telephone Laboratories. He headed the Telestar project, which was the first attempt, in the early sixties, to implement a satellite communication system across the Atlantic.

This Algiers event clearly represented a new departure for IFAC in the direction of social responsibility and away from its usual preoccupation with rocketry and space technology, no doubt under the pressure of the run-down of NASA and the ending of the Vietnam war. Big-nation technology is looking for new markets and has discovered that the developing world has problems.

IFORS was represented by Professor Arne Jensen, of Copenhagen, who is known to us in Dublin from his participation in the 1972 IFORS Conference, which took place in Trinity College. Very few of the participants, however, were IFORS people; the majority were IFAC, with roots in hardware and techniques. It was suggested that a competing conference organised by the US IFORS affiliate in Israel the following month might have had a divisive effect. Thus one is brought up against the realities of Middle-Eastern politics, and the consequent need for socially responsible scientists and technologists, if they wish to contribute to the progress of the developing nations, to make value-judgments.

Apart from the IFAC people, there were mostly people with backgrounds in what the engineers tend to look down upon as the 'soft' disciplines: economists and sociologists. These people were usually working in developing countries on secondment; they were able to read papers describing the problems, but were seldom if ever able to formulate the problems in the manner to which the technique-orientated IFAC people were accustomed.

The conference, as is customary, broke up into parallel sessions: development policies, agriculture and food, power, water and pollution, urban planning and transportation, methodology, education and health, human resources, international co-operation. Thus is was more like a trade fair; contacts were made which would lead to subsequent more intensive meetings at which technology transfers might take place.

Not all of the participants understood this; some seemed to think that a polished academic presentation was desirable. Such people rarely sparked off a good discussion.

The following statistical summary of the papers illustrates the flavour of the conference:

1. Project work by consultants from developed countries in developing countries: 17

2. Problems of training and technology transfer: 15

3. Theoretical papers from academics in developed countries: 14

4. Project work carried out in developed countries, having theoretical basis and practical implementation: 9

5. Project work carried out in developing countries using local talent: 8

6. Joint projects with teams drawn from developed and developing countries: 8

It is possible to make some generalisations about the above classes of papers.... the technology transfer group tended to be dominated by problems of education, particularly in relation to the computer....the 'foreign consultant' project work tended to be concerned with infrastructure..... the academic end of the spectrum was dominated by anthropologists and sociologists using native populations as generators of thesis material with suitably exotic flavour.....

Where the projects were jointly managed, there came across a clear impression of viability, credibility and success. Projects carried out in developed countries, included because considered relevant, tended to be from medium-sized and usually socialist countries such as Czechoslovakia, Finland or Hungary.

Projects carried out entirely within a developing country were few in number; the countries were Algeria, Brazil, Cuba, Egypt, India. There was none from black Africa, though many foreign-dominated projects related to it.

The third group (theoretical academic work from developed countries) could profitably have been kept out of the conference, thereby releasing more time for genuine interaction. Those concerned would have better occupied their time simply listening to the problems. Some were so arrogant as to stay for one day only, to give their paper.

Turning now to some specifics, there was a thoughtful paper by Leon Rosenberg and Molly Hageboeck, international consultants from Washington, which developed the concept of management as itself a technology used to harness and control other technologies. This is a problem area, in that the bright young students who go abroad to do a higher degrees develop skills which turn out to be useless on their return. Further, such people, although bright, are usually technically incompetent, not having had the chance when young to serve their time stripping old cars and radios for bits to put together and modify, as is the norm in the US. They can blossom if assured of technicianship as backup, such as they might get in MIT. Decision-makers are beginning to question the utility of this process......

The Jugoslavs reported on how they are introducing the computer at post-primary school level, teaching the students how to programme in Fortran, with the objective of producing a universally numerate population, for whom quantitative methods will be as familiar as reading and writing...... Professor Siklossy, of Texas, launched a scathing criticism of the university curricula in the developed countries, taking a position akin to that of the Washington group above.. He developed a case for a specially tailored Masters thesis, with a modest practical research on a problem relevant to the developing country, but on the campus of the host university in the developed country(1). He comes out against the PhD, on the grounds that it tends to generate a hypercritical and somewhat 'prima donna' mentality, which shows up in the approach to practical problems subsequently. Implicitly he says 'come to Texas and do our MSc'. There is no reason why we should not say 'come to Dublin' in the same way. We would first, however, have to show that we were able to generate a problem-orientated MSc tradition. Our problems would be closer to theirs than would be the Texans.

....I must also mention a paper by A Remili, who is responsible to the Algerian Government for the co-ordination of the Institutes of Technology. Speaking in French, he outlined how they had overcome the problems posed by the withdrawal (practically overnight) of some 50,000 key technological workers, which took place in 1962. These people had taken an elitist position and were not prepared to take out Algerian citizenship, which of course they could have done.

