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Role Of Knowledge And Technology In DevelopmentEdit
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A thesis submitted to the faculty of San Francisco State University In partial fulfillment of The requirements for The degree
Master of Arts In International Relations
San Francisco, California
May 2005 Copyright by Ricardo Valverde 2005 CERTIFICATION OF APPROVAL
I certify that I have read Role of knowledge and technology
in development by Ricardo Valverde, and that in my
opinion this work meets the criteria for approving a thesis
submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the
degree: Master of Arts in International Relations at San
Francisco State University
Raymond Miller Professor of International Relations
James Quesada Professor of Anthropology ROLE OF KNOWLEDGE AND TECHNOLOGY IN DEVELOPMENT
Ricardo Valverde San Francisco State University 2004
Technology is widely considered one of the major engines of development, both outside
and inside the field of development. Development interventions make use of specific
types of technology to reach their goals. In many cases several technological solutions
are considered, and then one of them is selected. This thesis is concerned with the
decision-making process regarding the choice in development interventions: when is the
decision made, by whom, and following what criteria?
The study examines first the general planning and evaluation of development projects and
second the appraisal of alternative techniques as described by major actors in the field of
development. To illustrate the application of the general principles, the thesis reviews a
set of reports on actual World Bank projects in the energy sector. The results of the study
show that the economic perspective is still by far the most important in the appraisal of
development interventions, and that a serious consideration of technological alternatives
is often missing.
I certify that the Abstract is a correct representation of the contents of this thesis.
__________________________________________ ________________ Chair, Thesis Committee Date ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
I would like to thank Professors Ray Miller and James Quesada for
their guidance, especially during the last stages of the completion
of this work. Also thanks to Professor Stanley Bailis for a
wonderful class and the imprint of interdisciplinarity it left on me.
And thanks to Professor Glenn Fieldman for her encouragement
Finally, and most importantly, thank you Natalia for walking with
me all this time, and for poking me when it was necessary.
Para Jesús, Ester, y Ariadna. Es su futuro lo que nos estamos
v TABLE OF CONTENTS
LIST OF TABLES ...................................................................................................... viii
LIST OF FIGURES ...................................................................................................... ix
2. Technology, Society, And Development .............................................8Edit
Knowledge, technology, power and development ................................................8
Definition of technology......................................................................................11
Development and the field of development.........................................................12
Main Framework .................................................................................................15
3. Development Interventions ....................................................................45Edit
What is a development project? ..........................................................................46
Project Cycle .......................................................................................................48
Stakeholder Analysis ...........................................................................................54
4. Choices In Development Interventions: ProjectEdit
Analysis And AppraisalEdit
Continuing with our search for answers to the three questions regarding the choice of
technology in development interventions –when, by whom, and following what criteria—
we will look into how projects are appraised, what are the tools and techniques used, and
the criteria for the selection of one solution among several alternatives.
Planning and managing projects: Objective Oriented Project Planning and
the Logical Framework
Before looking at the assessment processes and techniques, let us look briefly at the
methods commonly used for project planning and management. There are two main
approaches that are often used complementarily: Objective Oriented Project Planning
(OOPP) and the Logical Framework.
Objective Oriented Project Planning (OOPP)
The Objective Oriented Project Planning approach was originally conceived by the
German aid agency (GTZ), and is often referred to by its German acronym, ZOPP. It
helps in the generation, organization and development of ideas for projects by providing a
systematic way to work with them.
OOPP is centered on the problem situation and helps with the elucidation of its
causes and effects. The method is designed to achieve the definition of the objectives of a
project with the involvement of the direct beneficiaries, improving the communication 76
among the actors involved and trying to integrate project planning and implementation.
OOPP includes four major steps explained below.
- Participation Analysis
This first step consists basically in what was described in the previous chapter as
stakeholder analysis. All the actors –individuals, groups, institutions, etc— involved one
way or another in the project are identified, categorized, and their interests, degree of
importance and of influence regarding the project analyzed.
The participation analysis allows the identification of potential conflicts among
parties involved, and the definition of a strategy of participation for all the stakeholders.
- Problem Analysis
The second step includes the identification of the major problems and causal
relationship among them –causes and effects. First, there must agreement on what the
central problem is, which will be stated as a negative condition. From there a tree will be
built with all the ramifications of causes and effects as shown in Figure 7 below,
reproduced from NORAD’s handbook for objective-oriented planning (NORAD, 1990).
It is important that the causes and effects tree is built with the maximum consensus
from all the stakeholders involved. The visual relationship between the core problem and
its causes and effects helps determine specific measures that might be taken to solve the
problems identified. 77
Figure 7: Problem tree in Objective Oriented Project Planning
- Objectives Analysis
The third step is the generation of objectives from the analysis of the problem tree.
NORAD recommends the transformation of the problem tree into an objectives tree by
restating the problems (negative statements) as objectives (positive statements) to be
achieved. This process basically transforms the cause-effect relationships into means-
ends relationships, generating a hierarchy of objectives and a desirable future, which will 78
be reached when the problems are solved. It is necessary to review the final objectives
tree that has been generated using this process to ensure that in every means-end
relationship the stated means are realistically sufficient to reach the end.
- Alternatives Analysis
The fourth step in the OOPP is the analysis of alternatives, where all the alternative
ways to reach the set of objectives should be considered. This part is very important from
our point of view since potential technological alternatives would be taken into account
here. This process should be done as early as possible in the project planning process,
definitely during the identification and formulation phases, in order to give all the
alternatives a fair chance of being chosen.
According to NORAD’s handbook on OOPP, the analysis is done by identifying
alternative means-end branches in the objectives tree that can lead to the achievement of
the goals. The list of alternative branches should be generated and discussed with the
participation of as many stakeholders as possible in order to assess whose interests would
be affected and how by going through one path or another.
Once the list of options has been generated, a first filter will eliminate those with
undesirable or unachievable objectives, and those with objectives that are pursued by
other projects in the area.
In order to select the best alternative, NORAD recommends that the following
criteria are always used: 79
- Total cost
- Benefits to priority groups
- Probability of achieving objectives
- Social risks And suggests some other criteria that might be used:
- Technical: Appropriateness, use of local resources, market suitability, etc.
- Financial: Costs, financial sustainability, foreign exchange needs, etc.
- Economic: Economic return, cost effectiveness, etc.
- Institutional: Capacity, capability, technical assistance
- Social/distributional: Distribution of costs and benefits, gender issues, socio-cultural constraints, local involvement and motivation, etc.
- Environmental: Environmental effects, environmental costs vs. benefits (NORAD, 1990).
The assessment of the different alternatives and how well they do vis a vis the above
mentioned criteria should lead to the selection of the best project strategy.
The next step defined by NORAD in its handbook for OOPP is the completion of
what they call project matrix (PM). This is the name NORAD uses for their particular
adaptation of the commonly used Logical Framework, described below.
The Logical Framework was originally designed for the US Agency for International
Development (USAID), independently from the OOPP. Nevertheless, its ability to
synthesize in a very systematic way the main components of a development project,
avoiding the all too common confusions between means and ends that took place under
the OOPP approach, led to its adoption and adaptation by many of the most important 80
bilateral agencies. NORAD, as many others, uses OOPP and the Logical Framework in a
complementary fashion (NORAD, 1990).
The Logical Framework is based on a four by four matrix, an example of which is
provided by Potts as reproduced in Table 10 (Potts, 2002: 32).
Table 10: Logical Framework Matrix
The column on the left contains the main information about the project obtained
from the final project tree. The first row –the highest level— is the program or sector
goal, what NORAD calls the development objective. The second level is the purpose of 81
the project, or immediate objective, which is the contribution of the project to the overall
The third level lists the specific outputs generated by the project; these expected
results should make possible the achievement of the immediate objective. According to
NORAD, the project management should be able to guarantee the outputs of the project,
but the actual achievement of the immediate objective is beyond their direct control.
The fourth level, according to Potts, is that of inputs. It includes resources such as
goods and services required for the execution of the project, as well as activities that must
be undertaken. NORAD’s version includes two different rows, a fourth level for activities
and a fifth level for inputs— goods and services.
The second and third columns of the Logical Framework are one of the keys of its
philosophy. There must be a way to measure, to obtain feedback, at different stages of its
implementation, in order to know whether the project actually works as planned. It must
be possible to know if the goals are being reached, the expected outputs generated, and
the necessary inputs obtained. This will allow the adjustment of the project as it unfolds
and the learning of valuable lessons for future projects.
The second column lists the Objectively verifiable indicators for each one of the four
levels, that is, means of measurement of the progress of the project. The indicators must
be verifiable, which often means they must be quantifiable. The third column, according
to Potts, is the Means of verification. It basically describes the sources that can be used to
obtain information about the indicators. 82
NORAD would call the second column direct indicators and the third column
The fourth column in the matrix includes the assumptions made about the external
environment of the project. The assumptions are listed at each one of the four levels; they
are necessary for the progress of the project, but are out of the control of the project
management. During the identification and formulation phases it is crucial to assess how
important and realistic the assumptions are in order to know the chances of project
The OOPP and the Logical Framework have been briefly described here with the
idea of providing enough background information to continue with our analysis.
Additional information and details can be found in the references cited above from Potts
and NORAD. In addition to that, a complete example of the use of OOPP and the Logical
Framework in an actual project is provided by Potts in his book Project Planning and
Analysis for Development (Potts, 2002: 38-46).
For the main concern of this thesis, the decisions regarding the choice of technology,
the most important part is the alternatives analysis included in the OOPP. By the time the
Logical Framework is applied, the main strategy of the project has been defined already,
and therefore decisions regarding alternative paths, including alternative technological
solutions, have been made already –although the Logical Framework approach would in
theory allow for adjustments of those choices on the fly. 83
The rest of this chapter is dedicated to the techniques used to evaluate the different
alternatives, to compare their performances with the project objectives in mind, and to
eventually select the best one amongst them.
It is important at this point to notice the difference between the feasibility and
desirability of a project. A specific project is feasible if it is possible to do it, and to
achieve the stated goals in the process. The answer of a feasibility analysis for a project
would normally be either yes –provided the assumptions are true— or no. Some typical
things that need to be checked in order to find out whether a project is feasible are: the
technical design meets the criteria specified and the workforce and management has the
necessary technical skills; the required finance is available and financial commitments
can be met; the environmental impact of the project falls within legal limits; from an
institutional point of view the implementing agencies have the authority and motivation
to perform the roles assigned; from a social point of view the project is acceptable under
existing laws and social norms; the project is consistent with government policies and
plans (Potts, 2002: 48).
If a project is feasible that means it can be done, and the stated main objectives can
be reached. The next question is whether it is desirable or, most likely, whether it is more
desirable than other projects (alternative options) that can fulfill the same stated goals.
All said, oftentimes the line between feasibility and desirability is not clearly defined in
the analysis of a project. 84
There are several common tools or techniques used to assess the desirability –some
of them are used also for feasibility analysis— of development projects. Some of them
are standard tools used in project analysis in general, while others are more specific to
development projects. Some of them are used in virtually every project, while others are
In the next sections of this chapter we explore these tools and techniques having in
mind our interest in decisions regarding the choice of technology.
Cost benefit analysis (CBA) is a tool commonly used for the analysis of the
worthiness of an action –an activity, a program, a project, etc— that requires investment
of some kind (financial or otherwise). It analyzes the current and expected future costs of
the undertaking and compares them with the expected benefits obtained from it, in order
to see if it is worthwhile –benefits should exceed costs. CBA is applied in almost every
development intervention, especially when foreign donors are involved.
CBA can be used to analyze the desirability of a project from the point of view of the
investor –financial analysis— or from a wider regional or national perspective –economic
analysis. The latter is the case in the analysis done for development interventions, where
CBA is used to analyze the project from an economic perspective. Nevertheless, as we
will see below, some adaptations allow for the inclusion of some social and
environmental questions into CBA. 85
CBA typically starts with the calculation of cash flows for every year of the expected
project life. Typical benefits for commercial projects come from revenue sales, while
typical cost categories include investment costs, cost of operation –fixed and variable
(tied to the output level)—, and working capital –capital tied and necessary for the
normal operation of the project, like stocks of raw materials or finished products in a
production facility. The difference between benefits and costs for each year of operation
is the net benefit.
All those values, since they occur in the future, have to be converted into equivalent
present values (time value of money) using a common tool of accounting and financial
analysis, the discount factor (based on the concept of compound interest)7. The discount
factor has to be estimated for each project, and is typically close to the estimated cost of
capital –the interest rate— in the country of implementation –at least for commercial
All the benefits and costs are converted to present values (PV). The difference
between present values of benefits and costs is called net present value (NPV), and is
7 Any decent book on project analysis, accounting, or financial management can be consulted for detailed information on concepts like discount rates, Net Present Value (NPV), Internal Rate of Return (IRR), etc. See for example Potts or Heitger Lester E. Heitger, Pekin Ogan, and Serge Matulich, Cost Accounting, 2nd ed. (Cincinnati, Ohio: College Division, South-Western Pub. Co., 1992), David Potts, Project Planning and Analysis for Development (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Pub., 2002).. 86
used to assess if the project is worthwhile –a positive value indicates that discounted
benefits exceed discounted costs.
Another typical value used to evaluate the worthiness of a project is the internal rate
of return (IRR). It is the rate at which the present value of benefits and costs would be
equal (NPV=0). A project would be worthwhile if the IRR is bigger than the estimated
discount rate. Other instruments of investment analysis are often used, such as cost-
benefit ratio (CBR) and sensitivity analysis.
The details about the calculation of all these values and its specific use are beyond
the scope of this thesis. Nevertheless, it is important to understand that for the CBA
analysis to work, all the benefits and costs of a project have to be measurable, and
translated into monetary terms. This is normally possible for commercial projects such as
for example a textile production facility, but it is not the case in many development
Some of the problems of using analysis of commercial profitability –CBA
calculation of benefits and costs at market prices— in development projects were
described in Guidelines for Project Evaluation (1972), an excellent work published by
UNIDO (United Nations Industrial Development Organization) –rather old now, but not
outdated. These include:
- Dealing with distributional issues: market prices do not adequately represent social
- Externalities: negative such as pollution or positive such as workforce training from a
- Consumer “surplus”: the difference between what consumers are willing to pay and
what they actually pay
- The calculation of the rate of discount – the authors talk about a social rate for
development projects that often differs, is smaller, than the commercial rate of
discount based on the price of money (Dasgupta, et al., 1972: 22-24).
The authors of UNIDO’s guidelines acknowledge that the problems arise from the
use of a tool, marginal analysis, which is based on a theory –neoclassical theory— that
“justifies, even deifies, commercial profits as an index of social as well as private
welfare” (Dasgupta, et al., 1972: 244). Although they disagree with the relevancy of
neoclassical theory in social issues (or at least they did in 1972), they still proposed the
use of a modified version of the tool, marginal analysis, in their methodology of social
In their proposal the values that in the neoclassical model are determined in the
market place –prices— should be estimated by the project or national level planner,
therefore correcting market prices to reflect social values –shadow prices—, including the
consideration of distributional issues and merit-want questions –such as the preference
for alternatives that require less foreign exchange. Different weights would be assigned to
income generated by different groups or regions, compensating those that are
disadvantaged. Put this way it sounds easy, but the authors themselves recognize that the 88
problem with this approach is to find who will “bell the cat” (Dasgupta, et al., 1972: 247).
According to them, it should be the political leadership that assigns the weights, but it is
not likely that they would do it. Therefore, they propose a bottom-up approach where it is
project formulators and evaluators who should take the initiative and propose weighted
alternatives on a case by case basis to the politicians, and force them to make political
decisions having those weighted alternatives in mind, therefore taking responsibility
instead of shielding themselves with the argument that decisions are made based only on
technical grounds. Nevertheless, this kind of proposal would not have many defenders
nowadays in the mainstream, although it would certainly appreciated among supporters
of ecological economics such as Herman Daly (Daly, 1996).
More recent works by Potts and White (Potts, 2002; White, 1998) offer several
proposals to account for project benefits not realized through sales revenue. Both Potts
and White cite the example of an infrastructure project such as road improvement, in
which benefits can be calculated through savings in vehicle operating costs (Potts, 2002:
185; White, 1998: 325). Similarly, for an energy project where one source of energy is
substituted for another, such as households using electricity as opposed to kerosene for
lighting, benefits from the project can be partly obtained from savings in the cost of the
old energy source. If there is no energy substitution, but instead an improvement in the
electricity grid that leads to increased energy use, the benefit can be calculated through
consumer surplus: the value to users of the good or service provided over and above what
they would have been willing to pay (Potts, 2002: 179). 89
In all the examples cited above, the project benefits are calculated in monetary terms
and therefore, leaving aside the question of the adequacy of the monetary estimation, can
be included in the standard cost-benefit analysis. But what happens in cases where it is
not possible to assign a monetary value to the benefits?
