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The Accenture Economic Development Award
Alexander J. Field
The Economic Development panel reviewed 56 applications this year, and selected five as Laureates. A distinguishing feature of those selected, but not one we specifically aimed for, is diversity: diversity in the problems tackled, in the institutional context within which these individuals and organizations have made their contributions, in where they are based, and in their principal region of operation. Our Laureates include a non-profit entrepreneurial organization that has introduced cheap irrigation technology in Kenya and Tanzania, an Indian state government initiative that has computerized 20 million land records, a U.S. oceanographer who has facilitated more accurate estimation of fish populations, an Argentinean structural engineering firm with an improved means of diagnosing the deterioration of reinforced concrete buildings, and an Australian poultry scientist whose cheap thermo-stable vaccine is preventing decimation of local chicken populations.
The following sections provide a survey of our Laureates and their contributions.
ApproTEC, San Francisco, California
ApproTEC is an organization founded by a U.S. and a British national, but has operated princi-pally in Kenya and Tanzania. Frustrated by the failure of government and large aid organizations to foster development in sub-Saharan Africa, its application is based on the innovation, production, and marketing of a new technology for small-scale irrigation.
Electric pumps are cheap, but most Africans have no access to electricity. Gasoline pumps are expensive, as are solar or wind powered machines. ApproTEC has designed a range of low-cost, portable, manually operated irrigation pumps suitable for sub-Saharan conditions. They are low-cost so farmers can buy them, and they are portable so that users don’t have to sleep in the fields to keep them from being stolen. They can be manufactured locally, using unskilled labor and low quality steel. They have few moving parts, no nuts and bolts that can rust, can be operated without training, and can be used both to pull water from a well and to push it through a hose to irrigate a field.
In many semi-arid regions of sub-Saharan Africa, effective irrigation means the difference between subsistence agriculture and the possibility of higher incomes from marketing commercial surpluses. Without these pumps, water has to be raised from wells and distributed using the most primitive of technologies: buckets. Only limited amounts of arable land can be irrigated manually in this fashion. ApproTEC’s pumps enable farmers to grow surpluses of vegetable or other crops that can be sold commercially.
ApproTEC has spent considerable time designing production and distribution systems in which all the players have an economic incentive to participate. In each instance, ApproTEC has focused on making the manufacture and distribution of its pumps as much of an attractive economic opportunity as their use. The ApproTEC system combines genuine engi-neering innovation with a careful attention to production, distribution, and marketing. Over 22,000 of these pumps have been sold, and the applicants estimate that the value added (additional wage and profit income) associated with the manufacture, distribution, and use of these pumps currently amounts to approximately .5 percent of Kenyan GDP. For further information, see http://www.approtec.org
Government of Karnataka, Bhoomi Project, Karnataka, India
If ApproTEC represents in part a response to perceived failures of government, The Bhoomi Project is a successful public sector initiative of the state of Karnataka in India. Economic historians have long recognized that one of the central obstacles to economic development is insecure or uncertain rights to land. Without security, cultivators don’t know if they will be able to reap where they have sown, and thus have reduced incentives to improve their land. Without security of title, collateralized lending is also inhibited. Legal expenses associated with land litigation, with the recording of property liens, and with the transfer of property can represent a considerable hindrance to economic development.
Recent experience in the transition economies of Eastern Europe has emphasized the importance of these issues, and there is current, heated debate about the merits of “shock therapy” in the former Soviet Union compared to a somewhat more gradualist approach (such as undertaken in Poland) where one of the first orders of business was to straighten out the legal system.
Security and transparency of land title have also been ongoing problems for the 1.5 billion residents of the Indian subcontinent. In India, local village accountants traditionally have maintained land records and have been able to extract rents for their services. Sometimes corrupt officials have engaged in extortion in order to guarantee land transfers. Long delays, litigation, and difficulties in obtaining agricultural credit have been the result.
