Sometimes it’s called the ‘developing world’, sometimes it’s called the ‘global south’ and there have been other names before these. In any event, the organization, Nanotechnology for Development (Nano-dev) has released a policy brief about nanotechnology and emerging economies (?). Before discussing the brief, I have found a little information on the organization. From the Nano-dev home page,
Nanotechnology for development is a research project that aims at understanding how nanotechnology can contribute to development. By investigating way people deal with nanotechnology in Kenya, India and the Netherlands, the project will flesh out appropriate ways for governing nanotechnology for development.
Nanotechnology is a label for technologies at the nano-scale, roughly between 1 and 100 nanometers. This is extremely small. By comparison, the diameter of one human hair is about 60,000 nanometers. At this scale materials acquire all sorts of new characteristics that can be used in a wide range of novel applications. This potentially includes cheaper and more efficient technologies that can benefit the world’s poor, such as cheap water filters, efficient solar powered electricity, and portable diagnostic tests.
The four team members on the Nano-dev project are (from the Project Team page):
Pankaj Sekhsaria’s project seeks to understand the cultures of innovation in nanotechnology research in India, particularly in laboratories. He has a Bachelors Degree in Mechanical Engineering from Pune University in India and a MA in Mass Communication from the Jamia Milia Islamia in New Delhi, India.
Trust Saidi’s research is on travelling nanotechnologies. He studied BSc in Geography and Environmental Studies at Zimbabwe Open University, BSc Honours in Geography at University of Zimbabwe, MSc in Public Policy and Human Development at Maastricht Graduate School of Governance, Maastricht University.
Charity Urama’s project investigates the role of knowledge brokerage in nanotechnology for development. She obtained her BSc Botany from the faculty of Biological Sciences, University of Nigeria, Nsukka and MSc from the school of Biological and Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Life sciences, University of Aberdeen (UK).
Koen Beumer focuses on the democratic risk governance of nanotechnologies for development. Koen Beumer studied Arts and Culture (BA) and Cultures of Arts, Science and Technology (MPhil, cum laude) at Maastricht University.
According to the April 4, 2012 news item on Nanowerk about the brief,
The key message of the policy brief is that nanotechnology can have both positive and negative consequences for countries in the global South. These should be pro-actively dealt with.
The positive consequences of nanotechnology include direct benefits in the form of solutions to the problems of the poor and indirect benefits in the form of economic growth. The negative consequences of nanotechnology include direct risks to human health and the environment and indirect risks such as a deepening of the global divide. Core challenges to harnessing nanotechnology for development include risk governance, cultures of innovation, knowledge brokerage and travelling technology.
What I found particularly interesting in the policy brief is the analysis of nanotechnology efforts in countries that are not usually mentioned (from the policy brief),
There are large differences amongst countries in the global South. Some countries, like India, Egypt, Brazil and South Africa, have invested substantial sums of money through dedicated programs. Often these are large countries with emerging economies. Dedicated programs and strategies have been generated with strong political support.
In other countries in the global South things look different. Several African countries, like Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda and Zimbabwe have expressed their interest in nanotechnologies and some activities can indeed be observed. But generally this activity does not exceed the level of individual researchers and incidental funding. [p. 3]
In addition to the usual concerns expressed over human health, they mention this risk,
Furthermore, properties at the nano-scale may be used to imitate the properties of rare minerals, thus affecting the export rates of their main producers, usually countries in the global South. Nanotechnologies may thus have reverse effects on material demands and consequently on the export of raw materials by countries in the global South (Schummer 2007). [p. 3]
Interesting thought that nanotechnology research could pose a risk to the economic welfare of countries that rely on the export of raw materials. Canada, anyone? If you think about it, all the excitement over nanocellulose doesn’t have to be an economic boon for ‘forestry-based’ countries. If cellulose is the most abundant polymer on earth what’s stop other countries from using their own nanocellulose. After all, Brazilian researchers are working on nanocellulose fibres derived from pineapples and bananas (my Mar. 28, 2011 and June 16, 2011 postings).
One final thing from the April 4, 2012 news item on Nanowerk,
The NANO-DEV project is partnership of three research institutes led by Maastricht University, the Netherlands. Besides Maastricht University, it includes the University of Hyderabad (India) and the African Technology Policy Studies Network (Kenya).