For example, in water supply and sanitation projects, health projects, and education
projects, it is very difficult to assess the benefits in monetary terms. When benefits from a
project take the form of health improvements, there are approaches that assign a
monetary value through the calculation of loss of earnings from sickness and premature
death, or a direct monetary valuation of human life. These methods are controversial and
not often used.
For improvements in education the human capital approach is sometimes used
(Potts, 2002: 195). The monetary value of education or training is calculated through an
estimation of the difference in earnings between somebody that has received the
education or training, and somebody that has not. This approach is very difficult to apply
in practice –requires a lot of data over an extended period of time— and is not applicable
when the connection between the education or training and the level of earnings is not
clear, such as in primary and secondary education projects.
When monetary values for benefits are difficult or impossible to obtain, non-
monetary indicators are suggested. For health benefits it is possible to measure mortality
rates and morbidity rates. Common indicators used include years of life gained (YLG),
healthy years of life gained (HYLG), and disability adjusted life years (DALY) (Asian 90
Development Bank, 2000: 45-53). Indicators for general education benefits include
number of years spent in school –controversial because it does not measure the outcome,
how much is learned—, and measures of literacy and numeracy.
However, these nonmonetary indicators cannot be used in the standard cost-benefits
analysis. A different tool of economic analysis is used with them, called cost-
effectiveness analysis (CEA). CEA can be used when there are two or more alternative
ways to achieve a set of goals. In this situation CEA facilitates the comparison of costs
and the level of achievement of goals amongst them, leading to the selection of the best
option. Costs are calculated as in CBA, but benefits (effectiveness), are derived from the
There are two approaches to CEA. In the first one the tool helps figure out which
alternative obtains the most effectiveness –let us say the bigger value of HYLG— for a
fixed cost. In the second one the idea is to see which alternative offers the lowest cost to
achieve a fixed effectiveness –for example a predetermined value of HYLG. Good
explanations and details about CEA can be found in English (English, 1968) and
Fabrycky (Fabrycky and Blanchard, 1991).
Recent works on the subject such as Potts’ do not offer much new with respect to the
old UNIDO guidelines regarding the consideration of distributional issues in the cost-
benefits analysis of projects. Proposals to deal with them include the disagreggation of
benefits and costs into relevantly chosen groups of stakeholders –for example unskilled
workers, farmers, landowners, etc –and a subsequent political evaluation of the results; or 91
the assignment of different weights to the benefits and costs of different groups, which
involves a mostly subjective judgment (Potts, 2002: 272-82).
In summary, the commonly used tool of CBA is very powerful for the economic
analysis of development projects, but it is necessary to recognize that it is limited to just
that: economic analysis. Although it is able to incorporate to some extent distributional
questions, the validity of the distributional analysis obtained that way is often questioned.
Besides, not all social questions involved in a development intervention have to do with
We have seen that cost benefit analysis cannot be expected to do more than an
economic assessment. This section discusses how social issues can be brought into
judgments about development interventions. Terms such as social analysis or social
impact assessment are commonly used by organizations involved in development to refer
to the analysis of how people affect, and are affected by, development interventions.
In its Social Analysis Sourcebook (2003) the World Bank defines five “entry points”
that should be used to structure the social analysis work in development interventions:
social diversity and gender; institutions, rules and behavior; stakeholders; participation;
and social risk (World Bank, 2003). This work includes a socio-cultural “mapping” of the
population affected by, and affecting, the project: how people are organized into different 92
social groups, based on ethnicity, clan, gender, locality, language, class, or status; what
are the public and private institutions, norms, values, behavior, and formal organizations.
Part of that information can be provided by previous studies at the level of the
country, the region, or specific sectors –ESW (Economic and Sector Work). The rest of
the information is related to the particular development intervention and should be
collected specifically for it.
According to the World Bank’s manual on participatory tools and techniques the
main questions explored in the social analysis of a particular intervention are:
What will be the impact of the project on the various stakeholders, particularly women and vulnerable groups? Are there plans to mitigate adverse impacts?
What social risks might affect project or program success?
What institutional arrangements are needed for participation and project delivery? Are there adequate plans to build the capacity required at the appropriate levels? (Rietbergen- McCracken, et al., 1997: 20)
Figure 8 below has been reproduced from the World Bank’s manual and represents
the different steps of the social assessment process according to the Bank. The first step
of course is to know who is affected by the project and who can affect the project. This is
what we call stakeholder analysis and was described in the previous chapter. 93
Figure 8: Social Assessment process according to the World Bank
Once the main actors are known social factors must be identified, that is, the relevant
social issues that may affect or be affected by the project. At this stage it is necessary to
gather information about the affected population, including economic and social data and
more qualitative information about social structures, cultures, and stances towards the
Some of the important issues to have in mind are: distributional issues, including the
effects of the project on the incomes of different groups, and the definition of the groups
themselves –considering not only income level but also variables such as gender, social
status, and ethnicity; motivations of the different stakeholders and potential conflicts;
consideration of the effects on the most vulnerable people; institutional structure,
including roles, degree of authority and legitimacy, and allegiances to stakeholders. 94
Participation and public involvement are very important for a proper social
assessment. There is no way to analyze the social impact of a development intervention
without interaction with the affected population. Especially during the data gathering
process local involvement is key for obtaining relevant and meaningful information.
The data collected should then be analyzed and used to develop plans for the
intervention. According to the Bank’s manual, these plans should be developed in
consultation with stakeholders, which for the Bank means discussing the findings with
the affected people to “ensure that conclusions and recommendations are appropriate”
(Rietbergen-McCracken and Narayan-Parker, 1998: 23). Although the Bank emphasizes
the importance of participation all over in its document, it seems to use a very limited
interpretation of it, meaning consultation but not empowerment.
Other authors suggest that the information gathered be used in conjunction with
potential alternatives that had been identified –recall the alternatives analysis included in
OOPP and described earlier in this chapter— and together with stakeholders find the best
option and define potential mitigating actions to minimize negative effects (Potts, 2002:
295). This seems to be a more open and flexible approach than the one suggested by the
Another tool often used is the Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA), a set of
participatory approaches and methods that focus on local knowledge and the participation
of local people in the gathering of information, appraisal, analysis and planning for
development interventions. It has been used since the 1980s by organizations involved in 95
development, first NGOs and later multilateral and bilateral agencies. PRA techniques
are used today in a variety of settings, not only rural, and include group animation and
exercises to facilitate information sharing, analysis, and action among stakeholders,
allowing local people, government officials and development professionals to work
together. PRA is widely used for social assessment, and it is specifically recommended
by the World Bank. More information about PRA can be found in the following
references (Chambers, 1992; Rietbergen-McCracken, et al., 1997; Theis, et al., 1991).
The review of social analysis in development interventions presented in this section
is mainly focused on World Bank procedures, and it is good as an example of how the
major bilateral and multilateral aid agencies deal with the social dimension in
Although –at least on paper— there is obviously an effort by the World Bank and
other major aid agencies to seriously take into consideration the social issues surrounding
development interventions, one still has the feeling that while economic analysis is
consistently and systematically applied, and used as criteria to decide whether a project is
worthwhile undertaking, social analysis seems to be less crucial and often used only to
refine projects the worthiness of which has already been decided. In the next chapter we
will look at some factual information from World Bank documents and other sources that
supports this impression. 96
One very important aspect to consider in development interventions is the
environmental dimension. What are we referring to? Any development intervention, any
project for that matter, does not take place in a vacuum. It takes place in a specific
“environment,” which broadly understood would include all types of conditions
encompassing human activities. In the field of development environment is commonly
understood as either the social and natural conditions, or only the natural conditions.
There is an on-going debate as to whether social and natural environments should be
considered together or separately. Leaving that discussion aside, since the previous
section has already covered the consideration of the social aspects surrounding
development interventions, this section will focus on the natural –biophysical—
There is already a long history of analysis of environmental impact. The first
legislation on Environmental Impact Statements came from the US government in the
early 70s under the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA 1979) with the
intention of applying it to all major new development and construction projects. During
the 1980s many countries formally embraced Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA),
but it was not until the 1990s that many developing countries approved EIA legislation
(World Commission on Dams., 2000: 182).
In the last two decades concerns about global environmental problems such as the
depletion of the ozone layer and global warming, as well as human generated disasters 97
such as Bhopal and Chernobyl have contributed to greater public awareness of
environmental problems in all countries.
In the field of development, major bilateral and multilateral aid agencies require
nowadays some kind of environmental screening in project analysis. The type of
environmental assessment varies depending on the type of project. Roughly, there are
projects the aim of which is some kind of environmental improvement, projects with
goals not related to environmental improvements but with very important environmental
effects, and projects with negligible environmental effects.
The first step in the environmental assessment of a development project is often
referred to as environmental screening –UNEP calls it preliminary assessment (United
Nations Environment Programme, 1988)—, and is intended to give an idea of potential
environmental effects of a project. It often consists of a simple checklist of the most
important factors such as size, location, and nature of the project. Major aid organizations
produce their own checklists8 – for example the British ODA (Overseas Development
Administration., 1996), OECD (Winpenny, 1995), or the World Bank (World Bank.
Environment Dept., 1991).
In most countries nowadays EIA legislation specifies the necessary contents of the
preliminary screening process, which depends on the nature of the project, its size and its
8 UNDP offers a complete list of references at http://www.undp.org/seed/guide/handbook/part3.htm. 98
location, with special attention paid to those interventions taking place in areas
considered particularly vulnerable or fragile.
As a result of the screening process a project could either obtain the green light, if
the effects are considered minimal or negligible, or could be recommended for a full
environmental impact assessment (EIA). The possibility for a project to proceed without
further EIA is normally articulated in the legislation. In the US, for example, a project
may obtain a FONSI (finding of no significant impact) permit, which allows it to proceed
without going through a full EIA, and other countries provide equivalent options. Project
proponents, of course, prefer a FONSI or equivalent path, which is less expensive and
less time consuming.
When a full environmental impact assessment is needed, there are several points that
need to be considered.
- What would be the future state of the environment if the proposed project were
- What would be the future state of the environment without the project?
- What would be the future state of the environment if one of the identified
alternatives (if there are any) were applied instead of the preferred one?
- Assess the magnitude of the changes resulting from the project, whether they are
beneficial, and their importance –this implies some type of measurement.
- Potential mitigation measures in the case of adverse impacts. 99
When a project results in significant environmental impacts the EIA process
normally generates a plan for environmental management and monitoring during the
implementation and post-project.
In order to proceed with the assessment the identified environmental impacts of the
project, both positive and negative, need to be measured and quantified if possible,
including their type, size, range, social and spatial distribution, potential cumulative
effects –e.g. acres of agricultural land flooded or level of noise generated by an
installation in decibels.
Once measured and maybe quantified, environmental effects need to be valued. After
all, negative (and positive) impacts need to be compared with other benefits to be
obtained from the project to decide if it is worthwhile undertaking it. Many of the
valuation methods assign monetary or economic values (easy to compare) to
environmental effects, which is often controversial.
There are several more or less standard procedures in environmental economics,
commonly classified as objective valuation –effect on production, human capital,
replacement costs, preventive expenditure— or subjective preference valuation – hedonic
methods, travel cost, contingent valuation. A description of environmental valuation
techniques is beyond the scope of this thesis. Good descriptions of these techniques is
offered by the World Bank (World Bank. Environment Dept., 1991), Dixon (Dixon, et
al., 1994), or Winpenny (Winpenny, 1991). 100
A more radical approach to the full consideration of environmental aspects is
provided by supporters of ecological economics such as Herman Daly. Instead of
devising ways to incorporate environmental aspects into mainstream economics resulting
in the kind of patchwork proposed by environmental economics, ecological economics
considers economics as a subset of ecology. Ecology studies the energy transactions of
life and the earth, and the human economy is a subset contained in it. Natural capital is
considered at the same level with human-made capital, and both are complementary
rather than interchangeable –lack of natural capital cannot be substituted by more human-
made capital (Daly, 1996). Most of the ideas of ecological economists did not made their
way into mainstream development so far, although many of them were developed and
written by Daly while he was working at the Environment Department of the World
As we have seen so far, requirements and procedures for the environmental
assessment of development interventions are quite extensive and specific in the
legislation of most countries as well as in the standard procedures of aid agencies. The
important question for us is: does the environmental aspect play an important role in the
definition and selection of the best alternative to achieve the development goal of a
specific development intervention?
A look at the procedures for environmental assessment seems to suggest that they are
more likely to be used to generate a binary result (green or red light) to projects that have 101
already been defined and to define mitigation measures to adverse effects, rather than to
be part of the decision-making process that defines the best way to achieve the goals.
In this regard, Adger and Chigume indicate that the institutional set-up of
environmental analysis has traditionally focused on one project and precludes the
consideration of alternative projects –while cost benefit analysis includes this
automatically through the decision criteria of IRR, NPV, etc (Adger and Chigume, 1991).
In a similar vein, the report from the World Commission on Dams (2000), after an
extensive analysis of dam projects that were executed over several decades, points out
that EIA results have no significant influence on the choices made. The report states that
EIA is “not well suited to this purpose as it was meant solely for identifying impacts and
associated mitigation measures rather than as a tool for including environmental and
social considerations in the final project choice and design” (World Commission on
Dams., 2000: 183).
In the next chapter we will look at some factual information about actual projects
that seems to confirm the relatively minor role of environmental assessment in the
definition and selection of the best ways to achieve the goals in development
Other dimensions. Integration of criteria.
The previous sections have presented some of the procedures commonly used for the
assessment of development interventions in the economic –and financial—, social, and 102
environmental aspect. What about the other two aspects presented in our framework
introduced in section two: cultural and political?
These two dimensions are not commonly dealt with separately, but as a part of social
analysis procedures. The World Bank, for example, points out that the social analysis
process “identifies opportunities and constraints arising from the country’s socio-cultural,
institutional, historical and political context and, armed with that knowledge, prepares
strategies that are more effective in achieving the project’s intended social development
objectives to help reduce poverty” (World Bank, 2003: 6).
Considering that the analysis of the cultural and political aspects involved in
development interventions depends even more than the social analysis on the point of
view of insiders, we could take the level of participation by local people in the definition
and assessment of the project as an indication of how much those aspects are taken into
account. The more local people are involved in the definition and appraisal of the project,
the more likely it is that cultural and political issues enter the equation. The next chapter
provides some insight about participation levels by local people in development
Only in the case of indigenous peoples does the World Bank specifically and
separately address the issue of cultural assessment and cultural appropriateness of
development projects. In its Social Analysis Sourcebook, the Bank mentions just once the
question of cultural compatibility of development interventions, when it says that concern
for issues such as indigenous peoples and people displaced through resettlement 103
“underscored the importance of consulting and participating with affected groups, and
helped to shift the Bank’s social concerns toward the culturally appropriate development
of indigenous peoples” (World Bank, 2003: 79).
As for the political aspect, although politics at all levels, from local to international,
is involved in every one of these interventions –especially so when multilateral or
bilateral organizations are present because their main partner is a national government—
political appraisal or analysis is never present explicitly in the appraisal guidelines. As we
will se in the next chapter, the most explicit references to political aspects found in
appraisal documents are quite aseptic descriptions of institutional arrangements.
Integration of criteria
Let us consider now how the different criteria considered in the appraisal of
development interventions can be integrated in order to make decisions as to whether the
project should be undertaken or not, or what would be the best alternative to achieve the
goals. Cost benefit analysis provides normally a numeric value that can be used in the
decision-making process, but other assessments produce results that are not so simple.
Oftentimes the different analyses are made separately and then a trade-off is found
through judgment or negotiation between specialists from different disciplines. Working
this way means that there is no communication between people from diverse disciplines
during the assessment process, the relative importance of the assessments from different
perspectives is not clear, and therefore the final decision might be arbitrary. 104
Some authors (Pelt, 1993; Petry, 1990; Potts, 2002) suggest a more systematic way
to take into account the assessments from the different disciplines, what they call Multi
Criteria Analysis (MCA).
In MCA a set of different criteria to assess a project would be defined based on its
stated objectives, and any foreseeable impacts –even if they are not goals of the project.
All the goals/impacts can be entered into a matrix, where for each one of them it is
indicated if the impact is likely to be positive or negative, who are the stakeholders
affected, whether each particular goal/impact is taken into account in the standard
economic CBA, and the criteria to be used to assess it –specially for those not included in
CBA. For each goal/impact it is necessary to define a scale. Those included in CBA
already have a monetary value assigned, and for the rest a quantitative, if possible, or
qualitative value needs to be assigned. Finally, weights are to be assigned to each
criterium in order to come up with a final value representing the worthiness of the
project. Ideally a value would be obtained for each one of the potential project
alternatives, as well as for the “without the project” option.
Although more systematic, MCA as proposed by these authors still does not solve
the big issues: the definition of a scale for non-quantitative values, and the assignment of
weights, a very subjective process. 105
5. Actual Assessment In The Case Of Energy ProjectsEdit
The previous chapter reviewed typical analysis and appraisal procedures as described
by some of the most important agents in the development field, and how they relate to the
five aspects included in our framework: economic, social, environmental, cultural and
This chapter will shed some light into what kind of assessment is actually done, by
narrowing and focusing the attention on development interventions in the energy sector in
which the World Bank, one of the most important development institutions, was
Analysis of World Bank documents
The idea is to assess the degree of importance given in World Bank interventions to
each one of the five aspects. The assessment was based on the analysis of World Bank
published documents for each one of the interventions included in the study.
