Tools and goals of development

GROWTH could happen even without a plan, but there could be no real development if there is no real planning. It is possible for haphazard development even with a weak plan, but for sure it will not be sustainable.

In other words, what is really important in development is for it to be sustainable, not only for the short term, but also for the long term, stretching out to as many generations as possible in the life of a nation.

In the overall, it could be said that whether it is in the form of growth or in the form of development, it could still be considered as progress, from one state of being to another. The problem with that is that growth could be selective, and more often than not, it would exclude the marginalized sectors of society.

We often hear the term “inclusive growth”, in as much as it has become a byword. Given the differentiation that I explained earlier, it is very clear that the proper term should be “inclusive development”.

By comparison however, “inclusive development” would just be laid to waste if it is not sustainable. Very close to the subject of sustainability is the subject of national security. In the same context, it could be said that each and every component of national security would pose a threat if it is not sustainable. Along this trend of thought, it could be said that it could only be sustainable if the means of production are controllable, meaning to say that there should be no factors that are beyond our control.

The issue of food security in relation to rice supply is one example of the interrelationships between sustainability and controllability. While we may be able to control the importation and distribution of rice, we have no control over the means of production; hence it would be difficult for us to achieve food security in that context.

The issue is somehow similar in relation to energy supply. We may have control over the importation and distribution of energy, but we do not have control over the means of production. Therefore, the key to sustainability and controllability is having our own means of production. In the case of food security, that would mean producing our own rice. In the case of energy security, that would mean producing renewable energy.

It is very clear that technology is only a tool for development. What is really more important is how the tools could be used to achieve the goals of development. In other words, the goals are more important than the goals.

We should really understand the fine line between tools and goals, because more often than not, we become obsessed by what the tools can do, while forgetting that the real purpose of having these tools is to achieve the goals that we have set for ourselves.

One example of this is our response to the seventeen Sustainable Development Tools (SDGs) of the United Nations. Now on its second year before its deadline on 2030, there appears to be no concrete plan as to how technology could be used to meet these goals.

Because of the phenomenon of convergence, information and communications technologies (ICT) have fused together to become one and it is already difficult to separate one from the other. Also because of convergence, ICT tools could both be used for one way information dissemination and two way communications flows.

On one hand therefore, it could be said that the information side could be used to advocate for the attainment of the SDGs and on the other hand, the communications side could be used to monitor and report the status of meeting these goals. All said, it should even be clearer that the goals are more important than the tools.

To a large extent, it could be said that there are many overlaps between the use of online tools and mobile tools, hence the confusion between these two. Strictly speaking, “online” would mean using the internet of the two sides of ICT, and “mobile” would mean using the cellular networks for the same purposes.

As a way to remove the confusion, it could be said that “online” services would use a browser, while “mobile” services would use a mobile app. A browser enables users to surf the internet by accessing websites that have the content. In the case of “mobile” services, the mobile app is “native” to the device, wherein most of the content is built into the apps.

As it is happening now however, many websites including the social networking sites (SNS) already have their own mobile responsive versions aside from also having their own mobile app versions. Conversely, many mobile apps now also have their own browser versions; hence the distinctions between the two approaches are fast disappearing.

The bottom line in all of these is that both “online” and “mobile” tools are now available in order to achieve the development goals. In reality, the biggest challenge now is how to mobilize the government agencies so that they would know how to respond to the demands of the general public for the use of these tools./PN


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