In the colonial environment, technological education was looked down upon by those Algerians who were in a position to get education; this compounded the problem. The response of the revolutionary government was to set up immediately something like our Regional Colleges, and to ensure that they interacted closely with industry, using the 'sandwich course' concept, with the industrial stage under the supervision of college staff, who also acted as consultants to the industry.

This paper was supplemented by one from M Bourras, who heads the computer institute at Oued-Smar, near Algiers..... developing an education philosophy with drop-out possible after one, two or three years, and with the possibility of return after a period of industrial experience (recycling). Like the Jugoslavs, they are aiming at universal familiarity with computing, via the secondary schools.

Professor M A Cuenod, of Geneva, one of the conference organisers, and a world-figure in the field, was generous in his praise of the Algerian approach, suggesting that the developing countries should use it as a model. (We should note, in passing, that this educational philosophy is being developed in the NIHE in Limerick..... why I wonder did it take us so long after 1921 to realise this need?)

August 22 1973

Continuing the saga of the Algiers IFAC/IFORS conference..... I consider now the eight papers by natives of developing countries: two from Cuba, one from Algeria, three from India, one from Egypt and one from Brazil.

The Cubans were, as might be expected, young, enthusiastic and totally dedicated to the Revolution which had given them their chance of getting educated. Their problem was how to improve the harvest of sugar-cane, using the computer as a planning-device. They had access to a tiny machine (4086 12-bit words, developed in Havana University) which required programming in low-level language....

Firstly Rene Martinez produced a mathematical model which made use of the known agrotechnical properties of the sugar-cane to plan a five-year cropping cycle by a 'dynamic programming' technique. In this he ran into the usual difficulties: lack of records, suspicion from sugar-mill managements etc. Then Martinez together with Antonio Diaz produced a computer model of the rail system used to transport the sugar to the mill, with a view to working out an optimal strategy taking into account the transport constraints.

This, while seeming 'old hat' or even primitive to operations researchers in the developed countries as regards the techniques used, was done infinitely more competently than an external consultant would have done it. The latter would have scorned the potential of the Havana computer, and would have been unable to identify the local management problems, becuase of the language/culture gap.

Thus the merit of the Cuban work was that the problem, technique and resources available were well matched. Instead of screaming for a larger computer, they got on with the job, cutting it into digestible pieces.

This cannot be said of the paper by Alessandro Polistina, who is Professor at the Ecole Polytechnique d'Architecture et d'Urbanism at el Harrach, Algiers. This consisted of a sophisticated mathematical formulation of the urban planning problem, leaning heavily on 'gravitational' ideas currently fashionable among US and British academics, and on the classical techniques of linear programming. It is likely that the more sophisticated the theory, the more remote it is from application. Urban planners in developing countries would do better if they avoided the high fashion in academic planning models and simply looked to their home ground, which is full of relatively small problems, demanding quick solutions. The search for a mathematical optimum is a waste of time.

For example, a partial solution to the urban traffic problem in the Eastern part of Algiers city would be simply to use the railway in suburban mode. This isn't done because Algiers is the capital, and all long-distance trains, whether to the East or West, by tradition start and end there. Yet Algiers is at the northern end of a north-south spur, some way from the main-stream of the railway system, which is basically east-west along the coast, but passing inland behind the city due to high ground. It would cost relatively little to put in a mainline 'Algiers Junction' and have a frequent shuttle-service along the spur. You don't need a computer to see this, stuck in a traffic jam in a sweltering bus on the road to el Harrach, counting the hours between the trains on the grossly under-used railway which runs parallel to the blocked highway.

Similarly, P P Subherwal, from India, produced a mathematical manpower planning model for the whole of India, based on the census....

I now turn to the category of papers which describe work done in a developed country, such that the authors deemed it to be of interest to the developing country market. We might hope to find here examples of unity of theory and practice, close interactions with decision-making processes, such as was beginning to be displayed in the Cuban example, but in a more evolved manner. We would, unfortunately, be disappointed.

The Hungarian economic planners had a rather verbal description of their system, which, on the face of it, looked interesting, in that there was explicit allowance for uncertainty; there were control loops; the unit was the single enterprise; there were regional and national co-ordinating centres. Despite this, there were illuminating admissions; even though they had been at it for years, with State support, they still have the problem that the statisticians' view of the world is different from that of the planners. Those whose job it is to collect data seldom supply it in a form suitable for use. Much of the lag-time in planning is due to the need to re-structure data, or to go to get it specially.

The Czechs contributed a dynamic computer model for production scheduling. This was quite abstract and academic; I doubt if it had ever touched a factory in reality..... There was a French/US contribution on power network planning, with a random element in it.

_ The Finns contributed a description of a computerised control-systeem for a paper-mill.....a good ad-hoc industrial on-line computer application, rather similar in philosophy to the system developed by M J Walsh for the Irish Sugar Co and reported at the 1970 IFIP conference (International Federation of Information Processing: there are, I feel, too many of these over-specialised international federations, all independently 'rediscovering the wheel'. Developing countries should, I feel, try to pool their knowledge in these related fields, and be prepared to organise to pick the brains of the international specialists, instead of establishing national specialist coteries to affiliate to each of them separately)...

