Sunday, 31 May 2009

When is a banana not a banana?

When it is a banana collected for food and considered as a technological object. Technology theory tries to find ways of describing objects that help to explain how they interact with the rest of the economy. The following description of a banana could apply to many small scale technologies in Africa.

Its factors of production include tropical agricultural inputs and manual labour.

Its capital requirement for operation is low unless for large-scale production, with some of the capital being freely available and collectable by labour.

The knowledge requirement for operation is relatively low.

The embeddedness of the technology is high; the banana contains the chemical technology in it and the grower and harvester do not have to know and implement every detail. The operational skills are disembedded.

The geographic location of the technology source is local.

The protection on intellectual property is non-existent.

The costs of knowledge transfer is low for the banana itself; operational skills are also relatively inexpensive to transfer.

The social factors influencing the choice to grow and collect bananas may include the relatively low risk of production and its historical acceptance. I am uncertain of the role of social factors, however, for reasons of my own lack of knowledge, and because other constraints such as finance might be directing choices more than social factors.

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