In the industrialized world, we've gone through many phases and iterations of innovation to reach the level of technological advancement we currently enjoy. It took well over a century, for example, to get from Alexander Graham Bell's historic first telephone call to ubiquitous mobile phones and VoIP. And, indeed, in our societies, the old and the new are everywhere intertwined: we may use Blackberries and take genetically-targeted medications, but many of us still drink water delivered through victorian clay pipes and drive internal combustion automobiles over MacAdam roads.
That's not the case everywhere. In rural areas and emerging megacities across the Global South, basic services like telephone and power lines just don't exist. This creates a new kind of opportunity: where even the most basic systems of telephony have never been introduced, for instance, it's possible to skip the landlines altogether and jump straight to mobile phones -- leapfrogging to the technological forefront.
Leapfrogging has tremendous implications in terms of promoting development, facilitating access to medical care and educational tools, enabling new forms of local currency and credit, and transferring remittances around the world. It's a means of sharing information and leveling the playing field between Global North and Global South. Some of the innovations now being created in leapfrogging nations will probably influence in turn development in the industrialized world -- a process that's been described by such clumsy terms as leapback and frogleaping, but which we can probably all expect to see much more of in coming years.
All of this may turn out to be extraordinarily good news for sustainable development, as access to information technologies, distributed power and water systems and innovative medical, agricultural and architectural solutions help people create new pathways out of poverty and towards a bright green future.
Creative Commons Photo Credit