The World Bank maintains a public database9 of development projects in which it is
involved. It is organized in several sectors such as education, finance, health and other
social services, industry and trade, etc. The analysis presented here focused on the energy
and mining sector. At the time the information used for the analysis was updated from the
9 World Bank projects database can be accessed at www.worldbank.org 106
World Bank site for the last time, May 2005, the database showed a total of 873 records
of projects under the energy and mining category.
Each project in the database is assigned a status among the following options:
proposed, active, closed and dropped. The analysis was limited only to “closed” projects,
in an attempt to guarantee that all documents related to each project were already
available through the Bank’s site. Limiting the search to “energy and mining” projects in
“closed” status generated a total of 521 records, with approval dates ranging from
December 1984 to December 2004.
There are several types of documents that the World Bank publishes for its projects.
The most common is the Project Information Document (PID), a very brief document that
provides a short overview of the project. Other typical documents are the Project
Appraisal Report (PAR), Staff Appraisal Report (SAR), Environmental Assessment
(EA), Implementation Completion Report (ICR), Resettlement Plan (RPL), or Indigenous
Peoples Plan (IP).
According to the Bank, the Project Appraisal Document (PAD) –Staff Appraisal
Document (SAR) before 1995—includes all the information that the Bank’s Board of
Executive Directors needs in order to approve a project. In the Bank’s web page that
describes the project cycle (www.worldbank.org), it states that in the appraisal phase
Bank staff review the work done during identification and preparation, often spending three to four weeks in the client country. They prepare for bank management either Project Appraisal Documents (investment projects) or Program Documents (for adjustment operations) and the Financial Management team assesses the financial aspects of the project.
After this, during the negotiation and approval phase 107
the Project Appraisal Document (PAD) or the Program Document (PGD), along with the Memorandum of the President and legal documents are submitted to the Bank's Board of Executive Directors for approval. The appropriate documents are also submitted for final clearance by the borrowing government which may involve ratification by a council of ministers or a country's legislature. Following approval by both parties, the loan agreement is formally signed by their representatives. Once this has occurred, the loan or credit is declared effective, or ready for disbursement, after the relevant conditions are met, and the agreement is made available to the public.
Regarding those documents, the Bank says
The Project Appraisal Document (PAD) presents all the information the Board needs to approve Bank financing of the proposal. Before 1999, this document was called the Staff Appraisal Report. The Program Document (PGD) describes adjustment lending operations, and sets out the Bank's appraisal and assessment of the feasibility and justification for the program.
For this analysis only projects, not programs, have been considered – programs are
articulated through several projects after all. Therefore the relevant documents to look at
are Project Appraisal Documents, or Staff Appraisal Reports (as they were called before
Out of 521 “closed” projects in the energy and mining sector, only 127 of them have
either a PAD or SAR publicly available through the Bank’s web database, roughly a
quarter of them. It is not clear whether this low percentage of projects with publicly
available appraisal documents is due to confidentiality or transparency issues, or to lack
of efficiency in the administration of the project’s documents or the public database. In
any case, those 127 appraisal documents, PAD or SAR, constitute the base of this
Aspects assessed in World Bank documents
The documents were analyzed in order to assess how much attention was given in
the analysis and appraisal to each one of the five aspects included in our framework:
economic, environmental, social, cultural, and political. The method used is very simple:
The appraisal documents analyzed range from 30 to 320 pages –typically 80-150
pages—, include 4 to 7 main chapters, and several annexes. The analysis and appraisal
information is provided, normally quite summarized, in one or several of the main
chapters, and more extensively in one or several annexes.
Project Appraisal Documents include one chapter specifically dedicated to project
analysis, called Summary Project Analysis, with subsections for economic, financial,
environmental, social, etc. Relevant typical annexes with more detailed information are
Cost Benefits Analysis Summary, Environmental and Social Impact Assessment
Summary, etc. Appendix 1 shows an example of the table of contents of a Project
Staff Appraisal Reports typically include one chapter called The Project that
describes the project and briefly provides information on economic, environmental and
social analysis. Commonly, another chapter called Project Justification provides
additional analysis and appraisal information, especially from the economic standpoint.
More extensive information is often provided in annexes such as Environmental 109
Assessment Overview, Resettlement Action Plan, or Economic Justification of the Project.
Appendix 2 shows an example of the table of contents of a Staff Appraisal Report.
For each document the number of pages dedicated to economic appraisal or analysis
–mainly cost benefit analysis— was counted, both in the main chapters and in the
annexes. This part was very easy because those pages are very explicit and typically as
separate sections or subsections.
The same procedure was applied to environmental and social appraisal or analysis.
The environmental part is typically covered in separate sections, although sometimes it
appears together with the social analysis. In those cases it was necessary to read through
and calculate the number of pages dedicated to each aspect.
Social analysis pages include specific sections or subsections dedicated to the
subject, pages dedicated to distributional issues sometimes included in the economic
analysis part, sections or subsections dedicated to resettlement when it applies, and
subsections dedicated in some documents to participation or participatory approach.
References to cultural analysis or appraisal were very rare, and when present they
were under Indigenous Peoples or Indigenous Peoples Plan. Those pages were counted
towards the cultural aspect.
And finally, the political aspect. Of course politics at all levels, from local to
international, is involved in every one of these interventions, especially so if we consider
that in most projects where the World Bank is involved its main partner is a national
government. Nevertheless political appraisal or analysis is never present explicitly on 110
these documents. PADs always include a subsection called institutional analysis, while
SARs typically include some information about the institutional arrangements of the
project itself or the context in which it takes place. Although some of this information is
merely descriptive, it was decided to count these pages in the documents as assessment of
the political aspects –giving the benefit of the doubt.
Once the pages for each of the five aspects were counted for all documents, a
percentage was calculated for each one of them. Of all the pages dedicated to analysis or
appraisal, that is, the addition of the pages counted for all five aspects, we calculate the
percentage for each of the five aspects in our framework: economic, environmental,
social, cultural, and political.
Let us say, for example, we have a PAD of 200 pages including 40 pages for
economic analysis, 20 pages for environmental, 20 for social, 10 for cultural and 10 for
political. The total appraisal or analysis pages is 100, and therefore in this example we
would have a 40% of economic analysis, 20% environmental, 20% social, 10% cultural
and 10% political.
These percentages were calculated for all 127 documents –PADs and SARs—, and
the results were averaged for all of them. Figure 9 below shows the results obtained. 111
Political 8% Cultural 0%
Figure 9: average space allocated to each of the five aspects
Clearly the method used can only offer an approximate idea of the relative
importance given to the economic, environmental, social, cultural, and political aspects in
the analysis and appraisal of projects. Nevertheless, the differences among the five
aspects coming out of the analysis are so stark that they do not leave any room for doubts
despite the imprecision of the method.
Figure 9 shows how more than half of the space dedicated to analysis and appraisal
is used for the economic aspect alone. The environmental aspect receives almost a quarter
of all the analysis pages. It is important to notice that the parts of the documents dealing
with environmental aspects tend to be quite wordy because they often include references
and reproductions of a country’s environmental regulations or the Bank’s directives
regarding environmental issues. An important part of the pages dedicated to the 112
environmental aspect deal with measures to be taken to mitigate known or potential
negative impacts of the interventions, and therefore do not really constitute
environmental assessment. They have been included nonetheless.
The social aspect takes about 15% of the total. As explained above, this includes
specific social assessment sections, distributional issues included sometimes in economic
assessment sections, subsections related to participation, and those dedicated to
resettlement. The latter, resettlement, has to do with the mitigation of a negative impact,
Social - Resettlement 32%
Social assessment & distribution 53%
Social - Participation 15%
Figure 10: Detailed break down of the social aspect
The detailed composition of all the pages counted as social aspect is shown in Figure
- As we can see, of the already small 15% allocated to social aspects, about two thirds
can be considered genuinely so, including participation, explicit social assessment, and 113
distribution issues. One third of it is allocated to resettlement, that is, mainly mitigation
measures for negative impacts.
As for the cultural aspect, only an insignificant 0.27%, not even enough to show up
in the graph, is allocated to them. Obviously the cultural aspect is not a major concern in
the assessment of World Bank projects.
The political aspect including, as explained above, discussions about institutional
arrangements, reaches a small 8%.
The results shown so far were calculated giving the same weight to every single
project, regardless of its size. Another calculation was done taking into account the total
amount in US$ committed by the Bank to each project. Instead of simple averages of all
projects for each aspect, a weighted average was calculated using the Bank’s monetary
allocation (i.e.the data from a $100M project is 100 times more important than the data
from a $1M project).
Figure 11 shows the results obtained with this second calculation. As we can see,
there are small differences. The economic aspect still takes about half the space, while the
environmental aspect grows perceptibly. This seems to reflect the fact that bigger
projects, such as dams, thermal power generation plants or oil infrastructure projects,
tend to have more environmental implications (mostly negative) and are subject to more
environmental scrutiny. 114
Political Cultural 7% 0% Social 16%
Figure 11: average space allocated weighted by project's total $ amount
The importance of the social aspect apparently remains almost the same, but a closer
look at the details (Figure 12) shows otherwise. Of the already small space allocated to
the social aspect (16%), only less than 40% of it can be considered genuinely so, while
most of it, 60%, is used for resettlement issues.
This is related to the fact that bigger projects tend to have bigger implications in
terms of resettlement of people. This is especially true for dams, but applies also to power
distribution or oil and gas infrastructure projects. What is important for us is that the
importance given to the social aspect is still smaller than what it appeared to be from a
first look at Figure
The results obtained for the cultural and political aspects with the weighted averages
do not change much from those obtained with straight averages.
Social Assessment and distribution 30%
Social - Resettlement Social - 61% Participation 9%
Figure 12: Detailed break down of the social aspect (weighted by project’s $ amount)
We have seen how the size, in terms of money committed by the Bank, affects the
relative importance of the five aspects considered in the assessment. Let us now look at
whether and how the type of project influences it.
Each World Bank project is assigned a percentage value for each major sector to
which it is related, and to each subcategory within those sectors. Examples of the major
sectors are: agriculture, fishing and forestry; education; energy and mining; finance;
health and other social services; water, sanitation and flood protection; etc.
The energy and mining sector in which we are focusing is divided into six
subcategories: general energy sector; power; oil and gas; mining and other extractive;
district heating and energy efficiency services; and renewable energy. 116
A specific project could belong to only one subcategory, for example 100% power
(energy and mining sector). Or it could belong to several of them, for example: 22%
irrigation and drainage (agriculture, fishing and forestry sector), 9% general public
administration (law and justice and public administration sector), 23% power (energy and
mining sector), 23% roads and highways (transportation sector), and 23% water supply
(water, sanitation, and flood protection sector).
As we know, all the projects analyzed are related to one or more subcategory in the
energy and mining sectors. For each project in our set the percentages assigned to each
subcategory in the sector were gathered, and used to calculate how much, for the whole
set of projects, belongs to each subcategory. Figure 13 shows the results obtained.
Power 23% Oil and Gas
Mining & Other 46% Extractive 5% Heating & Energy Efficiency 10% Renewable
7% Non Energy 9%
Figure 13: Projects assigned to energy subcategories 117
As the graph shows, for all the analyzed projects taken as a whole, almost half are
assigned to the power subcategory, which means power generation, transmission and
distribution systems. This includes mainly big hydropower generation (large dams),
thermal power plants, and power transmission lines (high and medium voltage). The rest
of the energy related part is assigned to oil and gas (basically extraction and
transportation infrastructure), mining and other extractive, district heating and energy
efficiency, and renewable energy (only 5%). Almost a quarter is assigned to other non-
We must remember that these are all the World Bank projects somehow related to
energy for which there is appraisal documentation available. We can already appreciate
here the huge disproportion between the use of fossil fuels and big dams, versus the use
of renewable energy (big hydropower dams are included in the power section, while mini
and micro-hydro is included in the renewable energy section).
In the previous calculation all the projects were assigned the same importance,
regardless of the total amount committed by the Bank to them. A new calculation was
done assigning projects different weights according to the total amount contributed by the
Bank. Figure 14 displays the results. The graph shows how the differences have
increased, since projects in the power subcategory, especially those for power generation,
involve much bigger investments than, for example, renewable energy projects. 118
Power 21% Oil and Gas
Mining & Other 3% Extractive 4% Heating & Energy 59% Efficiency 5% Renewable
8% Non Energy
Figure 14: Projects assigned to energy subcategories, weighted by $ amount
The next step was to analyze the effect that the category to which a project belongs
has in the importance given to each one of the five aspects considered in the analysis and
appraisal process. In order to do this, all the projects that had a significant component of
each category (more than 30%) were selected, and the average percentage of pages
dedicated to each one of the five aspects was calculated again. That is, for all the projects
with more than 30% assigned to the power subcategory, the average number of pages is
calculated in the economic, environmental, social, cultural, and political aspects. Then the
averages for all the projects with more than 30% in the oil and gas subcategory, and so
60 Power 50 Oil and Gas 40 Mining and extractive %
30 District Heating and Energy Efficiency 20 Renewables 10
0 al ic
al ra om
ic t en
lit ul on
Po C Ec
ro vi En
Figure 15: relative importance of the five aspects by project type
Consistent with the results previously shown, the economic aspect is very important
for all types of projects, although it seems to be more so for those mainly related to the
power or the district heating and energy efficiency subcategories.
The environmental aspect is significantly more important in oil and gas, and mining
and other extractive subcategories, probably due to higher environmental concerns and
scrutiny in projects related to fossil fuels.
The results for the social aspect are very interesting. Oil and gas projects give the
least importance to the social aspect, while renewable energy projects give the most,
close to 20%. Renewable energy projects include mostly rural electrification projects
involving distributed (local) generation based on solar systems, mini and micro hydro, 120
biomass, etc. This kind of work inherently needs much more involvement from the local
people than for example the construction of a gas pipeline or a thermal power plant,
mainly managed at the level of the national government.
Cultural assessment is insignificant in all subcategories, and differences in the
political aspect are due basically to the method used for measurement. As explained
above, the pages counted towards the political aspect are those that refer to institutional
arrangements. Those pages are normally present in projects that involve participation of
institutions at a high political level, national or regional. The role of these institutions is
less important in renewable energy projects, and this fact is reflected in the graph.
Assessment of alternatives
So far we have looked at the importance given in World Bank’s project appraisal
documents to the five different aspects of development projects considered in our
One of the key steps of the Objective Oriented Project Planning (OOPP) method,
explained in the previous chapter and embraced by most major development actors,
including the World Bank, is the analysis of alternatives. This process should include the
generation of a list of alternative ways that can lead to the achievement of the goals, with
as much involvement as possible of the stakeholders, and the selection of the best
alternative following criteria based on financial, technical, economic, institutional, social,
and hopefully cultural, grounds. 121
Let us look at whether several alternatives to reach the goals of a project are actually
considered and explained in the Bank’s appraisal documents and, if so, how wide or
narrow is the range of alternatives considered, and how significant the discussion about
All the Project Appraisal Documents – the Bank’s standard appraisal document after
1999— include a subsection specifically dedicated to alternatives, called Project
alternatives considered and reasons for rejection, typically part of the section called
Project Rationale –see Appendix 1 for an example.
Staff Appraisal Reports –pre-1999– do not have a specific section dedicated to
alternatives, and when there is some discussion about them it might be part of the
economic analysis, environmental analysis, a section on the context or the country sector
in which the project takes place, etc.
Using the same method again, the number of pages dedicated to the discussion of
alternatives in each one of those documents was counted. It was found that out of 127
appraisal documents, as many as 36, almost a third, did not include any reference
whatsoever to potential alternatives.
For the rest, the documents that do discuss alternatives, the average number of pages
dedicated to them is about 6.5% of the number of pages dedicated to appraisal including
all five aspects considered above (economic, environmental, social, cultural and
political). When the calculation is made weighting the values for each project with the
total amount committed by the Bank for that project, the value goes down to 5.5%. 122
These numbers are obviously too small to leave the impression that a serious and
thorough consideration of alternatives is done during the appraisal of development
projects. However, it is fair to say that the documents analyzed are to be reviewed and
evaluated by the Board of Executive Directors of the World Bank, and it is probably not
realistic to expect that they would read a lengthy explanation of all the alternatives
considered, besides the selected one.
We could assume that the detailed analysis of alternatives has been done in previous
stages by the teams involved in the preparation of the project, and the appraisal document
is only meant to mention them and briefly describe why they were rejected.
Even under this assumption, only 30 of the analyzed documents, about a quarter of
the whole set, offer a good, albeit brief, explanation of a broad range of alternatives
considered and the reasons why they were rejected. An example is provided in appendix
3 for a household energy project in Chad.