A further Hungarian paper formulated some differential equations for a pipeline network and discussed the problems connected with solving them in real planning situations on the computer. I again got the impression that this was an academic study; phrases like 'the programmes described here may be used indirectly for planning pipeline networks' suggest to me that in Hungary there exists the same situation with which we are familiar here: an academic theoretical elite away out ahead of reality. I got the same impression from two further papers from Poland and the USSR, both on hierarchical, multi-level, multi-horizon systems of industrial control. Plenty of elegant formal mathematics, but no evidence of implementation.

This happens to be the field that I currently know best; I am sceptical because I know that the variables associated with real problems can only rarely be forced into neat, generalised categories. Each problem defines its own set of hierarchical variables, in a peculiar structure, which then proceeds to dominate the analysis of the problem.

A further paper from the USSR by N S Rajbraun on industrial quality control in mechanical engineering showed some signs of implementation, though again the mathematical formalism tended to dominate the argument.....

I preferred the ideas in a paper from the US by Stephen Kahne of Minnesota (one of the conference organisers). Although the problem treated was not in itself relevant to the developing countries (the location of a zoo in a US city), the methodology he used for dealing with 'fuzzy' variables, which did not lend themselves to neat mathematical modelling, had considerable relevance.

To summarise the didactic element of the conference: the examples used by the teachers showed evidence of a lack of awareness of the existence of a cultural gap; the key effect of the conference, had it been confined to this didactic mode, would have been to strengthen the isolation of the technological elite of the developing nations from the problems of their own people, and to enfold them in a cosy, cosmopolitan ivory tower, where a theoretical solution, if correctly formulated, is the end of the matter.

August 29 1973

..I now come to the largest class of projects: those carried out by citizens of developed countries in developing countries, without participation of any citizens of the latter, except possibly in a low-grade role, or as information-source. These were mostly what economists call 'infra-structural': transportation(4), water resources(3), electricity(2). There were also four agricultural, one nutrition, and one each on engineering maintenance, health and community behaviour.

A University of Oregon group had developed a simulation model of the Venezuelan cattle industry, with which the effects of policy changes directed at improving productivity could be predicted. The principal new factor was the introduction of cultivated pasture. Traditional and modern herd statistics could be predicted convincingly for a 25-year period.

This is important work; these techniques are currently being explored in our own Agricultural Institute, which has been engaged in export consultancy work in developing countries (eg Libya).

A paper by Dr F Taylor of Ottawa described verbally the impact of British-inspired policies on Kenya.. A devastating picture emerged of decline of nutritional standards, modified by unco-ordinated policies of which the consequences were usually unrelated to the intentions of their formulators. Here was a commendable attempt to be self-critical by a someone with British roots; the discussion however shrank from the basic question of land tenure. This paper constituted a clear case for the development of valid economic models to predict the complex effects of policy changes, but made no explicit move in that direction, as the Venezuelan study noted above had done.

Dr Taylor is a geographer who is conscious of the need for quantification. He deserves credit for coming and stating the problem in the way he did. Perhaps Raymond Crotty's 'Irish Agricultural Production' is the best Irish analogy to what Dr Taylor attempted to do for Kenya....

A paper by Jaques Verceuil, of the FAO in Rome, described an application of linear programming to the optimal allocation of resources in the development of the 'new lands' in Egypt (ie those reclaimed as a result of the Aswan High Dam project). In this the resources allocated to the 'old lands' are taken into account. Although the basic formulation is linear, any type of non-linear demand curve can be used. (There is a similar 'new lands' problem on the horizon in Ireland: the cutaway bog, which will end up as large holdings of State-owned land, with considerable productive potential....)

A paper by Dr Ian Carruthers, of Wye College, outlined the problem of rural water in Kenya. Surprisingly, capital shortage is not the problem; the difficulties are human and administrative.... Much of the difficulty appears to arise from dependence on relatively large contractors and on the State machinery(2). The possibility of 'do-it-yourself' schemes does not appear to have been considered. This seems to reflect the way in which colonial administration continues with metropolitan thinking, practice, standards etc, despite the possibilities presented for independent thought and action. I have referred previously to the slow development of group water schemes in Ireland because of the imposition of urban standards; group schemes could have been established in the 20s and 30s making use of the same technology as was available to the ascendancy to service the big-houses. Once you adopt the convention that you don't drink the water, and train the children accordingly, it all follows easily. Less than 1% of water used is actually drunk directly by humans. This quantity could easily be either boiled or carried from a well.

The Kikiyu, incidentally, used to brew beer. This both sterilised the water and provided vitamins. One of the sad stories in Dr Taylor's paper is the suppression of this by State and Church, with consequent adverse effects on nutrition standards.

