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Scenarios for the Future of Technology

and International Development

This report was produced by

The Rockefeller Foundation
and Global Business Network.

May 2010

Contents
Letter from Judith Rodin . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .4
Letter from Peter Schwartz . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6
Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .8
WHY SCENARIOS? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .9
WHY TECHNOLOGY? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .10
THE FOCAL QUESTION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .11
ENGAGING YOUR IMAGINATION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .11
The Scenario Framework . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .13
CHOOSING THE CRITICAL UNCERTAINTIES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .14
GLOBAL POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC ALIGNMENT . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .15
ADAPTIVE CAPACITY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .15
THE SCENARIO NARRATIVES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .17
Lock Step . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .18
Clever Together . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .26
Hack Attack . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .34
Smart Scramble . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .42
Concluding Thoughts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .49
Appendix . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .51
The Rockefeller Foundation supports work that expands opportunity and strengthens
resilience to social, economic, health, and environmental challenges

— affirming
its pioneering philanthropic mission, since 1913, t漠“promote the well-being鐠of
humanity. We take a synergistic, strategic approach that places a high value on
innovative processes and encourages new ways of seeking ideas, to break down silos
and encourage interdisciplinary thinking.

One important
— and novel — component of our strategy toolkit is scenario planning,
a process of creating narratives about the future based on factors likely to affect a
particular set of challenges and opportunities. We believe that scenario planning has
great potential for use in philanthropy to identify unique interventions, simulate and
rehearse important decisions that could have profound implications, and highlight
previously undiscovered areas of connection and intersection. Most important,
by providing a methodological structure that helps us focus on what we don’t

know
— instead of what we already know — scenario planning allows us to achieve
impact more effectively.
The results of ou爠first scenario planning exercise demonstrate a provocative and
engaging exploration of the role of technology and the future of globalization,
as you will see in the following pages. This report is crucial reading for anyone
interested in creatively considering the multiple, divergent ways in which our world
could evolve. The sparks of insight inspiring these narratives

— along with their
implications for philanthropy as a whole
— were generated through the invaluable
collaboration of grantee representatives, external experts, and Rockefeller
Foundation staff. I offer a special thanks to Peter Schwartz, Andrew Blau, and the
entire team at Global Business Network, who have helped guide us through this
stimulating and energizing process.

Letter from Judith Rodin

President of the Rockefeller Foundation

Scenarios for the Future of Technology and International Development
Leading this effort at the Rockefeller Foundation is our Research Unit, which
analyzes emerging risks and opportunities and thinks imaginatively about how to
respond to the complex, rapidly changing world around us. This outward-looking
intelligence function adopts a cross-cutting mindset that synthesizes and integrates
knowledge that accelerates our ability to act more quickly and effectively. It has
also helped to shape and build the notion o映“pro-poor foresight鐠that is committed
to applying forward-looking tools and techniques to improve the lives of poor and
vulnerable populations around the world.
I hope this publication makes clear exactly why my colleagues and I are so excited
about the promise of using scenario planning to develop robust strategies and offer a
refreshing viewpoint on the possibilities that lie ahead. We welcome your feedback.

Judith Rodin

President

The Rockefeller Foundation

Scenarios for the Future of Technology and International Development

We are at a moment in history that is full of opportunity. Technology is poised to
transform the lives of millions of people throughout the world, especially those who
have had little or no access to the tools that can deliver sustainable improvements
for their families and communities. From farmers using mobile phones to buy and
sell crops to doctors remotely monitoring and treating influenza outbreaks in rural
villages, technology is rapidly becoming more and more integral to the pace and
progress of development.
Philanthropy has a unique and critical role to play in this process. By focusing its
patience, capital, and attention on the links between technology and international
development, philanthropy will change not just lives but the very context in
which th攠field of philanthropy operates. This report represents an initial step in
that direction. It explores four very different

— yet very possible — scenarios for
the future of technology and development in order to illuminate the challenges
and opportunities that may lie ahead. It promotes a deeper understanding of the
complex forces and dynamics that will accelerate or inhibit the use of technology
to spur growth, opportunity, and resilience especially in the developing world.
Finally, it will seed a new strategic conversation among the key public, private, and
philanthropic stakeholders about technology and development at the policy, program,
and human levels.
The Rockefeller Foundation’s use of scenario planning to explore technology and
international development has been both inspired and ambitious. Throughout my
40-plus-year career as a scenario planner, I have worked with many of the world’s
leading companies, governments, foundations, and nonprofits

— and I kno眠firsthand
the power of the approach. Scenario planning is a powerful tool precisely because
the future is unpredictable and shaped by many interacting variables. Scenarios
enable us to think creatively and rigorously about the different ways these forces
may interact, while forcing us to challenge our own assumptions about what we

Letter from Peter Schwartz
Cofounder and Chairman of Global Business Network

Scenarios for the Future of Technology and International Development

believe or hope the future will be. Scenarios embrace and weave together multiple
perspectives and provide an ongoing framework for spotting and making sense of
important changes as they emerge. Perhaps most importantly, scenarios give us a
new, shared language that deepens our conversations about the future and how we
can help to shape it.
The Rockefeller Foundation has already used this project as an opportunity to
clarify and advance the relationship between technology and development.
Through interviews and the scenario workshops, they have engaged a diverse set

of people
— from different geographies, disciplines, and sectors — to identify the key
forces driving change, to explore the most critical uncertainties, and to develop
challenging yet plausible scenarios and implications. They have stretched their
thinking far beyond theoretical models of technology innovation and diffusion in
order to imagine how technology could actually change the lives of people from
many walks of life. This is only the start of an important conversation that will
continue to shape the potential of technology and international development going
forward. I look forward to staying a part of that conversation and to the better future
it will bring.