Of all the projects that do discuss alternatives, at least 20 of them do not show a
serious consideration of a reasonable range of alternatives, that is, there could clearly be
other ways to reach the goals that are not mentioned at all. Typical examples are a
thermal power generation project that only considers alternative sites for the plant,
without mentioning other potential sources of energy, or an oil or gas pipeline project that
considers alternative routes, but does not mention other means of transportation for the
fuel, or even other sources of energy in the destination area. 123
Overall we can see that out of 127 appraisal documents, 36 do not include any
consideration of alternatives, and 20 offer a very poor and narrow discussion. That makes
56, almost half of the whole set. As for the rest, 30 of them, a quarter of the total, include
a good discussion, and another quarter are at least reasonable.
Although this analysis leaves us with a disappointing idea of how seriously
alternatives are considered in World Bank project, the situation seems to be improving.
At least the new standard appraisal document of the Bank, the PAD –post-1999—,
always includes a section on alternatives. Something that was not true of the older SARs.
Findings of the World Commission on Dams
Having presented the results of the study of World Bank interventions in the energy
sector over the last 20 years, it is interesting to contrast them with the findings of a huge
and comprehensive study prepared by the so-called World Commission on Dams.
The Commission was created in 1997 with a major objective of reviewing the
development effectiveness of large dams and assessing alternatives for water resources
and energy development (World Commission on Dams., 2000: 30).
An important part of the work of the Commision was an extensive review of the
experience with large dams. The work lasted about two and a half years between 1998
and 2000, and covered roughly one thousand large dams that were built from the 50s to
the 90s. It involved several hundred people representing a wide spectrum of interests
from all sides of the debate about large dams, including government agencies, research 124
institutes, private engineering companies, utilities, bilateral and multilateral agencies
(including the World Bank), NGOs, and dam affected people.
The Commission generated a knowledge base including case studies of large dams,
country reviews, thematic reviews, and a cross-check survey of existing dams, which
provided the basis for their evaluation of the experience with large dams.
Relevant to the study presented here is the Commission’s emphasis on how large
dam projects are appraised, the decision-making process involved, and the assessment of
alternatives for the provision of water and electricity services.
With regards to the different aspects considered in planning and appraisal for large
dams, the Commission found it was only cost-benefit analyses and technical parameters
that were important, while environmental and social impacts were left aside, even in the
The WCD Report (World Commission on Dams., 2000: 175-76) states that
… once a proposed dam project has survived preliminary technical and economic feasibility tests and attracted interest from financing agencies and political interests, the momentum behind the project and the need to meet the expectations raised often prevail over further assessments. Environmental and social concerns are often ignored and the role of impact assessments in selecting options remains marginal.
Specifically, the Report dismisses efforts to incorporate social and environmental
valuation into cost-benefit analysis, and conclude that in the application of CBA “social
and environmental impacts are not valued explicitly or are only indirectly accounted for
through mitigation and resettlement budgets.” 125
While the Commission considers that social and environmental issues are key for a
dam to be an effective development project, their study shows that environmental and
social adverse impacts from large dams were not in general key factors in the decision-
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was adopted officially in many countries in
the 1980s and in many developing countries in the 1990s in order to address social and
environmental impacts but, the Report says, “EIA consists mostly of measures to
compensate or mitigate the planned impacts and render them acceptable when the
decision to proceed has already been taken” (World Commission on Dams., 2000: 182).
The Commission analyzed in a cross-check survey of 105 dams whether they
included economic cost-benefit analyses, financial plans, risk, distributional and
sensitivity analyses. Figure 16 reproduces the graph from the Report showing the results
Figure 16: Evolution of economic and financial assessment for large dam projects Source: Word Commission on Dams Report, 2000
We can see how CBA and financial plans have been widely used since the fifties,
while risk, distribution, and sensitivity analysis are much less common and even in the
nineties they are included only in a little more than 20% of the projects.
The Commission analyzed also the use of environmental and social impact
assessments in the appraisal of the same sets of dams. Figure 17, reproduced from the
Report, displays the results. 127
Figure 17: Evolution of environmental and social assessment for large dam projects Source: World Commission on Dams Report, 2000
As the graph shows, the use of environmental impact assessment increased
throughout the years, although it is still far from universal. Even after the nineties it is
done only in a little more than 50% of large dam projects. It is importance to notice the
vertical axis top value of 60%, as opposed to the 100% shown in the previous figure.
The practice of including social impact assessment is far less common and, although
it has increased steadily since the seventies it reaches less than 30% of large dam projects
undertaken in the nineties.
The results obtained by the World Commission on Dams in their study of large dam
projects confirm and reinforce the outcome of our own study of energy projects. The 128
economic aspect continues to be the main one considered in the planning and appraisal of
development interventions, with the environmental aspect being increasingly included,
although mostly in order to define mitigation measures rather than as an important input
in the decision-making process. The social aspect has very little importance in planning
and appraisal and is mostly used to design mitigation measures related to resettlement of
As for the assessment of alternatives in the planning and appraisal of large dam
projects, the Report states:
Many sectoral planning studies from which projects emerged were narrow technical and economic studies, aimed at least-cost supply solutions for providing a single service such as irrigation water or electric power. When dams were contrasted with alternatives, they were typically only compared to other potential dam projects or, in the case of hydropower, with alternative large-scale thermal power generation options (World Commission on Dams., 2000: 178).
The conclusions of the Commission are partly based on eight case studies carried out
worldwide on big dams using the same methodology and approach, and intended to
provide information on the development effectiveness of large dams. Table 11 has been
adapted from the Report and illustrates the type of narrow consideration of alternatives
commonly practiced and the predominance of economic criteria in the assessment of
According to the Commission, seven out of eight dams included economic criteria in
the assessment (three of them exclusively). Only one of them included environmental and
social dimensions. The political dimension was present in three of them (one of them
exclusively). The alternatives considered regarding the water component of the project 129
were limited to alternatives sites, and in one case alternative delivery methods (irrigation
by gravity or pumping). The alternative for the power component, when considered, was
always thermal power.
The findings of the Commission regarding options assessment also confirm the
results obtained from the study of World Bank energy projects. The consideration of
alternatives to the main option proposed for the project, when it exists, includes only a
very narrow spectrum of options, often having to do only with different locations for the
same kind of solution. 130
Table 11: Examples of analysis of alternatives in large dam projects Source: Word Commission on Dams Report, 2000, p. 178 131
6. Final ConsiderationsEdit
The main motivation for this thesis was an interest in finding the answers to three
questions regarding technological choices made in development interventions. When are
those choices made? Who makes the decisions? Following what criteria?
There is an additional question that was not explicitly part of the first design of the
thesis: what decisions are being made? The idea was to consider first development
interventions in general, looking at institutional procedures as defined by the agents
involved, without any restriction to any specific sector or type of project. But once it
came to the analysis of actual projects, limiting the study to the energy sector, the answer
to this question surfaced immediately.
Trends in development interventions for the energy sector
For the energy sector, let us consider potential choice between energy generation
technologies: fossil fuels, big hydro (big dams), and renewable technologies. As we saw
in the previous chapter, projects in which the World Bank participated in the last twenty
years in the energy field show a disproportionate preference for energy generation based
on fossil fuels or big dams (technologically complex, big investments, centralized
control), and by contrast a very small interest in renewable energy (technologically
simpler, smaller investments, more distributed control).
It is worthwhile to present here some relevant information regarding this subject that
was gathered during the preparation of this thesis from the Creditor Reporting System 132
(CRS online) database of the OECD10, regarding investments by OECD countries in
development aid. The database reports investments in aid activities by OECD members in
developing countries and less developed countries, mainly channeled through bilateral
aid agencies and export credit agencies of each member country, the World Bank, and/or
regional development banks. Data for investments in the energy sector was collected and
organized by year, and by energy generation technology in three groups: non-renewable
(fossil fuels), hydro (big hydro), and renewable (including mini and micro-hydro). Figure
18 shows the results in terms of total investment (in 2002 US$) per year for each one of
the three groups. Figure 19 shows the same results in a different format to clarify the
evolution of total investments per year.
As we can see in the graphs, the results follow a pattern similar to the one shown for
World Bank projects in the previous chapter: a disproportionate preference for big hydro
and fossil fuel based generation in detriment of renewable energy. Indeed the investments
in renewable energy are very much insignificant until 1994, when they appear in the
picture, although still at low levels.
From 1997 until 2000 there is an important decrease in total investments in energy,
which coincide with a steep decline in investments in big hydro projects. This reduction
of big hydro is also noted in the study of the World Commission on Dams, and is related
10 The data was collected on December 2004 from OECD’s CRS online database at www.oecd.org/dac/stats/idsonline 133
to the exhaustion of sites economically suitable for big hydro around the globe –basically
most river areas suitable to be dammed have been already dammed.
Starting in year 2000 total investments in energy start increasing again, but virtually
all growth is in non renewable sources, essentially fossil fuels.
Totals per Year (x1000)
4000000 Non Renewable 3500000 Hydro Renewable 3000000
- Alternatives In An Appraisal Report 154==
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PDF of this Page and Origin of DocumentEdit
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0 1976 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003Edit
Figure 18: Energy investments in developing countries by OECD members ($ amount, 2002 prices) Source: OECD Creditor Reporting System Database 134
Totals per Year (x1000)
8000000 Renewable 7000000 Hydro Non Renewable 6000000
Analysis And Appraisal ..................................................................................75Edit
vi Planning and managing projects: Objective Oriented Project Planning
and the Logical Framework.................................................................................75
Cost-benefit analysis ...........................................................................................84
Social analysis .....................................................................................................91
Environmental analysis .......................................................................................96
Other dimensions. Integration of criteria...........................................................101
5. Actual Assessment In The Case Of Energy Projects .................105Edit
Analysis of World Bank documents..................................................................105
Findings of the World Commission on Dams ...................................................123
6. Final Considerations .................................................................................131Edit
- Alternatives In An Appraisal Report...........................153==
vii LIST OF TABLES
Table 1: Typical stakeholder table for a development project...........................................58
Table 2: Typical participatory matrix for a development project ......................................59
Table 3: Stakeholder Analysis table from TeamUp methodology and
Table 4: Stakeholder table for a private sector population project in Pakistan
funded by ODA...........................................................................................................65
Table 5: Participation matrix for a private sector population project in
Pakistan funded by ODA ............................................................................................66
Table 6: Stakeholder table for Water Supply and Sanitation project funded
by DFID ......................................................................................................................68
Table 7: Participation matrix for a Water Supply and Sanitation project
funded by DFID..........................................................................................................69
Table 8: Stakeholder table for Emergency Sanitation projects..........................................71
Table 9: Participatory matrix for an Emergency Sanitation Project ..................................72
Table 10: Logical Framework Matrix................................................................................80
Table 11: Examples of analysis of alternatives in large dam projects.............................130
viii LIST OF FIGURES
Figure 1: Main framework for Technology and Development..........................................18
Figure 2: Technology and the Economy............................................................................20
Figure 3: Integral view of technology, society and development......................................27
Figure 4: Technology and Power.......................................................................................35
Figure 5: Technology and the Environment ......................................................................42
Figure 6: Baum's project cycle...........................................................................................49
Figure 7: Problem tree in Objective Oriented Project Planning ........................................77
Figure 8: Social Assessment process according to the World Bank..................................93
Figure 9: average space allocated to each of the five aspects..........................................111
Figure 10: Detailed break down of the social aspect .......................................................112
Figure 11: average space allocated weighted by project's total $ amount .......................114
Figure 12: Detailed break down of the social aspect (weighted by project’s
$ amount) ..................................................................................................................115
Figure 13: Projects assigned to energy subcategories......................................................116
Figure 14: Projects assigned to energy subcategories, weighted by $ amount................118
Figure 15: relative importance of the five aspects by project type ..................................119
ix Figure 16: Evolution of economic and financial assessment for large dam
Figure 17: Evolution of environmental and social assessment for large dam
Figure 18: Energy investments in developing countries by OECD members
($ amount, 2002 prices) ............................................................................................133
Figure 19: Energy investments in developing countries by OECD members
($ Total, 2002 prices)................................................................................................134
Figure 20: Energy investments in developing countries by OECD members
(n. projects) ...............................................................................................................135
Figure 21: Energy investments in developing countries by OECD memebers
Planet Earth. 2004 CE. Two robotic explorers arrive and land successfully on planet
Mars after a 6 months trip from planet Earth of about 60 million miles. The president of
the United States announces a new expensive goal of sending human beings to Mars.
Planet Earth. 2004 CE. 852 million human beings, more than 13% of humankind, are
malnourished— a number that increased over the last 4 years. At least five million
children under the age of 5 die a year as a result of malnutrition and associated diseases
(Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2004) .
The belief that technology is fundamental for development, characteristic of Western
modernity, and the pervasive faith in scientific and technical knowledge has inspired the
field of “development” since its inception in the aftermath of World War II. In 1949,
during his first speech as president of the U.S., Harry S. Truman stated:
More than half the people of the world are living in conditions approaching misery… Their poverty is a handicap and a threat both to them and to more prosperous areas. For the first time in history humanity possesses the knowledge and the skill to relieve the suffering of these people … I believe that we should make available to peace-loving peoples the benefits of our store of technical knowledge in order to help them realize their aspirations for a better life … Greater production is the key to prosperity and peace. And the key to greater production is a wider and more vigorous application of modern scientific and technical knowledge.1
Many consider Truman’s speech the beginning of a new era where the industrially
advanced countries of the world would concern themselves with the “development” of
1 President Harry Truman, Inaugural address as president of the United States, 20 January 1949, in Documents on American Foreign Relations, Connecticut: Princeton University Press,
the so called less developed countries (LDCs). More than two decades later, after
American technological prowess had been able to send a man to the moon, then-Secretary
of State Henry Kissinger stated:
For the first time we may have the technical capacity to free mankind from the scourge of hunger. Therefore today we must proclaim a bold objective: that within a decade, no child will go to bed hungry, that no family will fear for its next day’s bread, and that no human being’s future will be stunted by malnutrition.2
Today, three decades after Kissinger’s statement, still many children go to bed
hungry, many families do not have enough food, and malnutrition is a terrible problem in
many areas of the world. Eradication of extreme poverty and hunger is still today at the
top of the international community’s agenda – note the United Nations’s Millennium
Development Goals. What went wrong? Do we not, or did we not yet have the technical
capacity to solve these problems? Or does the eradication of poverty around the world
and the economic and social development of LDCs necessitate much more than just
advanced technical capabilities and scientific knowledge?
This author believes the latter to be the case. It has been argued, for example, that
genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and specifically genetically engineered crops
constitute the technological panacea that, if sufficiently mastered and promoted, will do
away with hunger in the world. Hartwig de Haen, the assistant director general in the
economic and social department of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO),
said in an interview after the release of FAO’s report The state of food insecurity in the
2 Henry Kissinger, World Food Conference, Rome,
World 2004 that "the world in aggregate is getting wealthier and producing more than
enough food … The problem is the access of people to jobs, to resources, to land and to
money to buy food. (Becker, 2004)
This author agrees with Attwood, Bruneau and Galaty, when they assert that
“poverty reduction depends more on the distribution of political power than it does on the
impact of capital, technology or markets."(Attwood, et al., 1988: 10).
Technology by itself will not solve the problem of poverty and hunger, although it is
certainly an important tool that, if used properly, can help the international community,
and practitioners of “development” in particular, in the pursuit of that goal.
Almost any development intervention, whether or not it is related directly to issues
of technology transfer, technical assistance, or technological capacity development,
makes use of a specific technology to reach its goals. This means that at some point any
development intervention chooses, whether implicitly or explicitly, one type of
technology over another.3 For example, in an area where many people suffer from
malnutrition, would it be appropriate to introduce capital-intensive modern agricultural
3 The term “technology” in used in a rather loose manner here, referring to two different technologies as two different ways to reach a goal. If the goal is to provide energy for lighting and cooking in a village, the different technologies that could be used would include a connection to the electricity grid, an off-grid electricity supply such as photovoltaic power or wind power, or wood burning for cooking and kerosene lamps for lighting. Next chapter includes a discussion of the definition of technology. For extensive discussions on the subject read Arghiri Emmanuel’s Appropriate or Underdeveloped Technology? (1982) and Raphael Kaplinsky’s Automation: The Technology and Society (1984). 4
technologies using GMOs for increased productivity, or might it be better to support a
land redistribution program and traditional agricultural techniques supported by irrigation
based on human-powered water pumps?
How and why one type of technology is chosen over another, who is involved in that
decision, and whether there is any consideration given to potential technological
alternatives are the main concerns of this thesis.