The Bhoomi Project has successfully undertaken the task of computerizing over 20 million land records and making these available on-line in village kiosks throughout the state. The length of time required to obtain a land record has been dramatically shortened. Only authorized individuals are allowed to enter changes in the database, and “sign-in” must first be authenticated through the use of biometric data: a state of the art thumbprint reader. These safeguards dramatically reduce the scope for corruption. Careful attention also has been paid to ensuring periodic backup on a variety of media and in training local officials in the use of the system. Changes are made online, so the database is continually updated, and is linked to agricultural lenders to facilitate the processing of loans.
The maintenance of land records, like the provision of justice, is an essential feature of a modern state: it is not something that serious scholars or policy analysts suggest privatizing. By mandating the illegality of manual records on the day the system went on line, the government was able to ensure quick acceptance of the system. That policy instrument, one that private sector innovators rarely have access to, was probably critical to the success of the system.
With this system, at least one state government in India may leapfrog ahead of the United States in terms of the accessibility and transparency of land records. Although one secret of U.S. economic growth has been our system of public registries of deeds, these deeds, and other restrictions on property rights (such as easements) are not maintained in an easily accessible fashion, requiring an entire industry devoted to researching and insuring title (title search and insurance companies). Were the Indian system implemented in the United States, it is not clear that there would be much of a market for these firms.
For further information, see http:// www.revdept-01.kar.nic.in/Bhoomi/Home.htm
THASA, Buenos Aires, Argentina
THASA, a for-profit structural engineering firm, has developed an innovative technique for as-sessing the structural soundness of reinforced concrete buildings and other infrastructure such as bridges, tunnels, and dams. As these structures age, the rein-forcing steel bars (rebar) may begin to rust, and the uses of the structures may change, introducing stresses that were not anticipated in construction. For all of these reasons and others there is recurring need for means of ascertaining the soundness of buildings and infrastructure.
Reinforced concrete tomography using gamma rays represents the application of a technique from the medical field to the arena of civil engineer-ing. The quality of construction in the past, particu-larly in developing countries, has often been highly variable, and as these buildings age it becomes more and more pressing that one ascertain their structural stability. Prior to THASA’s innovation, the main tech-niques for testing were invasive: jackhammering or pickaxing through concrete to inspect a few of the bars. Such techniques can only provide a partial evalu-ation of the soundness of a structure. The testing cre-ates noise and dust, and damages parts of the build-ing, sometimes beyond repair. It cannot be used on buildings whose exterior has artistic value.
A range of noninvasive techniques, including ultrasound and magnetic imaging have been used before, but THASA has de-veloped a far superior procedure that is more precise and more com-plete than other noninvasive tech-niques. The firm holds four pat-ents (one in the United States) and has completed over 100 projects using its approach. These have included analyses in Argentina of the National Senate and Supreme Court buildings, many apartments and industrial plants, and a number of bridges, highways, and piers. For further information, see http://www. THASA.com
David Checkley, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California San Diego
The world’s fisheries are an increasingly important source of food for the world. Yet all are faced with the challenges of managing a common resource: how to limit the catch so as to allow yields that are sustainable. Traditional techniques for estimating fish populations have relied on data on catch, or samples of eggs or larvae taken at discrete locations from stationery ships. These estimates are inaccurate or expensive or both. For example stationary egg sampling requires that the boat be stopped, and because the distribution of fish eggs in ocean water can be highly uneven, the results may provide very poor information. Acoustic sampling is also sometimes used, but gives no information on the species.
Particularly because many of the world’s fisheries are near developing countries, any improved technology for monitoring populations must be both simple and reliable. Dr. David Checkley of the University of California San Diego, and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography has developed a superior system for evaluating the demography of a fishery: The Continuous Underway Fish Egg Sampler (CUFES). The CUFES consists of a pump, concentrator, and sample collector. Water is sampled at a three meter depth as a boat moves through the water and close to real time data is collected on the concentration of fish eggs. Dr. Checkley and his collaborators are currently at work on a version that automates the measurement and analysis of the samples collected.