Peter Schwartz

Cofounder and Chairman

Global Business Network

Scenarios for the Future of Technology and International Development

For decades, technology has been dramatically changing
not just the lives of individuals in developed countries, but
increasingly the lives and livelihoods of people throughout
the developing world. Whether it is a community mobile
phone, a solar panel, a new farming practice, or a cutting-
edge medical device, technology is altering the landscape of
possibility in places where possibilities used to be scarce.
And yet looking out to the future, there is no
single story to be told about how technology

will continue to help shape

— or even

revolutionize

— life in developing countries. There
are many possibilities, some good and some less
so, some known and some unknowable. Indeed,
for everything we think we can anticipate about
how technology and international development
will interact and intertwine in the next 20 years
and beyond, there is so much more that we
cannot yet even imagine.

For philanthropies as well as for other
organizations, this presents a unique challenge:
given the uncertainty about how the future will
play out, how can we best position ourselves not
just to identify technologies that improve the
lives of poor communities but also to help scale
and spread those that emerge? And how will the
social, technological, economic, environmental,
and political conditions of the future enable or
inhibit our ability to do so?
The Rockefeller Foundation believes that

in order to understand the many ways in
which technology will impact international
development in the future, we mus琠first broaden
and deepen our individual and collective
understanding of the range of possibilities. This
report, and the project upon which it is based,
is one attempt to do that. In it, we share the
outputs and insights from a year-long project,
undertaken by the Rockefeller Foundation and
Global Business Network (GBN), designed to

Introduction

Scenarios for the Future of Technology and International Development

explore the role of technology in international
development through scenario planning, a
methodology in which GBN is a long-time leader.

This report builds on the Rockefeller
Foundation’s growing body of work in the
emergin朠field of pro-poor foresight. In 2009,
the Institute for Alternative Futures published
the report Foresight for Smart Globalization:

Accelerating and Enhancing Pro-Poor
Development Opportunities, with support from
the Rockefeller Foundation. That effort was a
reṥction of the Foundation’s strong commitment
to exploring innovative processes and embracing
new pathways for insight aimed at helping the
world’s poor. With this report, the Foundation
takes a further step in advancing th攠field of
pro-poor foresight, this time through the lens of
scenario planning.
WHY SCENARIOS?
The goal of this project was not to affirm what
is already known and knowable about what
is happening right now at the intersections of
technology and development. Rather, it was to
explore the many ways in which technology

and development could co-evolve

— could both

push and inhibit each other

— in the future, and
then to begin to examine what those possible
alternative paths may imply for the world’s
poor and vulnerable populations. Such an
exercise required project participants to push
their thinking far beyond the status quo, into
uncharted territory.
Scenario planning is a methodology designed
to help guide groups and individuals through
exactly this creative process. The process
begins by identifying forces of change in the
world, then combining those forces in different

ways to create a set of diverse stories

— or

scenarios
— about how the future could evolve.
Scenarios are designed to stretch our thinking
about both the opportunities and obstacles that
the future might hold; they explore, through
narrative, events and dynamics that might
alter, inhibit, or enhance current trends, often
in surprising ways. Together, a set of scenarios
captures a range of future possibilities,

good and bad, expected and surprising

— but
always plausible. Importantly, scenarios are
not predictions. Rather, they are thoughtful
hypotheses that allow us to imagine, and then to
rehearse, different strategies for how to be more

prepared for the future

— or more ambitiously,

how to help shape better
futures ourselves.

Scenarios for the Future of Technology and International Development

WHY TECHNOLOGY?
Technology was chosen as a focal point of this
project because of its potentially transformative

role
— both in a positive and negative way — in

addressing a wide range of development
challenges, from climate change, healthcare,
and agriculture to housing, transportation, and
education. Yet while there is little doubt that
technology will continue to be a driver of change
across the developing world in the future, the
precise trajectory along which technological
innovation will travel is highly uncertain.
For example, will critical technological
advances come from the developed world, or
will innovators and their innovations be more
geographically dispersed? Or, how might the
global economic and political environment affect
the pace of technology development?
It is important to state that in focusing on
technology, this project did not set out to
identify a set of exact, yet-to-be-invented
technologies that will help shape and change the
future. Rather, the goal was to gain a broader
and richer understanding of different paths

along which technology could develop

— paths
that will be strongly influenced by the overall
global environment in which the inventors
and adopters of those technologies wil氠find
themselves working and dwelling. Technology,
as a category, cannot be divorced from the
context in which it develops. The scenarios
shared in this report explore four such contexts,
each of which, as you’ll see, suggests very
different landscapes for technology and its
potential impacts in the developing world.

Finally, a note about what we mean by
“technology.鐠In this report, we use the term to
refer to a broad spectrum of tools and methods of
organization. Technologies can range from tools
for basic survival, such as a treadle pump and
basi挠filtration technologies, to more advanced
innovations, such as methods of collecting
and utilizing data in health informatics
and novel building materials with real-time
environmental sensing capabilities. This
report focuses on themes associated with the
widespread scalability, adoption, and assessment
of technology in the developing world. While
the scenarios themselves are narratives about
the global environment, we have paid particular
attention to how events might transpire in sub-
Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, and India.

Scenarios for the Future of Technology and International Development


RF Scen

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