There are numerous scholarly works concerning the role technology plays in
different aspects of human life on Earth. Several authors discuss the relationship between
technology and society from historical (Diamond, 2003; Landes, 1999), anthropological
and sociopolitical (Hawken, et al., 1999; Kaplinsky, 1984; Postman, 1992), and
philosophical (Illich, 1973) perspectives. There is a plethora of authors discussing the
importance of technology in developed economies from an economic point of view
(Galbraith, 1985; Galbraith, 1973; Rosenberg, 1982). In the development literature there
is abundant material on the role of technology in developing nations (Emmanuel, et al.,
1982; Escobar, 1995; Schumacher, 1973; Smillie, 2000; World Bank, 1998), and on
technology transfer between nations and its different mechanisms (Katz, 1987; Madu,
1992). Also within the literature on development, many studies address the
appropriateness or adequacy of the technologies promoted and used in developing
countries and the effects of choosing one specific technology over another (Forsyth, et
al., 1980; James, 2000; James and Khan, 1997; McRobie, 1995; Rodd, 1994; World
Water Assessment Programme of the United Nations, 2003). 5
However, the literature is not so abundant in studies that focus on the dynamics of
actual development interventions, on the understanding of the processes involved and the
interactions between the various stakeholders concerned. Most of what is written in this
regard takes the form of internal evaluation reports on projects or programs implemented
by bilateral and multilateral agencies such as USAID or the World Bank and is, therefore,
not readily available. The fact that the pioneer work by Hirschman on analysis of
development projects, Development projects observed (Hirschman, 1967), was reissued
three decades after it was first published (Hirschman, 1995) speaks by itself. There are a
few recent and very interesting works about the subject (Long, 2001; Rodwin, 1994),
although most of them do not specifically focus on the decisions around the choice of
technology and the effects of the choices made. The study Technical knowledge and
development, by engineer and anthropologist Thomas Grammig (Grammig, 2001)
provides a sensitive insider’s view into the subject. A major contribution addressing the
issue is the report Dams and development: a new framework for decision-making by the
World Commission on Dams (World Commission on Dams., 2000) and subsequent work
by the Dams and Development Project of the United Nations Environment Program
(UNEP). Although the report focuses on dams, its findings and conclusions have
important implications for any development intervention where different technological
alternatives might be available. This report will be used as a reference throughout this
There are important questions that need answers. How is it possible, for example,
that even in cases where local authorities had carefully considered the choice of potential
technologies and advocated for those with a set of features which they considered
favorable to local conditions, yet decisions were made by the managers involved in
decision-making to adopt technologies with quite different or even opposed features? The
studies by Bagachwa and James (Bagachwa, 1992; James, 1996) address this specific
question for the grain milling sector in Tanzania. They discuss the influence in
development projects of the bureaucratic interests of local decision-making agencies,
which shift the balance in favor of those projects easier to implement (less effort from the
agency), with bigger budgets and guaranteed financial resources, regardless of the
appropriateness of the technology they use.
This exploration into the internal dynamics of development interventions as regards
technological decisions is very important for those working in the field of development,
especially the more technical people, engineers and economists, who tend to look at them
through “objective scientific” lenses without paying much attention to the complex
sociopolitical and cultural aspects that in fact are crucial for decision-making and in turn
affect the final outcomes.
The present research study looks at typical development interventions involving
large development institutions trying to understand when in their life cycle, from the
moment when they are conceived, the decisions regarding the choice of technology are
made, by whom, and following what criteria. 7
In order to understand when and by whom the decisions are made, the study
examines the procedures regarding development projects described by major actors in the
field of development. Moreover, an examination of the appraisal procedures as explained
by those major actors gives an idea of the criteria officially used for the selection of
technologies. Finally, a review of World Bank projects in the energy sector implemented
in the last three decades provides an insight of the actual criteria used, and some
additional clues as to who is involved in the decision.
This author approaches the study mainly as a learning experience that will let him
acquire a better understanding of development interventions and will guide his future
involvement in the field of development. Hopefully this work will provide some insights
that are useful for current and prospective participants in this fascinating field. 8
2. Technology, Society, And DevelopmentEdit
In order to understand the subject matter of this work, the consideration given to
different technological alternatives in development interventions and the criteria used to
select one over another, it is important to position and visualize the subject in the broader
framework where it belongs. This second chapter provides that big picture framework.
The chapter reviews several perspectives regarding technology and development,
introducing points of view that go beyond the importance of technology for the
development of “less developed” or “developing” countries and discusses also the role of
technology in advanced “developed” industrial societies.
Knowledge, technology, power and development
The author’s interest in the role of knowledge and technology in development was
triggered by the work of Susan Strange and her concept of structural power. Strange
defines it as “the power to shape and determine the structures of the global political
economy within which other states, their political institutions, their economic enterprises
and (not least) their scientists and other professional people have to operate.”(Lawton, et
al., 2000: 8)
According to Strange, structural power rests on four main pillars. Four separate,
although interdependent, power structures: security, production, finance and knowledge.
Regarding this last pillar, knowledge, she contends that “knowledge is power and
whoever is able to develop or acquire and to deny the access of others to a kind of 9
knowledge respected and sought by others, and whoever can control the channels by
which it is communicated to those given access to it, will exercise a very special kind of
structural power”(Lawton, et al., 2000: 51).
What did Strange mean by knowledge? According to her, there are two main aspects
to it. First, knowledge as technology in the broad sense –the application of knowledge to
production, which includes the tacit knowledge necessary to operate production systems
and is embodied in persons and organizational structures. During the twentieth century,
especially the latter part, and continuing to the present, this type of knowledge has been
generated more and more inside big companies, normally transnational corporations,
either through in-house research facilities or operational routines, in a process that
Mytelka calls “privatization of knowledge” (Lawton, et al., 2000: 42). This progression,
together with a substantial expansion of intellectual property rights since the 1980s and
its enforcement through the World Trade Organization, has resulted in a significant shift
of this kind of structural power from states to firms- mainly MNCs from a few
The second aspect concerns knowledge as the base of belief systems. According to
Strange, “technological development is not a sufficient condition for furthering shifts in
the dimensions of structural power. Such shifts can only come about because of a change
in the belief systems that underpin the political-economic arrangements that are
acceptable to a society.” States, through their systems of education, have the ability to
affect perceptions and beliefs. Strange contends that, “there can be little doubt that power 10
[in the knowledge dimension] lies with American universities and American professional
associations.” This portion of structural power would then be shared in a symbiotic
relationship by states, mainly the US, and some significant non-state actors –institutions
of higher education and research, many of which are private (Lawton, et al., 2000: 141).
Regardless of the plausibility of Strange’s model, it gives rise to a lot of questions
about the role of knowledge –both aspects of it— in the development of “less developed
countries.” Do they need to master modern technologies to improve their productive
systems in order to achieve development, or at least economic development? What kind
of technology should LDCs use or master? Current Western technology? Much has been
written about technology transfer, normally implying transference of technology from
advanced industrialized countries to LDCs. But, is Western technology appropriate for
LDCs? Or should LDCs develop and master their own indigenous technology? If some
technology needs to be transferred, what is the best way to do it? What should
governments of LDCs do to ensure that technological improvements enhance the living
conditions of their citizens –presuming that is what they care about? What is the cultural
and institutional context in which modern technology thrives?
Many authors from different disciplines have dealt with these questions. Perspectives
range from the simplistic view that modern Western technology is undoubtedly good for
LDCs, and it is just a matter of finding the best way to “transfer” it, to positions that see
Western control over knowledge and technology as a new form of colonialism through 11
which developed countries continue to control and exploit the Third World. This chapter
offers a review of the different perspectives.
Definition of technology
A note on terminology is necessary at this point. The specific definition of
knowledge and technology is quite controversial. The author would certainly have trouble
trying to define some key terms used in this thesis: knowledge, technology, or
development –and would probably not be alone. However, since the main subject of this
work has to do with the selection of one among several potential technical ways to
provide a solution to a problem, that is, the choice of a technology within a range of
potential alternatives, at least we need to have a common understanding of what is meant
by “technology” in the remainder of this work.
The United Nations, in a 1981 document on technological development referred to
technology vaguely as “a combination of equipment and knowledge”(United Nations,
1981). From a more functional point of view, technology is commonly defined as the
application of knowledge in production. Galbraith referred to technology as the
systematic application of scientific or other organized knowledge into practical tasks
(Galbraith, 1967). The OECD was more specific defining technology as the “systematic
knowledge for the manufacture of a product, for the application of a process or for the
rendering of a service, including any integrally associated managerial and marketing
techniques” (OECD, 1981: 18). 12
As far as the “function” of technology is concerned, the OECD definition is good
enough for our purposes. But with regards to its components the OECD definition is
more problematic because it seems to leave out any hardware. We can complement the
OECD definition with a report from the United Nations Economic and Social
Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) which says that technology consists of
four embodiment forms: object-embodied technology (technoware), person-embodied
technology (humanware), document-embodied technology (inforware) and institution-
embodied technology (orgaware) (ESCAP, 1989).
When we discuss the choice of technology we will have to consider what is the
specific goal for which we need a technology (function). Then it is necessary to identify
all the different technologies that can be used to achieve that goal. Later we need to see
what combination of the four embodiment forms is required by each potential technology
identified. And finally, what is the availability of those components in the particular
setting where the intervention will take place. The comparison between the set of
components required by a specific technology and the availability of those components in
the particular setting should inform the choice of technology.
Development and the field of development
As with the term technology, the definition of development is quite controversial and
certainly not a goal of this thesis. Indeed, it is possible to read extensive academic works
within the field of development studies, including highly recognized ones, without 13
finding an explicit definition of what development is. However, since the term is used
throughout the document, it is necessary to have a word on its possible meanings.
First of all it is necessary to distinguish between the field of development, and the
concept of development as applied to countries, societies, peoples.
Let us start with the easy part. The field of development arguably started with the
end of World War II, about the time when US president Harry S. Truman made the
famous speech quoted at the beginning of chapter one. People felt that nations should
help each other move forward instead of fighting each other. It was the beginning of
development policy, and development became an active word. Development policy
constitutes a deliberate effort, including vision and planning, to help nations that are
considered less developed reach a higher level of development.
When the field of development is mentioned in this thesis, it refers to actors,
structures, processes, etc., related to this deliberate effort: development policy.
And now the difficult part: the concept of development. It has to do with the vision
driving the deliberate effort mentioned above, with the understanding of what constitutes
a higher level of development.
In the early days of development policy the concept was mainly understood from an
economic perspective. Truman himself, in his speech, based prosperity on greater
production, and the two most important early theories in development studies,
modernization theory and dependency theory, were mostly focused on economic
Later on the focus shifted towards the inclusion of social aspects, and people in the
field started to talk about socio-economic development. The Human Development Index,
created by the United Nations in 1990 as an index to measure the level of development of
nations, considers three components: health (life expectancy), education (literacy index),
and standard of living (economic well-being based on GDP per capita).
More recently some actors involved in the field of development have included
another important component into the concept of development: empowerment. Purported
beneficiaries of development should be able to decide by themselves what is best for
them. Oxfam opens its Handbook of Development and Relief (Eade, et al., 1995) with the
Strengthening people’s capacity to determine their own values and priorities, and to organize themselves to act on these, is the basis of development. Development is about women and men becoming empowered to bring about positive changes in their lives; about personal growth together with public action; about both the process and the outcome of challenging poverty, oppression, and discrimination; and about the realisation of human potential through social and economic justice. Above all, it is about the process of transforming lives, and transforming societies.
This author prefers simpler description, at the expense of precision: development is
about the improvement of people’s lives according to their own standards.
Nevertheless, it is important to have in mind that throughout this thesis different
perspectives from different actors are introduced, and each one of them has a different
understanding of what development is. Notwithstanding this diversity, the improvement
of material living standards remains the underlying objective of development. 15
This work is concerned with the interrelation between technology and the field of
development. In every development intervention one specific technology is selected over
others in order to provide a solution to the target problem. Many of the factors that
determine which technology is chosen are specific to the field of development, its
dynamics, and the people and organizations involved in it. But other very important
factors are not specific to the field of development and are related to the broader arena of
the relationship between technology and society in general.
Having this in mind, this section proposes a framework in which the interrelation
between “technology and the field of development” is considered as a subset of the
overarching interrelation between “technology and society.” This interrelation between
technology and society is not considered for any particular society, industrialized,
developing, or otherwise, but in generic terms. Although it could be analyzed for
different societies and different times, we will have in mind this era of globalization
where the interrelation between technology and society presents many common global
trends mainly based on the particular case of western industrialized “modern” societies
that have been and continue being exported to the rest of the globe.
The interrelation between technology and society is a multifaceted one, and we will
consider five major aspects of it: economic, social, political, cultural and environmental.
Any effort directed at examining this relationship, as well as the “narrower” one between
technology and the field of development, should take into consideration all five aspects in 16
order to be complete. Unfortunately, as we will later see in actual circumstances, very
often some aspects are overemphasized while others are all but forgotten.
Figure 1 below is an attempt to provide a visual framework including all that has
been said above, and will be used as a reference for the discussions about technology,
society and development.
The outer circle represents the overarching relationship between technology and
society in general, and takes into consideration what is understood as development. It
circumscribes the inner circle, which represents the relationship between technology and
the field of development, and of course is very much influenced by the outer circle. The
outer and inner circle represent structure.
In between, close to the outer circle, we find a ring that represents “technology
transfer” between institutions within a society –any generic society, not specific to one
industrialized, developing or otherwise. We are not too concerned about this particular
ring in this thesis.
There is another ring, closer to “technology in the development field,” which
represents what is commonly called “North-South technology transfer,” that is, the
transfer of technology between “advanced” industrialized countries and “developing” or
“less developed” countries. The two intermediate circles represent process.
All circles or rings are equally divided into five sectors, corresponding to the five
aspects or dimensions that should be considered for all of them: economic, social,
political, cultural and environmental. 17
The five dimensions inform what is considered development in a society. The
relative importance given to those dimensions is different in different societies, and
therefore the idea of what development or progress is would also be different.
Given the current structure of the world, and of international relations between
countries –societies—, the specific combination of the five dimensions, the idea of what
development or progress means, is passed on from the rich industrialized countries –
mostly Western countries— to the so-called developing or less developed countries,
through the field of development –some would say this transfer is involuntary but
inevitable, some would say it is consciously imposed.
Within the field of development, some combination of the five dimensions informs
decision-makers involved in the assessment and selection of the best options (including
the choice of technology) that would lead to the achievement of the goals formulated for
a specific development intervention. 18
Figure 1: Main framework for Technology and Development
This section reviews some of the different perspectives held by scholars and
practitioners in areas related to technology, society and development, with emphasis in
identifying the main aspects (of the five presented in the figure) in which their particular
point of view is based. An effort has been made to group these perspectives along shared 19
characteristics and to map each group into our graphic framework in order to clarify this
Technology and the economy
We will first look at those perspectives that consider mainly (if not exclusively) the
relationship between technology and economic development. In the Western world of
modernity and positivism the belief that technology is essential for progress is very well
rooted. The mastering of modern technology –which according to this belief took place
under the appropriate cultural and institutional conditions— is indeed widely considered
the main engine that drove the Western world, starting in Europe, to its current privileged
position –see David Landes’ bestseller The Wealth and Poverty of Nations (Landes,
1999) or Jared Diamond’s Pulitzer-Prize winner Guns, Germs and Steel (Diamond,
Under this perspective the path of modern technology is generally considered as
something external to the socio-political process. Technology follows a kind of “natural
path,” and the specific conditions of a society can either inhibit or promote its
advancement through this “natural path” of technological progress. Those societies that
are receptive are the ones that “develop.”
There are many writings dealing with the relationship between technology and
economic development at the macro level. Studies in this group are authored mainly by
economists and cover the role of technology in well-developed economies, as well as the 20
importance of technology in “developing” or “less developed countries.” This group of
writings would correspond in our framework figure to the outer circle in the “economic”
sector –see Figure 2.
Figure 2: Technology and the Economy
From the macro perspective there is an implicit assumption that the growth of an
economy at the macro level improves the standard of living all over a country, including
the poor areas. For those who accept this basic generic principle, it would of course be
true also for the countries that are not considered well “developed” yet, that is, the so-
called developing countries or less developed countries. We are looking now at the inner 21
circle in our framework, concentrating in the field of “development,” still in the
“economic” sector –see Figure 2.
Since the advancement of technological prowess is considered a major engine of the
economy, it is therefore also one of the main factors to reach “development.”
Knowledge is like light. Weightless and intangible, it can easily travel the world, enlightening the lives of people everywhere. Yet billions of people still live in the darkness of poverty –unnecessarily… Poor countries—and poor people—differ from rich ones not only because they have less capital but because they have less knowledge. Knowledge is often costly to create, and that is why much of it is created in industrial countries (World Bank, 1998: 1).
This excerpt from the World Development Report 1998/99, entitled “Knowledge for
Development,” reflects the position of the World Bank and that of many mainstream
professionals in the field of “development.” The perspective of the World Bank shares
the basic tenets expressed by Truman and Kissinger as quoted in the introduction,
although quite less optimistically, given the situation of the poorest people of the world at
the beginning of the new millennium.