A transportation study of the whole Algerian road and rail network by E C Emerson and others, from a British consultancy group, was apparently a competent piece of work.....I understand that some Government ministers were present and participated heatedly in the discussion.... a further study by Yves Monnantreuil, of the Lyons applied science institute in France, involved a simulation model of the harbour at Annaba, with associated rail siding system and rail link to the metallurgical complex at el Hadjar. This had been used to explore bottleneck conditions under various planning assumptions.

Most of this work was competent and well adapted to the problem avoiding unnecessary complexity. The missing link however is the hand-over procedure; because there is no native participation the option does not exist of handing over to the client an on-going analytical system, or a project with development potential......

September 5 1973

It is appropriate that this final section of the Algiers conference report should coincide with the above(3) critique of the new National Scince Council scheme..... I can see many parallels between the policy which I have been promoting for the university-industry link and the structure of some of the more successful co-operative projects reported at the conference...

There were eight projects involving personnel from both developed and developing countries, which I now summarise briefly.

A survey of management and technological problems in Egypt by K H Hamza (Cairo) and M H Hamza (Canada) (brothers?) came up with recommendations for plugging the technicianship gap, improving university-industry contacts etc..

Kan Chen (Michigan) and Harold Hoelscher (Bangkok) called for the construction of approximate economic models to illustrate the Rostow 'economic take-off' process; models that they had constructed were able to predict the existence of a 5-6 year 'lag-phase' during which growth processes were getting ready but no visible growth was occurring. Bacteriologists should appreciate the analogy. Aid programme administrators should therefore be able to look beyond this horizon. This generated some critical comment; many questioned the standing of US conventional wisdom, and Rostow in particular, in this matter.

Belshaw, Bjorlo and Shah (Nairobi) developed a hierarchical model for planning rural development. They are a mixed team of geographers and electrical engineers, none with roots in Kenya, but considerable field experience. They did little more than state the problem; they pinpointed the main problem area as 'local participation at community level'. The missing link in the system is a regional management under the control of a co-operative producers' committee, but they did not seem to be aware of this as a possibility, being in the British paternalist tradition.

Biesel, Hoelscher and Shah described a model of a soybean oil extraction system which used theoretical principles borrowed from the chemical engineers, but in a pragmatic manner, with technical details of processes played down and the basic economic characteristics of the process-elements highlighted. Specific plant investment projects could thus be analysed. This is a useful approach; I know it works, having used it myself. However in this case there is no evidence of any interaction with the local soybean plant managers, although they acknowledge that they got help from the Indiana soybean people. Contrast this with Martinez and his Cuban experience, where a communication problem with the local plant managers existed even within a single national culture. I suspect that the Pittsburgh people when in Siam seldom moved far from the Bangkok campus.

Dr Major of MIT described a regional planning scheme for water in Argentina.. Although he alone had his name on the paper, I include it in the 'co-operative' group because it was associated with a stay at MIT by six young Argentine professionals, who take back with them the ability to run the planning model on computers available in Argentina. There was considerable joint field work by MIT staff with Argentine professionals.

It looks to me that this might be a nearly successful example of technology transfer. I have however some doubts, on the grounds that the Argentine participants might develop into a local elite aspiring to an MIT standard of technical sophistication, way out in advance of the immediate local needs. I think if this bridge were to be built with an intermediate type of country, like Ireland for example, the transfer might occur more effectively, and with less danger of elitism.

A further Bangkok paper described an approach to.....solid waste management in Asian cities. Rural dwellers have long-established habits of scattering rubbish and expecting the environment to absorb it. Such habits in an urbanising environment are catastrophic. The authors (Frankel and Ouano) developed a simulation model for predicting costs of various truck, crew and route systems. Raja Rao and Dr M G Nair presented an approach to air pollution in urban planning appropriate to the Indian environment.....

An intensive and competent study was reported by a joint Swiss-Algerian team (Benkhelifa, Coidan, Cuenod, Scharlig) on the location of cement factories in Algeria. In this case there is little doubt that the analytical techniques used will remain effectively in Algeria in the person of Benkhalifa.....

Some studies by academics from developed countries.....which use macro-economic statistics and expect the multivariate analysis package to do the thinking should be dismissed as rubbish....

To summarise: I think it should be feasible for us in Ireland to develop schemes in the Major/Cuenod tradition. When in Algiers I discussed this intensively with some key people in government, education and industry. I found a very positive response, thanks to the legacy of the Swiss collaboration, which appears to be in the lead for this mode. However on return to Ireland I ran into the cold blast of the local environment. We haven't yet demonstrated our expertise in technology transfer on our own home market.. Who are we to be purporting to be helping others?

In straight consultancy and in technology-based hardware, our State companies are very much alive. I have already mentioned AFT and the Libya project. Austin Bourke of the Meteorological Service has considerable international standing, for decades, as a consultant on potato blight. The Bord no Mona people have been selling expertise abroad to Pakistan, Finland and the USSR on peat technology.. The Sugar Co has been pioneering beet harvesters. Aer Lingus has had know-how export contracts with Algeria, Malta and elsewhere. Cara, their computing subsidiary, is also in the export market to Europe and Africa.... Private firms such as System Dynamics are exporting software consultancy.

