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Ten frontier technologies for international development

Author: Ramalingam, B.; Hernandez, K.; Prieto Martin, P.; Faith, B.
Year: 2016
Pages: 120 pp.
Document Type(s): PDF 2.0MB 

The Department for International Development (DFID) commissioned the Digital and Technology Research Group at the Institute of Development Studies to undertake a review of frontier technologies, focusing on their potential to positively contribute to development and humanitarian efforts.This report is based on an extensive review of literature, as well as consultations with expert informants, on ten selected frontier technologies in the following five areas:

Manufacturing and consumption

  • 3D printing for development
  • Collaborative economy tools

  • Alternative internet delivery
  • Internet of things

Transportation and logistics
  • Unmanned aerial vehicles/drones
  • Airships

Fresh water
  • Solar desalination
  • Atmospheric water condensers

Clean air and energy
  • Household-scale batteries
  • Smog-reducing technologies

The ten frontier technologies selected for study arose out of consultations with DFID staff and advisers. It should be noted that technologies are constantly evolving and so these reviews need to be seen as a snapshot in time, synthesising existing evidence, ideas and insights.

The first part of the report describes the nature of frontier technologies and their specific relevance to international development; presents the potential and challenges of the ten technologies; and explains key cross-cutting findings from the technology reviews. It concludes by setting out a number of potential roles for development actors in facilitating and targeting the use of frontier technologies so as to make a positive contribution while mitigating the risks these technologies may also present. The second part of the report presents the ten technology reviews, which explore each of the frontier technologies in more detail.

Citation: Ramalingam, B.; Hernandez, K.; Prieto Martin, P.; Faith, B. Ten frontier technologies for international development. Institute of Development Studies, Brighton, UK (2016) 119 pp.
Document Status: Peer Reviewed
Donor: DFID
Category: Climate, Environment, Infrastructure, Livelihoods, Topic Guides
Keywords: air pollution, collaboration, clean energy, international development, internet, manufacturing, new technologies, literature reviews, transport, water