The basic concept is that technology and knowledge are necessary for development,
and that the industrialized countries generate and are in possession of the most valuable
knowledge and technology. LDCs need this knowledge for their development, and the
best thing to do is to acquire it from the advanced countries. As the World Bank report
says, “developing countries need not reinvent the wheel … rather than re-create existing
knowledge, poorer countries have the option of acquiring and adapting much knowledge
already available in richer countries” (World Bank, 1998: 2). 22
There are plenty of studies dealing with the transfer of technology within and
between developed countries, but here we are interested in the vast literature on the
transfer of technology to developing and less developed countries –what is commonly
called North/South technology transfer, the second inner ring in our framework –see
- The majority of these studies deal with two main issues. First, what are the
different mechanisms through which technology is actually transferred: foreign direct
investment, licensing, trade, multilateral or bilateral technical cooperation, etc, and which
one is best under what conditions. Second, what are the institutional conditions in the
recipient country that favor effective technology adoption and dissemination. If we
consider our framework picture, it is mainly the economic aspect, and to a much lesser
extent the political aspect, the ones considered from this perspective.
Cultural and social aspects of technology transfer, such as the social and cultural
changes that new technologies might bring to recipient countries are not given much of a
thought. When some social or cultural factors are discussed they seem to be considered
more as an obstacle to be overcome than anything else. There is some concern, for
example, about the effect of the local cultural environment in the speed and effectiveness
of the “necessary” technology transfer, or maybe the adaptation of technologies to local
Although the World Bank Report, as well as writings by other authors –like Madu
below—who share this perspective, allow for some questions to be raised about which
are the right technologies to be used or developed by LDCs, or whether the acquisition of 23
foreign knowledge and technology also brings with it changes in tastes and/or values that
could be detrimental for the receiving society, they never seem to address them in depth.
Christian Madu, for example, contends: “The issue, however, is not whether or not to
transfer technology; the issue is how to transfer ‘appropriate’ technology.” But in his
book, Strategic Planning in Technology Transfer to Less Developed Countries, Madu
focuses mainly on how to transfer technology, and less on what kind of technology is
“appropriate” (Madu, 1992: 3).
Madu asserts that “the major transferers are multinational corporations (MNCs) who
are predominantly based in the United States, Western Europe, and Japan… despite the
increased number of sources from which technology can be transferred, the MNCs
remain the most essential and powerful suppliers of technology.” Indeed, technology
transfer from advanced countries’ agents –basically MNCs— to LDCs is the only
mechanism that receives consideration throughout the remainder of Madu’s book (Madu,
So, we see that the main question from this perspective concerns the best way to
transfer technology from the advanced industrialized countries to the LDCs. And their
preferred answer: through the spillovers generated by multinational MNCs by way of
foreign direct investment.
The World Bank Report states: “Valuable knowledge spillovers can occur through
their [MNCs’] training of local staff and through contacts with domestic suppliers and
subcontractors” (World Bank, 1998: 8). This is really disturbing, if you think about it. 24
The most important mechanism for technology transfer relies on spillovers that can
occur. What if they do not occur? How significant are those spillovers? However, it is
important to make a distinction between different countries in the Third World. Big
economies such as China, India, and even Brazil do have more leverage and can acquire
technology by negotiating from a position of power.
It is not surprising that a report issued by the World Bank considers that “the three
key means of facilitating the acquisition of knowledge from abroad are an open trade
regime, foreign investment, and technological licensing” (World Bank, 1998: 7-8).
Neoclassical thought tends to be present in anything coming from the World Bank.
But it is not only among neoliberals or mainstream developmentalists that we find
defenders of this particular view of technology and development. Arghiri Emmanuel, the
well-known author of Unequal Exchange (Emmanuel, 1972), and ardent critic of the
“modernization theory” of development, shares the same perspective with regard to
technology and development. In his book, Emmanuel criticizes the unfavorable terms of
trade between the ‘core’ countries –industrial products— and the “periphery” –primary
products—, which are responsible for the growing inequality between them. His book
Appropriate or Underdeveloped Technology (Emmanuel, et al., 1982) argues that
advanced technologies are good because they are more productive. According to this
author, “what is important is the amount of goods produced and not the number of jobs
created to produce these goods,” because that is what increases the social welfare.
Developing countries need the most advanced technologies available in order to increase 25
their productivity and make industrial products so they can get a better deal regarding
terms of trade. Advanced industrialized countries constitute the model to follow, and the
only way for LDCs to catch up with them is to take the shortcut offered by the transfer of
already existing advanced technologies. Emmanuel forcefully criticizes defenders of
“appropriate technology” –see below— because it “perpetuates underdevelopment and
poverty.” Furthermore, regarding the best way to transfer those technologies, Emmanuel
considers multinational companies “the favoured means by which the Third World’s
technological development path may be cut short” (Emmanuel, et al., 1982: 1).
Integral view of technology, society and development
Under the perspective discussed in the previous section the path of modern
technology is generally considered as something external to the socio-political process.
Technology follows its “natural path,” and the characteristics of a society would either
inhibit or promote its advancement through this “natural path” of technological progress.
In this section we look at perspectives that believe things can be done in different
ways; that technological progress can follow different paths and a society and its
individuals can decide which path they prefer to follow. It is a human choice to promote
one path over another both in developed countries and in less favored areas, and their
choices do not need to be the same. Technology is not independent from the socio-
political processes. Borrowing from the title of a major work on this subject, technology
(“artifacts” in the original title) does have politics (Winner, 1986). In our framework, this 26
point of view draws from all the aspects in the circle, not just the economic one. The
main question here is not whether technology is good for development, but which
technologies are best.
Having this in mind, we will consider two major areas of focus. The first one
embraces what in academia is mainly known as science, technology and society (STS)
studies. These studies are concerned with the mutual relationship between technology and
society in general, not just in the developing World: the ways in which the adoption and
promotion of specific technologies transform societies and the lives of its members and
shape their environments, and how societies in turn define the paths through which
technologies evolve. In our framework we are looking at the outer circle, but including all
the aspects of it, not just the economic –it has been labeled “technology choice” in Figure
Figure 3: Integral view of technology, society and development
Many authors are indeed quite concerned about the path that technology has taken in
western “modern” societies, and in turn the way in which those societies are evolving.
“We are becoming the servants in thought, as in action, of the machine we have created to serve us.”4
4 John Kenneth Galbraith. Quoted in Ian Smillie, Mastering the Machine Revisited : Poverty, Aid and Technology (London: ITDG Publishing, 2000)., Mastering the Machine Revisited, opening page. 28
This quote by John Kenneth Galbraith in his book, The New Industrial State
(Galbraith, 1985), leads us to question whether modern technology actually improve the
lives of human beings –in both the developed and the less developed world.
Raphael Kaplinsky, in Automation, the Technology and Society (1984), analyzes the
effect of modern technology –his study focuses on automation technology— in society.
The author contends that according to the evidence, “automation as we know it continues
the trend in the capitalist labor process towards increased job-fragmentation, deskilling
and greater control by management as the representative of capital” (Kaplinsky, 1984:
133) Instead of blaming technology per se, Kaplinsky wonders about something that the
author of this thesis, as an engineer himself, had confronted quite often:
But how can it be, that a technology which promises so much, can offer so little to the mass of the world’s population? After all surely any technology which reduces the need for human labour must in principle be favourable? For if your goal is to work for fulfillment rather than out of necessity, and if we are to be able to develop a wide range of skills and interests to satisfy ourselves as human beings, then clearly the advance of automation technology must be desirable (Kaplinsky, 1984: 170).
Kaplinsky finds the answer in the rejection of what he calls “technological
Darwinism,” which considers that technology follows its own logical path of
development irrespective of the social context. Technology would be something to be
discovered, and its course therefore immutable. Kaplinsky believes that technology is not
neutral; instead it is influenced by sociopolitical factors. The author asserts that
reflects the power relations inherent in the social system. Power is obtained and reinforced by the ability to command and appropriate surplus… Technology offers the potential for this surplus to be generated and appropriated. But … specific techniques are required… ‘Capitalist labour processes’ are designed to maximize the profit to the capitalist ... they necessarily involve 29
a minimization of labour input, the deskilling of labour so as to cheapen its cost, a hierarchical system of control and an increasing subdivision of labour (Kaplinsky, 1984: 174).
Therefore, for Kaplinsky the problem relies in the way society is organized, rather
than technology itself. In his own words, from the concluding remarks of his book, “the
problem lies not with the technology, but in a form of social organization which misuses
its potential to produce frighteningly destructive weapons, inappropriate products and
undesirable work processes. This stands as a direct indictment of contemporary
capitalism” (Kaplinsky, 1984: 18).
It is rather surprising how Kaplinsky seems to leave aside his criticism of the course
technological developments have taken, and in a chapter dedicated to their impact on
Third World countries he contends that, “the key question … concerns the diffusion of
these automation technologies to the Third World” (Kaplinsky, 1984: 158) Following on
his major tenets it seems more appropriate to question how to change the course and the
uses of technology development in the advanced industrialized countries first.
From a more philosophical standpoint, Schumacher describes the function of work,
according to the Buddhist point of view, to be threefold: “to give a man a chance to
utilize and develop his faculties; to enable him to overcome his ego-centredness by
joining with other people in a common task; and to bring forth the goods and services
needed for a becoming existence” (Schumacher, 1973: 58) From this point of view,
Schumacher distinguishes two types of mechanization: “one that enhances a man’s skill
and power and one that turns the work of man over to a mechanical slave, leaving man in
a position to having to serve the slave” (Schumacher, 1973: 58) Schumacher believed that 30
modern societies tend toward the latter type, transforming people into slaves –those lucky
enough to have a job, anyway.
Schumacher went further and, in Small is beautiful (1973), casts doubt on the whole
‘production’ machine that Western societies have become, and includes chapters entitled
Socialism, Ownership, and New patterns of ownership, where the author questions the
basic dynamics of capitalism, the virtues of private property, and considers socialism as
Neil Postman, in his book Technopoly: the surrender of culture to technology
(Postman, 1992), contends that advances in technology have surpassed the capacity of
social mechanisms for cultural development reaching a point where American culture has
become a sort of self perpetuating machine. Postman believes that the evolution of the
relationship between humans and technology has gone from cultures that use tools —
without being subordinated to them—, to technocracies that are increasingly determined
by technological growth, and lastly technopolies, which he depicts as totalitarian
technocracies in which the "thought world" of a culture is mainly determined by
technological development. Postman believes that at the moment he wrote the book the
only technopoly in the world was the US.
Postman is gravely concerned with what he calls Scientism (Postman, 1992: 146-48),
one of the pillars of Technopoly, consisting of a set of three interrelated ideas: “that the
methods of the natural sciences can be applied to the study of human behavior… that
social science generates specific principles which can be used to organize society on a 31
rational and humane basis… [and] that faith in science can serve as a comprehensive
belief system that gives meaning to life, as well as a sense of well-being, morality, and
In a similar vein, Ivan Illich in his book Tools for Conviviality (1973), defines
“convivial” tools as “those which give each person who uses them the greatest
opportunity to enrich the environment with the fruits of his or her vision,” and contends
that, “industrial tools deny this possibility to those who use them and they allow their
designers to determine the meaning and expectations of others. Most tools today cannot
be used in a convivial fashion” (Illich, 1973: 21). Furthermore, in a presentation given in
1996 where Illich explained his ideas about technology in philosophical and theological
terms, he discusses the evolution of ‘technology’ from the beginning to the end of the
… technology was still seen as a tool to be used for the achievement of an end set by the user; one could still speak in terms of a final cause; technology was not yet the very milieu itself. It had still not redefined homo, from a tool-user to a co-evolved product of engineering…things have mutated from being instruments to becoming systems.5
From this point of view that questions the course that modern technology is taking in
advanced industrialized societies, one should also question whether it makes any sense to
transfer modern technology to LDCs.
The second major area in this section deals with the technological choices available
to those involved in the field of “development,” that is, the improvement of the lives of
5 Ivan Illich, presentation given to The American Catholic Philosophical Association at their annual meeting in Los Angeles, California, 23 March
people in “developing” or “less developed” countries. Well-known paradigms of the field
such as intermediate or appropriate technologies are included here. This is the area where
the main focus of the work presented in this thesis, the choice of technology in
development interventions, belongs, and will be further discussed in chapter
- In our
framework we are looking at the inner circle, “technology and development,” but
including all the aspects of it, not just the economic –it has been labeled “Appropriate
technology” in Figure 3.
E.F. Schumacher, the author of the now classic book Small is beautiful (1973),
founded the Intermediate Technology Development Group (ITDG). ITDG is
representative of a particular perspective regarding the issue of technology and
development. Simply put, defenders of intermediate technologies and appropriate
technologies –without getting into the murky details of which technologies can be
included, can be considered together linked by their concern for the choice of
technology— basically believing that technology can indeed greatly improve the lives of
poor peoples. But not any technology can do that, and often not the technologies
mastered and designed by and for peoples in technologically advanced countries. The
conditions in LDCs are very different, and a major concern should be, for example, the
creation of employment, more than the simple increase of total output. A special effort
has to be made to adapt Western technologies to the social and economic conditions of
LDCs –e.g. greater availability of labor compared to capital— to incorporate local 33
knowledge into the technologies selected, and to develop as much as possible the
necessary technologies locally.
Authors who share this perspective are very critical of the huge infrastructure
projects commonly sponsored by the World Bank and other donor agencies because their
big organizational and financial requirements are well beyond the managerial, technical
and financial capabilities of the people they purportedly benefit –massive dam projects
such as Egypt’s Aswan High Dam or India’s infamous Narmada project are common
targets of this kind of criticism (Smillie, 2000: 37-47). Ian Smillie, in his book, Mastering
the machine revisited, published by the ITDG, criticizes that for many of these projects,
“the technology, the expertise and the final decision in almost all cases lay in the North,
rather than the South” (Smillie, 2000: 41).
Regarding the mechanism to be used for the transfer of technology, most of the
discussion held by authors concerned about the choice of technology involves aid projects
sponsored by bilateral and multilateral donor agencies such as USAID, NORAD, the
World Bank or the International Monetary Fund; mediated by NGOs in the North and
most importantly in the South; and focused on local communities as recipients and as
main decision-makers during the definition and execution of the projects.
Contemporary defenders of intermediate or appropriate technologies, such as Smillie
and the ITDG, focus their criticism of the “development” business, and the role of
technology within it, on both the choice of technology and the method used to transfer it. 34
Technology and power
In this section we focus on the political aspect of the relationship between
technology and society, although we will see that it is much mingled with the cultural
Major philosophers like Pierre Bourdieu (Bourdieu and Johnson, 1993) and Michel
Foucault (Foucault, 1972) wrote extensively about the complex, intimate, and often
symbiotic relationship between knowledge (technology would be a subset of it) and
power in societies in general, and how technologies are used as tools of control. This
subject corresponds to the outer circle of the framework figure, in the “political” sector,
and is far beyond the scope of the work presented here –see Figure 4.
More relevant to the field of development, located mainly in the “political” aspect of
the inner circle of our framework figure, is the role of knowledge in general and
technology in particular as a potential tool of domination in the unequal North/South
relationship –see Figure 4.
Anthropologist Arturo Escobar (Escobar, 1995), building on the conceptions of
power-knowledge and discourse analysis developed by Michel Foucault, approaches the
issue from a perspective that considers not just technology as defined above, but more
generally knowledge as belief systems – the second aspect of knowledge according to
Susan Strange, as we saw at the beginning of this chapter. 35
Figure 4: Technology and Power
Escobar criticizes the representations championed by mainstream “development”
actors, such as the World Bank, because they implicitly assume Western standards as the
guide to assess the situation of Third World peoples, and their paternalistic attitude
contributes to upholding the idea of Western superiority (Escobar, 1995: 8).
Escobar raises questions that are seldom addressed about the Western standards that
accompany development interventions: “What happens when they are introduced in a
given social setting? How do they occupy social spaces, and what processes –alteration of 36
sensibilities, transformations in ways of seeing and living life, of relating to one another–
do they set in motion? In sum, to what extent do these political technologies contribute to
creating society and culture?” (Escobar, 1995: 142)
An example of the biased and myopic view of Western development institutions that
resonates with Escobar’s assertion that historically “Western discourse has refused to
recognize the productive and creative role of women” and therefore has “contributed to
propagating divisions of labour that keep women in positions of subordination” (Escobar,
1992: 141), is provided by anthropologist Anne E. Ferguson, in her article “Gendered
Science: A Critique of Agricultural Development” (Ferguson, 1994). She analyzes an
interdisciplinary agricultural research project aimed at improving bean production in
Malawi. Agricultural scientists wanted to understand why farmers in Malawi planted
mixtures of so many different bean varieties together in their fields, with the specific
intention of looking at social factors, besides the biological ones. After interviewing local
farmers, they concluded that farmers knew very little about the characteristics of beans
and therefore the variety was due to physical and biological factors. Ferguson’s team
pushed further and continued the research, this time interviewing female as well as male
farmers. It turned out that women had a more important role in the knowledge and
responsibility of bean production than men. The wide variety was in fact the result of a
conscious and carefully crafted effort, mostly by female farmers.