The weakness in this process however is in the field of personnel in the client country. To fill this last and most important link in the technology transfer chain we need a scheme which pulls in the academic system, linked with a problem-orientated MSc programme.

The graduate taking such an MSc programme should be from the client country, where the MSc project problem should originate and be specified. There could usefully be a parallel problem in the host country, with the MSc supervisor involved in a consultancy capacity. There should be money in the budget for some field work in the client country.

The graduate on completion should return to his country with the embryo of a solution to his problem with him, for subsequent independent development in the problem environment, close to the decision-process concerned.

We could do this in Ireland as an export trade, if we were to structure our own academic-industrial links appropriately(4). I have already suggested how this might be done. With a quick decision from the NSC to clear the field for 1973-74, we could be giving problem-orientated training to young African technologists by 1974-75. Instead of exporting our own brains, we could be keeping ours and developing other peoples'. Over now to the NSC!

November 21 1973

I attended the World Peace Conference in Moscow (October 25-31) along with various Irish journalists, trade unionists and people from political and cultural groups. Various aspects of the conference have been ably treated elsewhere by Donal Foley, John Mulcahy, Proinnsias Mac Aonghusa and others. The central theme as I saw it was an excercise in diplomatic initiative on the part of Brezhnev, whereby he attempted to convey to the peoples of the world a simple message, without garbling by the type of diplomatic code that is in use among governments.

The simple message was: let us try to transfer resources from the arms race into technological and economic aid to the development of the Third World. The basis for this transfer of resources has been laid in the Soviet-US strategic arms limitation agreement, the treaties between the USSR and the German Federal Republic, etc. In a sense, the 'cold war' can be said to be formally at an end; the need for peaceful co-existence between States with differing social systems is being universally recognised.

Against this background it was particularly interesting to participate in the work of the conference commission on 'economic, scientific and technical co-operation'. This was one of 14 different commissions into which the 3000 delegates split.

I noted particularly the contribution of Professor Robert Heffner, who is Director of a Peace Research Project in the Department of Psychology, University of Michigan. He suggested that the time was now ripe for the academics who are engaged in research on the question of peaceful resolution of conflict to start interacting creatively with the activists who are working politically for peace(5). The narrow ideological boundaries which had in the past made the former dismiss the latter as 'lefties' were now in process of demolition. Likewise, peace activists should be prepared to admit that research programmes in an academic environment had a positive role to play, and should be encouraged by finance and co-operation.

'Peace' in the Heffner sense means peace between the Great Powers, in such a way as to allow normal politics to develop. This, in the third world, sometimes inevitably involves armed resistance, as indeed emerged elsewhere in the conference, notably in the commission on national liberation. The attention of peace researchers in the US has also been drawn to Vietnam, so that modes of scientific thinking (eg theory of non-zero-sum games), applied originally in an East-West context, are being seen to be relevant in the third world.

Another American at Moscow was Winston Riley, who was at Dublin last year for the IFORS conference(6). Now at Geneva with the ILO, he was at Moscow with the Swiss group, representing the Quaker interest. He had previously been chairman of the Washington DC chapter of the Operations Research Society of America. There was also Professor Davidson of MIT, who is currently a long-term resident in Moscow as a guest of the Academy of Sciences; this is one of the fruits of US-Soviet 'detente'. So altogether there was heavyweight US participation, both in the conference as a whole and in the particular commission in which the writer was involved, matched by equally heavyweight Soviet participation....

Turning now to the discussions in the Commission on Economic, Scientific and Technical Co-operation, there were about 50 participants.....

A Bangla-Desh delegate castigated the irrelevance of fashionable academic science for developing countries; a Chile delegate called for a ban on all technical support for the junta(7). A Portugese delegate made a similar call(8), with reference to the repression in Angola and Mozambique. He faces jail on his return, if caught.

The Finns were critical of what they called 'discriminatory economic integration of certain capitalist countries', meaning the EEC. The Indians were critical of the type of third-level education that they had inherited, with its academic and Western bias. Various Africans were looking for means of adapting scientific discoveries to the needs of developing countries.

The writer's contribution was to identify a possible path or mechanism for technology transfer...involving internediate nations as brokers. Readers of this column will recall that when I discussed this problem in the context of the Algiers conference last May, I remarked that the best contributions, in practical terms, came from small developed nations, like Finland or Switzerland.

I now take up this idea in the context of one of the recommendations of the Commission which emerged from our discussions at the Moscow conference: the 'Centre for Technical Co-operation' under UN auspices. The basic elements of the concept which the writer promoted, and got support for, are these:

1. Choose an intermediate nation on the periphery of the advanced-technology world which suffers from 'brain-drain' and has pockets of economic underdevelopment. Suitable candidates are Ireland, Canada, Scotland etc.

2. Establish, in close contact with a university or college of technology, a Third World Institute which would act as a training-ground for young graduates in the scientific approach to third-world problems.