CUFES is now in use to monitor anchovy, sardine, and mackerel populations in the coastal fisheries of the United States, Canada, Chile, France, Mexico, Peru, Portugal, South Africa, and Spain, and will be used off the coast of Namibia in 2003. Californians will appreciate that had this system been available it could have prevented the devastation of the Monterey sardine industry that John Steinbeck chronicled in Cannery Row.
For further information, see http:/www.mlrg. ucsd.edu/CUFES/
Peter Spradbrow, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia
Finally, Professor Peter Spradbrow of the University of Queensland, Australia, has developed an inexpensive thermo-stable vaccine for Newcastle disease, a potentially devastating affliction that can destroy an entire chicken flock. His is not the first anti-Newcastle disease vaccine, but those that have been previously available have been intended for large scale commercial applications, have to be kept refrig-erated throughout the entire distribution process, and are only available in large batches.
Most villagers in developing countries have small flocks of 10-20 chickens, and the disease can strike unpredictably. Farmers know this, and thus have little incentive to invest in increasing the size of their flocks. What has been needed is a vaccine that is in-expensive, does not require refrigeration along its dis-tribution chain, and can be produced locally without the need for paying licensing royalties for the vaccine stock.
After first developing a vaccine from stock under commercial control, Professor Spradbrow went on to develop a thermo-stable vaccine from stock not in the commercial domain. He instructed his univer-sity not to consider it intellectual property but rather to make it available free of cost to those wishing to use it. Professor Spradbrow’s vaccine has been tested in at least 30 developing countries. It has been shown to be both safe and effective, and to spread from vac-cinated to unvaccinated chickens. It is currently be-ing produced and used on a large scale in at least seven countries: Malaysia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Bhutan, Mozambique, Mauritius, and Tanzania
For further information see:www.clunie sross.org.au/Citations/1995/spradbrow.htm
Conclusion: General Reflections on the Applications
As was the case last year, all members of the panel commented on how inspiring it was to read these applications. Located as several of us are in the heart of Silicon Valley, it is very easy to believe that this is the center of the universe. It is refreshing to see the creative initiatives emanating from around the world addressing problems critical to the economic health of millions of people that we honor in selecting our Laureates. They represent innovations whose first applications have been in Africa, the Indian Subcontinent, Asia, Latin America, and the United States.
Our panel also reflected this year on the interrelationships of the five Tech Award categories. They are perhaps clearest in the cases of health, education, and economic development. Any innovation that substantially improves a region’s rate of economic growth is likely to have an impact on the health status and educational attainments of its population. Conversely, innovations that directly improve the health or education of a country’s labor force improve the quality of its human resources, a key input into production. The situation is somewhat less clear with respect to environment and equality––some scholars claim that improvements in these dimensions foster economic growth conventionally measured, while others claim there are tradeoffs. Within the health, education, and economic development categories, it continues to make sense to segregate applications according to where the most direct contribution has been.
The applications that were submitted this year represent the enormous creativity, optimism, and diligence of innovators around the world. We hope that by honoring our five Laureates we provide a small incentive to those with the imagination to see problems solved and obstacles overcome for the benefit of humanity. •
Alexander J. Field, Chair, Michel and Mary Orradre Professor of Economics, Santa Clara University
William S. Carter, Xilinx Fellow, Xilinx Inc.
Shahid Firoz, Vice Chairman, Economic Development Council, Government of Sindh, Karachi, Pakistan
Michael Kevane, Assistant Professor of Economics, Santa Clara University
Reiji Sano, Lifetime Honorary Member, Matsushita Electric Industiral Co., Distinguished Visiting Fellow, Center for Science, Technology, and Society
S. Andrew Starbird, Associate Professor of Operationsand Management Information Systems, Santa Clara University