Help or hindrance: the role of UK-based NGOs in building technological capability in small-scale development projects

Technological capability underpins economic development, but analysis of interviews with workers in international, UK-based NGOs suggests that it is rarely addressed explicitly when considering support for development work. Instead, the core values of these NGOs tend to determine their attitudes towards technology, with the result that their impact on the development of technological capability can be contradictory. This is borne out by analysis of 11 small-scale enterprises in Zimbabwe which receive NGO support. Some do have a high potential to develop technological capabilities, but others appear trapped in a vicious circle of low skills, poor entrepreneurial qualities and an overwhelmingly hostile economic environment. NGOs need to develop appropriate technological criteria in order to exert a positive impact on the development projects they support.