Ferguson thinks that the role of women remains marginal even in research and
development programs that bear the “sustainability” label, and that those programs often 37
undermine the status of women instead of empowering them, especially in Africa. She
contends that Western agricultural science is the result of social construction, and
therefore it is not objective and, as it concerns this case, male-biased.
Escobar also characterizes development interventions as a new form of colonialism
that contributes to the perpetuation of Western power over the Third World, through the
global consolidation of capitalistic dynamics in the best interest of Western capital, and
through the global spread of Western culture:
The organization of factors that development achieved contributes to the disciplining of labor, the extraction of surplus value, and the reorientation of consciousness… these strategies inevitably bypassed peasants’ culturally based conceptions. Beyond the economic goals, World Bank-style integrated rural development sought a radical cultural reconversion of rural life (Escobar, 1995: 145).
Consistently with this framework, Escobar considers the World Bank and similar
institutions of the “development apparatus” the tools used to submit Third World
peoples- tools of domination:
I started with a discussion of some features of institutions that, although apparently rational and neutral, are nevertheless part of the exercise of power in the modern world. The development apparatus inevitably relies on such practices and thus contributes to the domination of Third World people (Escobar, 1995: 152).
The Development Dictionary, a landmark critique of mainstream “development”
theory and practice edited by Wolfgang Sachs (Sachs, 1992) which bears the subtitle A
guide to knowledge as power, is a compendium of articles by some of the fiercest critics
of the field, including Escobar. 38
Claude Alvares considers in his chapter of the book that science and development
have functioned together in what he calls a “congenital” relationship in the post-colonial
era to the benefit of Western hegemony (Alvares, 1992: 230):
“Thus, just as the Europeans eliminated millions of indigenous Indians from North and South America and other indigenous populations elsewhere to make place for their own kind, and just as their medicine uprooted other medicine, and their seeds displaced other seed, so their knowledge project called modern science attempted to ridicule and wipe out all other ways of seeing, doing and having.”
In harmony with Susan Strange’s conception of knowledge as a major pillar of
structural power, Alvares states that “Knowledge is power, but power is also knowledge.
Power decides what is knowledge and what is not knowledge” (Alvares, 1992: 229-30).
Control by a few in the West of what is considered knowledge is the tool that allows the
domination not only of peoples in “less developed” countries, but also of ordinary people
all over the world:
“Thus planning, science and technology –the technocracy— now became the principal means for usurping the people’s rights to the domains of knowledge and production, for dismissing the people’s rights to create knowledge, and diminishing their right to intervene in matters of public interest or affecting their own subsistence and survival… the modern state’s interest in such development itself owed much to the latter’s constant search for ways and means to compromise, erode, and oftentimes severely diminish, personal autonomy, and the creativity and political freedom that went with it.”
Otto Ullrich, borrowing a phrase from Robert Jungk, states that through “technical
assistance” developing countries receive ‘trojan machines’ from industrialized countries
that “conquer their culture and society from within,” and believes that “the age of
Western imperialism is therefore not over by a long shot, particularly as long as there
exists, primarily on the part of the United States, a direct and open technological
imperialism against the countries of the Third World”(Ullrich, 1992: 284-86). 39
Another more tangible and very controversial subject regarding domination of the
South by the North has to do with Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs), and the new
framework for international enforcement, sponsored by the WTO and commonly called
TRIPs (Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights). Industries, mostly from the North,
that spend resources on research see patents and other tools related to IPRs as ways to get
repaid for their research investment costs. The North contends that the South, with weak
enforcement of IPRs, uses and benefits from expensive research done in the North
without paying for it. The South, in turn, complains that it has to pay for technology over
which it has no control whatsoever and which is being patented.
Vandana Shiva questions the basic tenet in which IPRs are based. She argues that the
prospect of profits guaranteed by an IPRs system, and therefore patents, are not necessary
for developing a climate of invention and creativity. According to Shiva, patents are very
important for big companies, mainly from the North, because they are instruments of
market control (Shiva, 1997).
With the North imposing the knowledge –belief— of what is the right way to
accomplish something, developing a technology accordingly, and finally charging the
South for the use of that technology, the circle of domination and South-North
dependency would be complete. Having this in mind it would be questionable even
whether technology, in this package, should be transferred at all to developing or less
developed countries. 40
Technology and the [natural] environment
Humankind has always affected the natural environment, especially in relation to its
quest for sources of food and energy. However this was not a major in pre-modern times
concern because the effects on the environment were local and small compared to the
scale of the planet, and there was always somewhere else to go if local resources became
scarce or polluted. The nuclear era starting with the atomic bombs during World War II
brought the first concerns that human beings were already able to affect the environment
at a global scale and in an irreversible way.
The continuous increase in the total natural resources used by humankind due to a
growing world population and the insatiable pursuit of growth and consumption
characteristic of Western ways of living prompted the Club of Rome to publish Limits to
Growth (1972), considered the first major work about the negative effects of human
activities on the natural environment at a global scale (Meadows and Club of Rome.,
1972). Without a significant change of course, the report predicted that our planet was
doomed in a few decades. Although time has proved wrong the timing of many of the
fatal predictions in the document, the basic concepts are still valid for the growing
minority concerned with the future of Earth if humankind does not change course.
In 1989 the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) issued
the commonly called Brundtland report, where the term “sustainable development” was
brought into mainstream. The report defined “sustainable development” as “development
that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations 41
to meet their own needs” (World Commission on Environment and Development., 1987).
Although the authors expressed serious concern for our environment and emphasized the
need to take prompt action in order to avoid future catastrophes, they showed a more
optimistic picture and believed that it is possible to achieve “sustainability” and at the
same time continue with the focus on growth, which they think is essential for
overcoming poverty worldwide. This is completely opposed to the view of the Club of
Rome, which considers the emphasis on growth as one of the major causes of the
How does technology fit into this discussion? We can consider its involvement from
two different points of view: as a cause and as a solution. 42
Figure 5: Technology and the Environment
Generally technology itself is not specifically blamed for the impact human beings
have on the environment. It is true that some technologies are considered very harmful
for the environment, while others are considered friendlier or even “sustainable.” In terms
of energy, for example, nuclear energy is generally condemned for the very long-term
harmful effects of nuclear waste, and coal thermal energy and to a lesser extent oil and
gas based energy (either for electricity or transportation) are condemned for its emissions
of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and other harmful pollutants. On the other hand, renewable 43
energy technologies, and specifically wind energy, are considered friendlier. But the fact
is that it is technically impossible to supply current and projected levels of energy
consumption worldwide only with renewable energy neither now nor in decades to come.
The problem therefore is to be found beyond the technologies used, in the outstanding
consumption of resources that western ways of living demand.
Secondly, technology is looked at in this context as a solution. Those with a more
optimistic (some would say blind) view of the future of our environment believe that
human ingenuity will eventually be able to develop technologies that use energy and
produce goods in a more efficient and cleaner way, in a continuous process of survival
and adaptation to a changing environment. Humankind will therefore be able to avoid the
doomsday predicted by the most pessimistic. Of course the not-so-optimist argue that this
is no more than wishful thinking and an irresponsible and selfish position that leaves the
problem for future generations to solve.
In the field of “development” mainstream practitioners such as the World Bank
already incorporate officially an environmental assessment phase in the interventions
they sponsor. Most of the focus is placed on mitigating potential harmful environmental
effects of the technologies selected based on other criteria, and not in a genuine effort to
search for environmentally friendlier alternatives. Many argue that, typically, by the time
the environmental study is done development projects already have too much inertia to
allow the findings of the study to change its course substantially. This aspect will be
further discussed in chapters 4 and
On the other hand, advocates of intermediate or “appropriate” technologies argue
that the alternative technologies they support tend to be of more local character and of
smaller scale, and this fact is already a guarantee that their environmental impact will
normally be smaller. Environmental concerns constitute therefore another argument in
favor of the alternative technologies they promote.
As we have seen, the major differences among the various perspectives introduced
lie on the different grades of importance granted to the five aspects presented in our
framework figure: social, political, cultural, economic and environmental. Knowledge as
a set of beliefs –remember Susan Strange— is responsible for the assignment of those
grades of importance. When the whole world is made to believe that the economic aspect
is the more important, and everything else will come afterwards, that is already biasing
the decisions made regarding technology in societies in general, and in development
One would expect that any project undertaken in the name of “development,” either
by states, bilateral or multilateral agencies, or private actors, would be informed by all
aspects presented here. Focusing on only one or a few of them and leaving aside the
others paves the way for, at best, an increased likelihood of unsuccessful or irrelevant
results, and at worst, actual damage to LDCs’ disenfranchised populations. 45
3. Development InterventionsEdit
We are trying to understand, for development interventions, how much consideration
is given to potential technological alternative ways to reach development goals. There are
three main questions to look at: when the decisions regarding the choice of technology
are made; by whom; and following what criteria.
But let us discuss first what a development intervention is. What are we exactly
talking about? In which form do development interventions take place.
Development interventions start with the identification of a current situation, as local
as that of a community or as global as that of a country or group of countries, that can be
improved. Then one or several goals are established according to what is considered an
improved situation. Finally, something has to be done in order to go from the current
situation to the desired one. Action needs to be taken by one or several actors. This
action, whatever form it takes, is what we call a development intervention. Actors
involved in the development intervention range from local people –the affected
population— or organizations, to others external or foreign to it. In development
interventions there is usually at least one actor that is professionally involved in the field
of development. Further discussion on the actors involved can be found below in the
section dedicated to stakeholder analysis. 46
What is a development project?
One of the most common forms development interventions took since the beginning
of the field of development field after WWII was the development project. Initially it was
mainly associated with infrastructure works in the public sector, but more recently, since
the 1980s and structural adjustment, it has been applied to things like institutional
development and improvement of skills and capabilities, and is often taken on by the
Cusworth and Franks (Cusworth and Franks, 1993: 3) define projects in the context
of development this way:
A project is the investment of capital in a time-bound intervention to create productive assets.
The capital mentioned in the definition is both human and physical, and the assets
created can be physical, institutional, or human, and are assumed to remain once the
project is completed.
Potts (Potts, 2002: 12) lists several features that can be expected of development
- A project involves the investment of scarce resources for future benefit.
- A project can be planned, financed, and implemented as a unit.
- A project has a defined set of objectives and a specific start and end.
- A project has geographical or organizational boundaries.
These characteristics, which development projects share with projects in general,
make the project approach attractive, especially from a managerial point of view: projects 47
can be broken into smaller tasks that are easier to handle and can be scheduled, monitored
and adjusted to changes in plans; alternatives can be analyzed in a systematic way;
projects can be prioritized; costs and benefits can be relatively easily evaluated.
Many of this advantages stem from the time-bound nature of projects and the
specificity of their goals. Extreme caution has to be applied with the project approach,
though, because those same two features do not necessarily fit well with the nature of
development. Oxfam warns us against the careless use of development projects:
… while the processes of development do not have a clear beginning, middle, and end, projects do; and they also require plans, contracts, budgets, reporting schedules, and evaluations. While social and economic processes cannot be controlled by an outside agency, projects may be under external pressure to demonstrate a tangible and swift impact on these processes, which are not under their control; and risk losing their funding if they fail (Eade, et al., 1995: 21).
Oxfam emphasizes the need to understand development projects as part of a broader
social and political context and to incorporate flexibility in the project approach, lest
development projects impose demands that have to do more with development agencies
than the actual development of people.
This is the reason why there has been lately more emphasis on long-term programs
rather than time-bound projects. Although the distinction between programs and projects
is not always too clear, we can say in general that programs are of larger scope and scale,
and include several projects. A program to improve the livelihood of a rural area might
include projects to provide energy, to train in agricultural techniques, to train in
entrepreneurial and managerial skills, etc. 48
In any case, projects are after all the building blocks of programs, and the tool
through which changes are implemented on the field.
In order to understand when in the life of a development project the decisions
regarding the choice of technology are made, we first need to understand the life cycle of
a development project. Projects tend to go through a series of relatively clearly defined
phases, what is commonly called the project cycle.
The traditional project cycle in development was formulated in 1970 by Baum based
on the processes of the World Bank at the time. It included four major components in
linear progression: identification, preparation, appraisal and implementation (Baum,
1970). In 1978 Baum revised his formulation of the project cycle and included a fifth
component, evaluation, that would include the provision of feedback to be used in future
interventions (Baum, 1978). This addition changes the linear progression into a circle,
and the feedback information obtained from the evaluation part allows for the
improvement of the current project as well as the provision of useful lessons for future
interventions. Figure 6 shows Baum’s project cycle. 49
Figure 6: Baum's project cycle Source: Baum 1978
In the first part, identification, a current situation suitable to be improved is
recognized. In a business environment a project will make sense when there is a demand
for the outputs of the project. It is important to distinguish between demand and need.
The existence of a demand implies the ability and willingness to pay for the outputs
provided by the project, while the existence of needs does not. In the field of
development very often there are needs for the outputs of the project, but not necessarily
demand in the sense explained above.
This first phase also includes the identification of available resources and at least one
potential technical solution to generate the required output from those resources. This
concerns the choice of technology in which this work is focused, and will be analyzed in
more depth in the next chapter. 50
In sum, the identification phase should: specify the goals of the project as regards its
output; list current obstacles for reaching the goals; explain alternative ways to achieve
the goals; and identify the resources required and the actors involved.
There are multiple ways in which projects are identified. The identification might
arise from a government planning process, from local NGOs or other civil organizations,
from private sector actors that see an opportunity for profit, from the local community,
etc. We will analyze the actors involved in this phase in the section on stakeholder
In the second phase, which Baum calls project preparation and is also often referred
to as project formulation, the scope of the project and all the details are specified to the
point where a definite decision can be made whether or not to go on with it. This decision
will take place in the following stage of appraisal.
During the preparation it is important to keep in mind who are the target
beneficiaries, what are the goals, what are the current constraints for the achievement of
those goals, and how does the project propose to overcome those constrains. If the
elaborated project proposal is prepared along these main axes, it will be much easier to
appraise it in the next stage. Indeed, international development agencies normally provide
specific guidelines for the preparation of this proposal. One of the main tools commonly
used is the Logical Framework, which will be discussed in the next chapter.
During this preparation work the conceptual project defined during the identification
phase is subjected to an analysis of its feasibility. The feasibility studies should determine 51
if it is possible to carry out the project according to the stated objectives with the
financial, technical, human, material, and institutional resources available.
It should also include an analysis and description of all suitable alternatives that
might be used to achieve the desired results. Alternative technological solutions, the main
concern of this thesis, should be proposed and reviewed during this stage. In the next
chapter we will have a closer look at how this process takes place.
The next phase is project appraisal, where the project is reviewed and the decision is
made whether to go ahead with it or not, and which of the remaining alternatives is
chosen. When loans are required from external agencies, as is commonly the case, these
external agencies provide specific guidelines for the appraisal process, which they often
carry out themselves.
According to Goodman and Love project appraisal needs to address two major
questions. First, will the project as it is designed meet its own objectives as well as the
wider needs of its location and nation? And second, how does the project compare with
other projects it may be competing with for funding? (Goodman, et al., 1980: 101).
This appraisal tries to understand what will happen if a particular proposal is
implemented, whether the expected outcome will occur, who will benefit and lose, when
will the outcome take place, and how efficient is the investment considering the resources
employed and the benefits generated. The appraisal of a project is always done against
major policy objectives like for example economic growth, basic needs satisfaction and
equity, environmental protection, etc. 52
The appraisal is based on the detailed and accurate information generated in the
previous phase and uses several well-established techniques for the analysis of this
information. These techniques include economic cost-benefit analysis, socio-economic
analysis, and environmental impact assessment, and will be discussed in the next chapter.
When there are a few alternative ways to define the final project to be implemented,
it is in this appraisal phase that the best alternative is chosen. For our main concern in this
thesis, the choice of technology, this phase is critical because it is here where, when there
is more than one potential technological solution, the final decision will be made as to
which one will be implemented.
Indeed the first two stages of the project cycle, identification, preparation and to
some extent also the appraisal phase, occur often not in a straight linear way one after
another, but more likely in an iterative back and forth process where the project proposal
gets progressively refined. It is in these three stages where any potential technological
alternatives would be considered. Once the project reaches the implementation stage
there is little room for changes in the technologies used. The next chapter will focus in
the procedures used to analyze and select project alternatives during the first stages of the
project, especially the appraisal phase, where the decisions regarding technology choice
After the appraisal follows the implementation phase where the project proposal is
executed and turned into tangible actions. Goodman and Love (Goodman, et al., 1980:
135) describe the tasks to be done during project implementation: 53
- Breaking down the project into its component tasks and activities;
- Assignment of tasks and activities to project team members, and detailed scheduling of these tasks;
- Allocation and use of resources such as personnel, finance, time and materials;
- Coordination, monitoring and control of the performance of the project team and the use of project resources in a manner which ensures the completion of all project activities in an orderly and optimal way.
