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What Matters Most Depends on Where You Are

Technology Review looks at technological projects and problems in seven selected countries.

“Global village” was always an idealistic oxymoron. Politically, culturally, and economically, the differences among nations loom far larger than any differences that might exist among neighborhoods made up of small clutches of homes and shops.

In the following collection of stories, Technology Review brings you the view from seven countries. They are a sampling of the world: Northern Hemisphere and Southern, nations developed and developing, with traditions democratic, autocratic, and Communist. In four cases (China, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United States), the writers are editors of Technology Review or of one of its foreign-language editions. For reports on technology in the other three countries (South Africa, Chile, and Brazil), we turned to journalists who cover those countries. We asked these writers to report on which emerging technologies are the most important for their nations’ societies and economies, and to explain what makes these technolo­gies uniquely characteristic of their countries.

Each country reveals its own preoccupations, usually born out of its peculiar history and current circumstances. Leave it to the Dutch, for example, to pour computer modeling resources into the management of water and soil—endeavors without which the Netherlands’ very existence would be imperiled. The United States has measured the value of R&D projects largely by their potential for adding to the nervous nation’s power to fight wars and defend against terrorist attack. In Germany, home of the world’s first superhighways and some of its most storied carmakers, it’s no surprise to see projects aimed at making driving safer and smarter.

In all, our reporters identified more than two dozen emerging technologies or ideas about innovation as vital to the futures of these seven countries. But even those innovations that most directly address urgent regional needs prove to have application for the entire planet.

Measuring Global Technology

Economically advanced European and North American countries may leap to mind as global technology leaders. By and large, that’s the case. These countries tend to fare particularly well on such measures as Internet usage, technology spending per person, and cost of Internet access. Economically developing countries are relatively well represented when it comes to significant mobile-phone and Internet use as well as, increasingly, the production of genetically modified crops.

Brazil

Chile

China

Germany

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