3. Develop a system of training through problem-orientated MSc projects, with socio-techno-economic content, backed by formal lectures and seminars to fill gaps left by specialist primary-degree backgrounds.

4. Take in a mixture of graduates from home and third-world, developing a team approach to project work.

5. While using problems in the local 'pockets of underdevelopment' as 'laboratory material', the prime attention should be to problems from the home-countries of the guest-students, sponsored by an enterprise or organisation. There should be a job awaiting the guest-student on his/her return, in the environment where the problem has been defined; their project work should be a step towards the solution, so that the momentum of the work should continue on the home ground.

6. Develop a stong language-teaching facility, so that the people in the 'intermediate country' would get an appropriate third-world language, as well as the guest-students getting English.

Is it too visionary to expect our Government to look for UN money to set up such a centre here(9)? Could we not, instead of exporting our graduates, export training and technology?

July 17 1974

I have in the past stressed the potential positive role which can be played by Irish scientists and technologists in the solution of third-world problems.....(and proposed) a theoretical formula whereby Irish universities and colleges of technology might combine graduate training programmes in relevant skills with export consultancy by graduate staff in appropriate problem-areas.

This type of export activity would be equalitarian and democratic, rather than elitist in the imperial tradition. We would not be selling hardware and keeping control by building the maintenance-work into a mystery; we would instead be selling the training of third-world personnel in problem-solving. We would be countering the unhealthy 'brain-drain' tradition whereby the third-world elite aspires to specialist academic distinction in Europe or the US; we would try to teach them to invent their own jobs and break through their native bureaucracies. The latter sometimes fear the development of a native corps of competent technologists who know their jobs.

This view, I believe, is shared by the United Nations, a body which has ceased to make headlines in Ireland, though its positive activities continue.

The Sixth Special Session of the UN General Assembly is taking place this week. On the agenda is a 'Declaration on the Establishment of a New International Economic Order' and associated 'Programme of Action'.

This seeks to support the actions of the raw-material producing nations in establishing policies independent of the multinational corporations, and recognises that the key resource necessary to the developing nations, for the establishment of this independence, is trained personnel of native origin.

The World Peace Council(10), which has its headquarters in Helsinki, has taken on the task of popularising UN initiatives, by spreading knowledge of them internationally through non-governmental organisations. The Irish Peace Group, which is their local communication centre, drew this UN session and its significance to my attention.

July 31 1974

...I return to the question of the role of the scientist in relation to third-world problems. The stimulus this time is an article by Professor K R Bhattacharva, of India, in 'New Perspectives' ( an international publication of the World Peace Council) which raises a number of interesting dilemmas for scientists and technologists in the developed countries. Basically, his message is....'don't waste your time attempting to develop 'aid' programmes, even 'genuine aid' programmes.....the social and economic forces in the world are such that (you) have absolutely no way of providing genuine aid to the underdeveloped countries. Development of the latter must be carried out, however hard and harsh the road, by the natives by their own efforts....(you must) unmask the true face of 'aid'....fight the basic philosophy in (your) own society which sanctifies the exploitation of man by man....'

To back up his point he illustrated the working of the present system in India, which is characterised by the following features:

1. Research in Western-style institutes grafted into India is completely isolated from the production system.

2. The production system, which is largely foreign owned, takes its technology from the parent organisation abroad..

3. While the lack of skilled manpower is officially lamented, engineers and scientists who are produced remain unemployed or else emigrate.

4. Higher education, secondary education and primary education get priority in that order, despite 71% illiteracy.

5. India, a protein-undernourished country, exports protein-rich feedstuffs to the developed countries for animal-feed, ie for wasteful conversion to animal-protein.

6. R and D institutions remain as ornaments to provide jobs for the children of the rich, or to provide services to some of the enclave-industries.

Professor Bhattacharva makes the case for the development of a dispersed technology at the intermediate level, close to, and interacting creatively with, traditional production systems.

Readers of this column will note the similarity of the above to the arguments which I have been developing in relation to Ireland. The Indian situation is more extreme than the Irish, but there are significant parallels in Ireland to every one of Professor Bhattacharva's points.

Those of us who see it this way have the following problem: do we interpret his advice as advice to us (ie do we identify with the French, British or American scientists who have goodwill towards the third world and who participate in the 'aid schemes' which he condemns?), or do we identify with his position and echo his advice, suitably adapted, to the expatriate expert who comes to work in Ireland?

There is a significant difference: the expatriate expert in Ireland is usually working for a multinational corporation, rather than as part of an 'aid scheme'. Ireland is not 'third world' as far as aid schemes are concerned....indeed, we have various aid schemes to the third world which possibly qualify for condemnation on Professor Bhattacharva's terms.

If, however, we do succeed in identifying with his position, is there then perhaps scope for exchange of experience between developing countries, with Ireland accepted among their number? Can the poor not help the poor?

July 22 1975

It has been evident for some time that most if not all of the State-sponsored bodies have a manpower planning problem, as the cohort of initially-recruited staff ages. This can have very negative effects on the career prospects of younger recruits, and can lead to internal tensions and disillusion on a grand scale.

