The possibilities of technology are expanding with each passing day. We can connect and enjoy conversations with people anywhere globally, and machines can perform precise tasks such as medical treatment and surgery. Kentaro Toyama’s (2016=2015) book, “Technology Doesn’t Save Poverty,” as the title suggests, poses a challenge to the continuous introduction of technology to developing countries.
It has been pointed out that the introduction of technology does not necessarily help reduce poverty but rather widens the gap (Economist 2005). It has been pointed out that the introduction of technology does not necessarily help reduce poverty but rather widens the gap (Economist 2005). In this book, Toyama also says that simply distributing laptops to the poor or providing them with internet access will not have the desired effect. Toyama points out the “law of amplification,” which states that technology is not a panacea but just a tool to amplify an individual’s abilities. As a result, the effects of technology are amplified for capable, while for those who are not, even if they have a laptop, they can only use it to play music or watch videos, which does not have the desired effect and widens the gap.
Toyama emphasizes human resource development as a way to overcome the problem of increasing disparity due to technology. In particular, he points out the importance of non-cognitive skills, such as finding and solving problems, the judgment to choose the best method, and self-control. The importance of non-cognitive abilities with technology advancement is similarly pointed out in Weinberger (2014) and Deming (2015). Frey and Osborne (2013), who made a headline when they analyzed the “jobs that will be gone in 10 years” due to technological innovation, also pointed out the importance of non-cognitive skills that cannot be replaced by technological innovation.
Besides, Toyama focuses on mentorship as a specific means of human resource development. Mentorship is an approach that encourages the individual’s internal growth by not forcing education and not manipulating spontaneity through incentives, but rather by building the capabilities of the individual while staying close to his or her efforts. Kanigel (1986=2020) has also noted this approach as the secret of the mentor-student relationship produced by Nobel Prize-winning scientists. While this approach effectively fosters human resources in a small group such as a laboratory, there is still the issue of human resource costs involved in assigning mentors when the scale of the program expands, but Toyama does not mention this issue.
Although there is a methodological issue of the cost of assigning mentors, the perspective on non-cognitive abilities and human resource development with close support is suggestive not only for introducing technology in developing countries but also for the currently closed situation where the novel coronavirus is spreading. As education and labor continue to be remote, we are now benefiting from technology that allows us to access education and employment in a non-face-to-face manner. However, we need to think about capacity building for effective use from the perspective of the “law of amplification” of technology rather than just developing online educational tools and the Internet environment. Developing human resources to deal with technology is a challenge for worldwide to reduce the gap in education and productivity.
- Deming, D. J. (2015) “The growing importance of social skills in the labor market”, NBER Working Paper 21473.
- Economist. (2005) The real digital divide. May 10, 2005.
- Frey, C. B. and M. A. Osborne (2013) “The future of employment: How substitutable are jobs to computerisation?”, Oxford Martin School Working Paper No. 7.
- Kanigel, R. (1986) APPRENTICE TO GENIUS: The Making of a Scientific Dynasty. Macmillan. （熊倉鴻之介訳（2020）『メンター・チェーン：ノーベル賞科学者の徒弟の絆』工作舎）
- Toyama, K. (2015) Geek Heresy: Rescuing Social Change from the Cult of Technology. Perseus Books. (松本裕訳 (2016)『テクノロジーは貧困を救わない』みすず書房)
- Weinberger, C. J. (2014) “The increasing complementarity between cognitive and social skills”, The Review of Economics and Statistics,96(5): 849-861.