Can a nation get smarter by using smart technologies?

The potential of nations — how successful they may be — is largely determined by just three factors: geography, demographics and technology. How well the nations achieve their potential is largely dependent on only two factors: economic policy and political culture, for they dictate how talent is gathered and developed to deliver success for the nations.

Technology is a major enabler of success. It can overcome geographical limitations. It can turn the table on destabilizing demographics, whether it be a population with low literacy, or an aging population. Technology allows a “leap frogging” over the barriers created by geography or anthropologised by demographics. Thus it has a particular importance for developing countries, which need not be constrained to follow the same developmental path as today’s developed countries, but can instead leap frog with the emergence of new, more efficient and more effective technology applications.

The subject of emerging technologies for emerging markets offers critical insights and opens unbounded possibilities on what developing countries can become, and how they can speed up to get there. To anticipate these emerging technologies is to position a nation well for the unfolding opportunities. This is what makes this reference book for business and technology particularly significant and useful.

The authors have uniquely focussed their research on the things hoped for, but are as yet unseen. Their discourse looks at the current and postulate towards the future. The result is a book which is immediately useful for those whose focus is to create the future rather than take incremental steps from the present. It is for those who want to move early and quickly, and to do it not in a haphazard manner but with thoughtful understanding and purposefulness.

The discourse can be read from many aspects. From the education standpoint, the smart technologies discussed follows an education track often referred to as STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics. These are the important subjects to be taught at schools, and to be inspired by teachers, to ensure economic progress in rapidly developing countries. The knowledge of STEM sets the foundation for real goods and services to be produced.

From the technology innovation perspective, the book introduces low-cost ways to deliver most basic and necessary services to society. This idea rests on frugal innovation, an appropriate terminology for emerging economies, where capital is scarce and the risks are high. Yet this is not a book on theories of technology. It dives immediately into applications of technology using frugal approaches to empower communities for a sustainable society. The focus of the technology applications is on education, health and financial payments, which are the most critical enablers for developing countries to create opportunities for improving the lives of their citizens.