Well established project management techniques and tools such as Ganntt and PERT
charts6 are used in this phase to facilitate monitoring and adjustments of the project,
improving project coherence and saving implementation time by separating problems into
their project components.
Finally, in the evaluation phase, the whole project will be re-analyzed in order to
provide feedback information which might be useful for future interventions, closing the
project cycle as a circle in an ideally continuous learning process. In this phase the
project performance is compared with the stated objectives. The idea is to understand the
reasons for the success or failure of the project, looking at what works and what does not,
so that errors are not repeated in future interventions. The evaluation exercise should look
at the impact of the project in target groups and their environment beyond the stated
goals, trying to understand any positive or negative unintended effects.
6 Commonly used project management tools initially developed for large and complex projects 54
The project cycle introduced here is a very common approach in the field of
development. There are others variants that feature slightly different divisions or naming
of the stages, or additional connections and loops between them.
The version presented here is a valid base to analyze the main goal of this work, the
choices of technology in development interventions. Regarding the first of the three
questions posed at the beginning of the chapter, when in the life of development
interventions decisions concerning the choice of technology are made, we see already
that they will most likely take place during the first three stages of the project cycle.
Let us focus now on the second question regarding the choice of technology in
development interventions: who makes or influences the decisions. In order to answer
this question we have to understand who are the main actors typically involved in a
development project, and what their roles are.
One of the most important activities in development interventions is the
identification of people, groups, organizations, and institutions involved one way or
another in the project, especially if we have in mind that in the development context what
is important is that people themselves are the agents of their own change, and determine
the type and speed of that change. Stakeholder analysis is the name given to the tool
commonly used by development agencies to carry out this study. This tool facilitates not
only the identification of the key actors, but also the assessment of their level of support 55
or opposition to the project, and what is their likely behavior regarding the change to be
In this section we will first describe the tool and later we will use it to identify the
stakeholders and their roles not for a specific development project –the typical
application—, but for a generic project. The goal is to figure out which of the
stakeholders involved in a development intervention would typically make decisions or
influence in some way the choice of technology.
There are a number of different approaches to the stakeholder analysis, but we are
going to explain and use here the proposal of the World Bank (Rietbergen-McCracken, et
al., 1997 module 2).
The first task, according to the World Bank, would be to identify all the potential
stakeholders of a project. From the perspective of the World Bank, an institution that
basically lends money, the list should include the borrower, beneficiaries, affected
groups, and other interest groups, including the Bank itself. Using the World Bank
perspective does not subtract generality to the approach, since in most development
interventions one or several institutions play the role of moneylender, be it a development
bank, a bilateral agency, a foundation, etc. The moneylender typically provides the
guidelines for the preparation and submission of the project proposal, including the
stakeholder analysis, and is in charge of project appraisal.
The Bank (Rietbergen-McCracken, et al., 1997) suggests answering the following
questions in order to make the list: 56
Who are potential beneficiaries?
Who might be adversely impacted?
Have vulnerable groups been identified?
Have supporters and opponents been identified?
What are the relationships among the stakeholders?
The second step would be to see the interests of each one of the stakeholders and the
potential impact, positive or negative, the project might have on those interests. These are
some questions suggested by the Bank (Rietbergen-McCracken, et al., 1997) for this step:
What are the stakeholders' expectations of the project?
What benefits are there likely to be for the stakeholders?
What resources might the stakeholder be able and willing to mobilize?
What stakeholder interests conflict with project goals?
The third step would be the assessment of the influence and importance of each
stakeholder for the success of the project. According to the World Bank (Rietbergen-
McCracken, et al., 1997), for each stakeholder group the following needs to be assessed:
Power and status (political, social, and economic);
Degree of organization;
Control of strategic resources;
Informal influence (e.g. personal connections);
Power relations with other stakeholders;
Importance to the success of the project.
Assessing the influence of each individual stakeholder means evaluating how much
power each has over the project, that is, what is the degree of control over the decision 57
making process, either directly or indirectly, that can make the implementation of the
project easier or harder. The influence may arise from a position of power, or from
informal connections with people in power.
The importance of each stakeholder for the project measures the degree of active
involvement by this stakeholder necessary for the achievement of the project goals. The
beneficiaries of a project are typically the most important for its success, since the project
exists in order to satisfy their needs. Oftentimes beneficiaries, with great level of
importance, have a relatively small level of influence – for example poor peasants in a
rural electrification project.
All the information collected in these three steps can be expressed in a visual way in
a table like this Stakeholder Analysis matrix proposed by the Bank. 58
Stakeholder Interest(s) at Effect of Project Importance of Stakeholder Degree of Influence of groups stake in relation on interest(s) for Success of Project Stakeholder over Project to project U= Unknown U=Unknown 1=Little/No importance 1=Little/No influence 2=Some importance 2=Some influence 3=Moderate importance 3=Moderate influence 4=Very important 4=Significant influence + 0 - 5=Critical player 5=Very influential
Table 1: Typical stakeholder table for a development project Source: Participatory Tools and Techniques. World Bank. Rietbergen-McCracken, 1997
Finally, the fourth step of the stakeholder analysis would be, from the Bank
perspective, the planning of the involvement of each stakeholder in the different phases
of the project. For that the Bank proposes filling out a table called participatory matrix
that typically looks like this one: 59
Type of participation Information-sharing Consultation Collaboration Empowerment Stage in Project (one-way flow) (two-way flow) (increasing control) (transfer of control over Process decisions and resources) Project Identification Preparation Appraisal Implementation, Supervision, and Monitoring
Table 2: Typical participatory matrix for a development project Source: Participatory Tools and Techniques. World Bank. Rietbergen-McCracken, 1997
There are four types of participation considered in the table. Stakeholders in the
information-sharing column will be provided with information about the project.
Stakeholders in the consultation column will be provided with information and their
opinions will be heard. Those in the collaboration column, otherwise called partnership,
are full partners in the specific stage of the project, have access to all the information and
discussions, and have a vote in the decisions made. Finally, stakeholders in the
empowerment column, often-called just control, are those who receive control, including
decision making, over specific tasks, but always under the supervision of the full
partners. Examples would be consultants hired to do research or prepare technical reports,
or contractors hired during the implementation phase.
The Bank (Rietbergen-McCracken, et al., 1997) provides several directives for the
involvement of stakeholders in the project according to their level of importance and
Stakeholders of high influence and high importance should be closely involved throughout to ensure their support for the project;
Stakeholders of high influence, low importance are not the target of the project but may oppose the intervention; they will therefore need, as appropriate, to be kept informed and their views acknowledged to avoid disruption or conflict;
Stakeholders of low influence, high importance require special efforts to ensure that their needs are met and their participation is meaningful; and
Stakeholders of low influence, low importance are unlikely to be closely involved in the project and require no special participation strategies (beyond any information-sharing strategies aimed at the "general public").
The Bank also recommends that the stakeholder analysis itself be done not only by
Bank staff, but also involving as much as possible other groups such as government
agencies, NGOs, academic institutions, etc, either bringing all of them together for
discussion, or through private hearings when there are sensitive issues to be discussed.
Overall the World Bank approach seems to make sense, and shows specific concern
for the participation of the important but less influential stakeholders, typically
beneficiaries of the project endowed with very limited resources.
Still, if we pay attention to the language, it says that stakeholders of high influence
and importance should be “closely involved” and even those of high influence and low
importance have to be “kept informed and their views acknowledged.” For those of low
influence and high importance the Bank talks of “special efforts to ensure their needs are
met and their participation is meaningful.” From the perspective of the World Bank the
most important thing is that the project goes through, and therefore stakeholders of high
influence are key. 61
Regarding this issue of stakeholders very important to the project but with low
influence, let us have a look at actual tools used to do the analysis. TeamUp-PCM is a
software application from a company called Team Technologies that assists with Project
Cycle Management processes. It is cited by Bell and Morse in their book Sustainability
indicators as an example for the carrying out of stakeholder analysis (Bell and Morse,
1999: 129). The table they use is reproduced below:
Table 3: Stakeholder Analysis table from TeamUp methodology and software Source: Sustainability Indicators. Bell and Morse, 1999
This table includes for each stakeholder one column called Value that measures its
importance for the project (1=lowest importance, 5=highest importance), and another 62
column called Power that measures its influence (1=lowest influence, 6=highest
influence). The tool automatically calculates another column called Impact that is the
product (multiplication) of Value and Power. Although Bell and Morse warn that this is a
very subjective value, they say that as a rule of thumb “any stakeholder with a score of
over 20 points in terms of impact should be taken seriously.” This represents a grave bias,
embedded in the methodology, towards powerful actors. A very important stakeholder
with the highest value (5) but low power (1) might not be granted the necessary level of
attention and involvement (impact=5).
After having described the stakeholder analysis tool, we are going to look at some
examples of its use in order to have a general idea of who are typically the actors
involved in each stage of a development intervention.
Let us first list typical stakeholders in development interventions:
- Donor agencies are the financers of the project, providing part or all of the money
needed to execute it. Although money from national governments or foundations is
often used in development projects, a great majority of them require some kind of
foreign financing, coming from donor agencies such as multilateral development
banks (World Bank, Asian Development Bank, Inter-American Development Bank,
etc), UN Agencies (UNDP, UNIDO, etc), bilateral agencies (USAID, DFID, etc), and
other donors such as foundations and big international NGOs. Donor agencies have
great power over development projects since they provide the funding. Without their
approval there is no project. 63
- Borrowers are those who ask for the money, submitting proposals for funding. For
relatively big projects the borrowers are typically national governments or their
agencies, and for smaller projects borrowers could be municipal and state
governments and even local NGOs or other type of local organizations. Borrowers are
also very important and have great influence over the project, since they propose it to
begin with, and often manage it from beginning to end.
- Civil society organizations that are involved in the project but are not direct
beneficiaries, such as local, national and international NGOs, private sector
organizations, professional groups, other civil society groups representing poor
sectors (Church leaders, trade unions, farmers’ unions), academic researchers,
politicians and political parties, communication media. Their level of importance and
influence varies greatly.
- Local beneficiaries are the directly affected groups, those who stand to benefit or lose
from the project. These often include the poor and the marginalized, representative
community-based organizations (CBOs), traditional and informal social networks,
and informal or temporary coalitions or social networks arising due to project
intervention. They are of the greatest importance for the project since they are
supposedly the reason why the project exists to begin with, but they have a low level
of influence in the existing power structure.
With this list of typical stakeholders in mind, let us look at our first example, a
private sector population project funded by the British ODA (Overseas Development 64
Administration), now known as DFID (Department for International Development). This
example is used by Montgomery in his book Resources in Social Development Practice
(Montgomery, 1996). Montgomery uses the table reproduced below to show the list of
identified stakeholders and their interests: 65
Interests Potential Relative project impact priorities of Secondary Stakeholders interest Ministry of Population * Achievement of targets (+) Welfare * Control over funds & activities (-) 3 * Avoid liability for any negative (-) reactions to contraceptive promotion Pharmaceutical companies, * Sales volume (+) & distributers * Profits (+/-) 2 * Public image (+/-) ODA * Institutional learning (+) * H & population objectives (+) * Short-term disbursements (-) 2 * Conserving staff inputs (?) * Avoid liability for any negative (-) reactions to contraceptive promotion Primary Stakeholders Lower-middle income * Reproductive choice (+) 1 groups * Cheaper contraceptives (-?) Women * Reproductive choice (+) * Enhanced health (+) 1 * Status (-/+) External stakeholders Islamic clergy * Social and religious influence (+/-) 4 Traditional birth attendants * Private incomes (-) 5
Explanatory note: As a private sector project, the Ministry may perceive a loss of control over resources. Several of the secondary stakeholders with positive interests in the project are wary of the social and religious influence of the clergy on public opinion (and therefore their image). The clergy are identified as a stakeholder group posing potential risks to the project.
Table 4: Stakeholder table for a private sector population project in Pakistan funded by ODA Source: Resources in Social Development Practice. Montgomery, 1996
The level of importance and influence of each one of the stakeholders is assessed
(according to ODA criteria) and based on that assessment the participation table is
designed for the project, as reproduced below: 66
Type of participation Stage in cycle Inform Consult Partnership Control * ODA * Pharmaceutical * Ministry of Identification companies Population & Welfare * ODA * Ministry of P&W * Womens groups * Pharmaceutical Planning * Clergy? * Health NGOs companies * Ministry of P&W * Health NGOs * Women's groups * Pharmaceutical Implementation * ODA * Clergy? companies * TCOs / PIU * Health NGOs * Women's groups * Pharmaceutical companies Monitoring & * TCOs / PIU * External Evaluation * ODA * Ministry * Ministry of P*W consultants
Table 5: Participation matrix for a private sector population project in Pakistan funded by ODA Source: Resources in Social Development Practice. Montgomery, 1996
For this participation matrix ODA considers together the preparation and appraisal
phases in what it calls planning. It is importance to notice how in the phases that are
critical for the definition of technological choices –as discussed above—, identification
and planning, the key stakeholders are ODA (the donor) and the Ministry of Population
and Welfare from the national government of the destination country (the borrower). The
purported beneficiaries, women’s groups, are not present at all in the identification phase,
and they are only to be consulted in the planning phase. On the other hand, very
influential but secondary stakeholders, the pharmaceutical companies, are to be consulted
during identification and become a full partner during the planning phase. 67
Our second example comes from DFID’s (former ODA) Guidance Manual on Water
Supply and Sanitation Projects and Programmes (Batteson, et al., 1998). The manual
shows an example of a Water Supply and Sanitation (WS&S) project, with the
stakeholder table reproduced below: 68
Table 6: Stakeholder table for Water Supply and Sanitation project funded by DFID Source: Guidance Manual on Water Supply and Sanitation Projects and Programmes. Batteson, 1998 69
After the level of importance and influence of the various stakeholders is evaluated
the participation matrix for the project is defined. It is reproduced below:
Table 7: Participation matrix for a Water Supply and Sanitation project funded by DFID Source: Guidance Manual on Water Supply and Sanitation Projects and Programmes. Batteson, 1998 70
In this second participation matrix we observe again how the donor (DFID) and the
borrower (Ministry of Water affairs) are present as partners in both phases were
alternatives are defined, identification and planning. In this case the purported
beneficiaries, community based organizations (CBOs) and women’s groups at least are to
be consulted during identification and become full partners during the planning phase.
Our third and final example comes from a book called Emergency Sanitation, based
on an emergency sanitation intervention that took place in Zambia in 2001 with the
involvement of DFID and Oxfam amongst others (Harvey, et al., 2002).
The authors propose a generic stakeholder table for this kind of projects that is
reproduced below: 71
Table 8: Stakeholder table for Emergency Sanitation projects Source: Emergency Sanitation. Harvey,
After the assessment of the levels of importance and influence of the different
players, a generic participatory matrix is proposed. It is reproduced here:
Table 9: Participatory matrix for an Emergency Sanitation Project Source: Emergency Sanitation. Harvey, 2002.
Since this type of intervention is considered emergency relief rather than
development, the identification of the needs or demands is different and definitely shorter
–there is urgent need. They call it Rapid assessment and priority setting. The remainder
phases are very similar, with the details of the intervention defined in the programme
design phase, then implementation, and finally monitoring and evaluation.
Again we see how in the first two phases, where alternative solutions can be
considered, the donor agency and the authorities (national, municipal or local 73
government) are major players at the level of partners. The beneficiaries, the community,
are only consulted in the first assessment phase, and become full partners in the design
From these three examples we can already infer something about who might be
involved in decisions having to do with the choice of technology. Those choices will
most likely be made during the identification, preparation and appraisal phases and, as we
have seen, the stakeholders that seem to be always important during those phases are the
donor, typically a multilateral development bank or bilateral development agency, and
the borrower, typically agencies from the national or regional government. These two
major stakeholders will have much to say regarding the choice of technology.
As for the beneficiaries, they do not seem to be an important partner in the
identification phase, although they might be during the planning phase. Their influence in
the decisions regarding the choice of technology will probably be limited.
Having the beneficiaries, especially when they have limited resources and education,
and limited organization capabilites, involved in the first phases of the project can be
frustrating for project managers and of low efficiency from their point of view. Bell and
Morse believe that all stakeholders should ideally provide their own assessment, but
acknowledge that this can be time consuming (Bell and Morse, 1999: 129). This is true,
but the full participation of the most important stakeholders, the beneficiaries and other
directly affected groups, is the key to achieve development according to their own 74
standards. In many cases a compromise will have to be reached between participation and
what project managers consider efficiency.
At this point we have already a rough answer to the first two questions posed about
the decisions regarding the choice of technology: when and by whom. As we have seen,
these decisions will most likely take place during the identification, planning and
appraisal stages of the project. The stakeholders that seem to be more important for those
decisions are the donor and the borrower. In some cases the beneficiaries might influence
those decisions too.
In order to know more details about the when and by whom, and to answer the third
question, using what criteria, the next chapter will analyze the procedures applied in
project analysis and appraisal. 75