The Role of Technology in National Development

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FEATURE

The Role of Technology in National Development

Emmanuel O. Egbogah

Executive Chairman Emerald Energy Resources

F

rom the beginning of time, man has strived to improve his way and quality of life. The caveman discovered how to make and use tools, developed a logical sequence for activities, and evolved processes that added value to his life. The totality of the use and application of his knowledge, skills, tools, and materials constitutes what we today describe as “technology.” If natural instinct directs us and compels the application of technology for the well-being of man, why is it that all humankind has not exploited this in equal capacity? Technology plays a fundamental role in wealth creation, improvement of the quality of life, real economic growth, and transformation in any society. For example, the United Kingdom and France benefited tremendously from the industrial revolution in the 19th century, and the United States emerged from an agrarian economy into an industrial superpower in the 20th century. Taiwan and Korea became industrialized countries by exploiting advances in silicon microelectronics from the early 1960s. Most recently, China and India have emerged as industrial leaders in manufacturing and information technology, respectively. All of these countries invested quite heavily in people and factories, and their successes were based on carefully designed plans and strategies. Unfortunately, in many, if not all, of the nondeveloped (or “yet to develop”) countries, technology is viewed as a consumable item, not something that can be produced or created. Technology is the primary engine of economic growth and provides the key to unlocking any country’s potential. Hence, countries that want to develop must invest significantly in science and technology. This is achieved by developing the talent, the human capacity required to compete in a globally competitive world.

THE CASE OF MALAYSIA

In the early and mid-1990s, the E&P subsidiary of Petronas, the national oil company of Malaysia, began rapid growth and expansion in domestic and international operations in line with the national development imperative. It therefore became necessary to emphasize the role of technology in the company’s core business. A long-range strategic technology plan was drawn to ensure that the company was constantly 10» Society of Petroleum Engineers

and consistently applying selected new and proven technologies that could add value to the company’s business. It was the dawn of new technology thinking in Petronas—an era of technology-driven business efficiency and value creation. The company aimed to design a strategy that would enable it to close the technology gap with other companies and sustain its value-creating technology level. It was necessary for the company to nurture and develop managers who were able to recognize the benefits that technology possesses, the communication skills needed to transfer technology, and the knowledge of the status and culture of the organization. It also was necessary to draw up a comprehensive, long-range technology plan for Petronas identifying where it was, where it was going, and what technology it needed to help it get to its destination. This roadmap would be seamlessly integrated into the Malaysian National Business Plan that had the objective to “develop a national business plan to identify and advance competitive industries.” The result of this process was a technology mission statement crafted in terms of a comprehensive, documented, project-driven technology plan. Technology can be assessed in terms of its type (base, key, pacing, or emerging) and position (dominant, strong, favorable, tenable, or weak). A comprehensive assessment of the level of technology in

Petronas was carried out by experienced managers and senior line staff during 1993–94. The results indicated that the company’s mission should be to apply base and key technologies and try to...
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