There is evidence that the State and semi-State agencies are becoming aware of this; the ESB has been following up actively the 'export knowhow package' market pioneered by Bord na Mona and Aer Lingus. There is an embryonic group called DEVCO, with which SFADCO(11) is associated, which looks like becoming a useful pool of exportable knowhow experience gained by the activities of the semi-State bodies.....

An analogous process has already been developed by British Rail, which in 1970 established a subsidiary called Transmark for exporting consultancy services in rail technology to developing countries. Brazil is to invest 2,000M pounds over the next five years in railways, and Venezuela, currently without railways, is to build a 4000 km network.

Transmark has done work for CIE in evaluating the feasibility of suburban rail electricication.

Profitability of the domestic rail system is, of course, not necessarily a good measure of the expertise of rail system engineers; there are spurious elements in the traditional costings of transportation systems which are beginning to be recognised and consolidated into a rational system of subsidies. Transmark clearly enjoys a high international reputation; this suggests that CIE, if engaged in the DEVCO process, would need to carve out an ecological niche for its services without competing with the BR subsidiary.

To my knowledge the strongest area of CIE exportable expertise is the analysis of urban road passenger systems, for which unfortunately they they still appear to be fighting a losing battle on the home market, so that there is no credible 'shop window'. All the more reason for Dublin public transport users to unite and press for a proper system of public vehicle priorities, so that CIE losses can be cut, and an acceptable service provided. CIE public transport skills cannot be exported unless they can demonstrate a creditable performance on the home market.

December 9 1975

I referred on October 28 to an 'alternative technology' conference in Bradford which looked as if it might make a bridge between the philosophers and the organised redundant workers of Lucas Aerospace ltd. This took place on November 15-16. I have seen the conference documents; there is also some feedback via the New Scientist of November 20.

] It seems that the hoped-for bridge-building did not take place, at least in the form intended. The Lucas Shop Stewards Committee, which had taken the original initiative in writing around to the 'alternative technology' people for ideas, was put off by the relative lack of response, and particularly by the insistence of the Bradford conference organisers of the need for 'management-worker synthesis'... The Lucas workers, understandably, did not feel happy about sitting down with the same management that was planning their redundancy.

The non-attendance of the Lucas workers, however, had the effect (according to the New Scientist) of polarising the 'alternative technology' conference into the 'well-heeled drop-outs with aspirations to play at being an idealised peasantry' (on the one hand) and those who accept that 'alternative technology' has a potential positive role to play in providing jobs for redundant workers, on the other.

The Lucas Committee plan, however, is positively forging ahead. One result is the prevention of the sacking of 167 workers in the Hemel Hempstead factory, who had been producing industrial ball-screws. A new market was detected and tapped as a result of the committee initiative.

Products envisaged in the Committees's plan include: integrated energy systems for houses, fuel cells burning hydrogen (enabling solar energy to be tapped and stored), fail-safe braking systems for buses, airships, hybrid vehicles (having small petrol engines and energy storage by battery to cope with the acceleration load)(12), devices for the disabled etc.

The philosophy of the Lucas workers is to accept that it is useless to demand public money for the continuation of the same thing.... If public money is to be pumped into an ailing high-technology firm, the public ought to be able to see something socially useful emerging.

January 13 1976

I met Peter O'Brien, an expatriate Irishman on the staff of UNCTAD (the United Nations Committee for trade and Development) at Geneva, who was here last week on a fact-finding mission. He will return, as there are many positive elements in Irish technology which might make Ireland a candidate for the siting of a 'Transfer of Technology Centre' under UN auspices.

The precise picture is not yet clear, but there is a need for people in developing countries to get a training in problem-solving which makes use of relevant technology, enabling them to take investment decisions without depending on the advice of the hardware-suppliers.

There are vendors of Irish technology, mainly in the State-sponsored bodies, where there is a good track-record in this field. Aer Lingus, Bord na Mona and the ESB are all in the knowhow export market, training being in all cases a part of the package. I suspect that the UNCTAD concept would be likely to involve linking this with the third-level education system. This step has to date not been taken by the State bodies concerned, largely (I understand) because the 3rd-level system has managed to project an image which is not business-like. This needs to be bourne in mind when specifying 'Technology Transfer Centres'.

I referred last week(13) to a rather weak export image projected by the Irish 3rd-level system in the 'European University News'. This image will undoubtedly be strengthened by a glossy NSC production entitled 'Ireland-Science and Technology' edited by Dr W K Downey. This covers systematically all the universities, colleges of technology, institutes and agencies where work of relevance to science and technology is going on, with photographs and shop-window statements by responsible authors in each institution.

This publication establishes the NSC with an important role in the development of an export-marketing agency for 3rd-level education in Ireland(4). This process must be viewed as a generator of jobs for graduates in Ireland, or based in Ireland with spells abroad....


1. This formula was subsequently adopted by Professor F G Foster of the TCD Statistics Department and implemented in the form of the 'Systems Development Programme', supported in part by the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs. The programme has UNIDO recognition.

2. The writer attended the UN conference on Renewable Energy in Nairobi in August 1981. Arising from this he attempted to get going some joint Irish-Kenyan work involving postgraduate training of engineers in renewable energy systems, the central concept being the multi-source small-scale local renewable energy centre (1MW or less). The proposal foundered on the rock of the conventional wisdom that energy schemes should be large-scale. People seem to have forgotten that in the developed countries small-scale local schemes preceded the national grid, were good training-grounds for electrical technicians, and tied up little capital.

3. See Chapter 1.1 (Science, Technology and the State) on this date.

4. There now exists an inter-college co-operative body, HEDCO, which is actively promoting the export of 3rd-level education knowhow. It works closely with DEVCO (see note 11). Its largest contract to date (1983) involves setting up an engineering faculty in the University of Jordan.

5. In the Irish microcosm, those of us who have attempted to get support for a political approach to the resolution of the Anglo-Irish conflict can in a sense claim to be the analogues of the 'peace activists' in the Heffner sense. Theoretically, the associated 'non-zero-sum game' structure of the problem is somewhat more complex than the East-West version; there are many more groupings involved, not the least being the English people, who are paying through taxation for the present repression. It is, however, quantifiable, and I put in an application for support for a research project along these lines to the National Science Council some years ago.. Needless to say I heard no more about it. So peace research, on an academic scientific basis analogous to what is going on in the US, Sweden and elsewhere, does not exist in Ireland. I can claim to have sown the seed. There has recently been started a School of Peace Studies associated with the Jesuit centre at Milltown Park, Dublin; this however lacks a science/technology dimension. (A 'zero-sum game', by the way, implies that there is always a winner and a loser. A 'non-zero-sum game' implies the possibility of a co-operative strategy to gain a benefit; in the case of many participants, it implies the possibility of various types of alliance developing. There is an extensive mathematical theory, amenable to use in computer simulation.)

6. See Chapter 5.2 (Scientific and Technological Information) on 5/3/70 and then on 6/9/72.

7. The CIA-financed overthrow of the democratically-elected government of Allende had just taken place; his widow took part in the conference.

8. At this time Dr Salazar was still running Portugal as a Fascist state in the style of the 20s. In an aside in the column, the writer pointed out the danger of developing technological relations with Portugal, as the IIRS was then doing in the pharmaceuticals field through the work of Dr Arni. Such relations, had they developed, would have destroyed in embryo our good standing as a source of 'technology transfer' to the third world. We would have been dealing with a nation which had earned opprobrium as a perpetrator of old-fashioned colonial repression.

9. Ireland has not yet managed to pull in any UN-financed international service (with the exception of publishing through Tycooley).. The type of technology transfer service envisaged is taking place through HEDCO and DEVCO-initiated activity, without focussed UN recognition. The enquiries of Peter O'Brien (see 13/1/76 in this chapter) never bore fruit. The writer in 1979 carried out a small feasibility study for FAO around the concept of technical centre for software development to service the needs of the international network for information on the genetics of the main food crops. There are many similar opportunities for Irish initiatives to provide prestigeous specialist services of this type.

10. This body, which was inaugurated in 1949 by Bernal, Joliot-Curie and others in a vain attempt to halt the development of the cold war and the nuclear arms race, has been forced by default into a posture of apparent subservience to the Soviet line on most issues. The 1973 Moscow conference and the associated period of 'detente' gave it an opportunity to broaden its basis of support in Western Europe, and emerging as a genuinely interactive east-west forum. Regrettably it cannot be said to have been wholly successful. The inaugural meeting was held on April 20 1949 in the Salle Pleyel in Paris. There were 2198 delegates from 72 countries; a further 251 delegates whose entry had been blocked by the French Government met in parallel session in Prague. By this time 'peace' had become a 'dirty word' and the World Peace Council (which believed in organising people in large numbers to block from below war-like activity by governments) was generally regarded as some kind of Red conspiracy. By 1967 however the WPC had achieved recognition by the UN as a non-governmental organisation with consultative status. Now when they want to meet in Paris, they can meet in the Senate-house with the blessing of the French Government, and without having the entry of delegates blocked. This is one measure of the decline of cold-war politics; it was, at least in 1973, possible to discuss problems of technology and the third world without being unduly bedevilled by east-west politics. In 1983 regrettably the situation is visibly worse, thanks to Reagan and the re-deification of the arms race.

11. Shannon Free Airport Development Co.; this was the first of the semi-State bodies to promote actively the export of knowhow. Its experience in this field led to the setting up of DEVCO, to service knowhow-export from the State sector as a whole, under the chairmanship of Brendan O'Regan.

12. See Chapter 3.1 (Engineering and Manufacturing) 25/8/71. The hybrid vehicle concept has been around for some time. It deserves more attention than it has got.

13. See Chapter 1.3 (The Educational System) 6/1/76.

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