Effects of Technological Developments on Globalization Process:


Technological developments are conceived as the main facilitator and driving force of most of the globalization processes. Before elaborating on the consequences of several technological developments, we must go through the definition of technology as a sociological term, so that we can further explore the social and political role of technology in the globalization process.


Technology can be defined as the socialized knowledge of producing goods and services. We can describe the term technology with five important elements: production, knowledge, instruments, possession and change. Our definition of technology as a socialized knowledge can be better conceived with these elements. Now we shall briefly look through them:


It has something to do with production (of goods and services). We need technology to produce something either goods (ex: clothes, television set, cars etc.) or service (ex: banking, security, teaching etc.) Technology improves our capacity to produce.


Technology has something to do with knowledge. Technology is a result of intellectual activities.  Therefore technology is type of intellectual property. Today technology is developed through research and development institutions as integral parts of the universities.


Technology has something to do with instruments. The instruments are the extensions of the human body, whenever an instrument is used there is technology involved. The instruments indicate the usage of technology by human beings. Instruments are mostly physical such as computers, vacuum cleaners or pencils, but sometimes there are immaterial instruments too, such as databases or algorithms in computer programming.


Technology has something to do with possession. Those people who possess technology also control it. Controlling technology has usually something to do with economics and politics. Therefore we can speak of technologically rich and poor countries and the struggle among them usually in the forms of patents, transfers and protection of intellectual rights.


Technology has something to do with change. With technology, the world has changed drastically. Most of the innovations from the technological advances have very important effects on the lives of peoples of the world, which has witnessed radical changes especially after 1960’s revolutions on the microelectronics technologies. Even there are some people who argue that the history is made by technology as a result of their highly criticized techno-determinist view.


All these aspects of technology justify our definition of technology as the socialized knowledge of producing goods and services, and this definition makes a clear differentiation between the terms technology and technique (technics). Therefore if we speak about the effects of technology on globalization, instead of techniques or technical developments we refer to technology as a social and political term.


One may argue that the commercial activities on the Mediterranean in the Ancient times were to be labeled as globalization. The world of these ages, although smaller in size than that of today, had witnessed a simpler form of globalization, after the technological developments on navigation and transportation. The invention of the script can be considered as the first technology of communication that contributed to globalization. With the script man could transmit and store information that could speed up further technological developments. Transportation and communication in these ages were in parallel to each other and there were couriers, people who specifically carried and delivered mail and other written materials by running or riding horse. However this limited amount of information transmitted, received and stored was not sufficient for a large-scale state. Later, due to further developments in transportation and communication it was possible to control larger areas; and the emergence of larger empires such as Byzantine Empire had provided greater globalizations.  Invention of the print machine with moving letters by Gutenberg was the most important revolutionary technological development, which made possible even a larger global geography. The emergence of the newspapers marked an important era of globalization when the news both commercial and political became an indispensable element for the decision makers. Another milestone in the history of globalization is the invention of telegraph by Samuel Morse. Telegraph made it possible to communicate with the places where you don’t have to go and separated the practices of communication from those of transportation. This aspect of telegraph soon drew the attention of military ranks and telegraph became both a civilian and military communication technology. However because the poles and the copper wires needed for a telegraph and telephone system it was not possible to set up a properly functioning network in insecure and instable geographies. Cyrus Field’s attempts to lay a transatlantic cable for telegraphy succeeded in 1858 and this marked the beginning of a global network. Telephone of Graham Bell in 1861 also contributed to communication networks. Railways also networked to reach to larger distances. Invention of radio as a wireless communication technology solved this problem and opened a new era of globalization. With radio it became possible to communicate with places where you cannot go and even with places where no one can travel. Hertz, Maxwell, Marconi, Tesla and several other people contributed to the invention of radio, which soon became a military communication tool especially for the navy. Radio of 1920’s however, turned to be a commercial communication technology; and is used as a mass communication technology. Transportation technologies also improved with the start of the 20th Century when transatlantic ships became safer and faster and airplanes were produced. First propeller driven passenger plane began service in 1919 between London and Paris. Jet plane and television of 1950’s were also important steps toward greater globalizations. The first reliable transatlantic telephone cable TAT-1 was laid in 1956. 1957 marked the most important step in the history of globalization when USSR launched its Sputnik as the first man-made satellite. Satellites made it possible to built a fully reliable global network, compensating the radio networks’ ionosphere fading problem. However global networks still required stronger global networks with solid connections. The first transatlantic fiber cable TAT-8 was laid in 1988 for faster and reliable networks.


Global networks:


Digital technologies have opened the way towards global networks. Global networks are the networks in which all information and knowledge – also the ideology- necessary for the realization, maintenance and the reproduction of the system – basically the capitalist system. The term “New Economy” is the clearest explanation of how all these information, knowledge and ideology are in close relation to capitalism.


Monopolization of economic power –or rather the emergence of an oligopoly markets- is also related to the technology, which facilitates the monopoly tendencies in many ways. Electronic banking is at the heart of the global networks system. Electronic Fund Transfer (EFT), is the first operating form of global electronic financial networks. With EFT it is possible to send and receive financial assets among banks. The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) is the organization to assure a reliable global electronic financial system.


In 1973 in Brussels, supported by 239 banks in 15 countries, SWIFT starts the mission of creating a shared worldwide data processing and communications link and a common language for international financial transactions. In 1977, Albert, Prince of Belgium, sends the first SWIFT message. By this time the initial group of members has grown to 518 commercial banks in 17 countries. By the end of that year SWIFT achieved 518 customers - 22 countries - 3,400,000 messages. In 1985 a satellite link between US and Europe established. With the utilization of sattelite technology SWIFT has developed rapidly and this technologically well functioning electronic financial network has been accepted globally. By the end of 1999 SWIFT had 6,797 live users in 189 countries and reached 1,059,000,000 messages.


With the introduction of VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminal) technology utilizing the satellites, it has been possible to establish communication networks for TNCs themselves. These networks have been re-structured later with the introduction of IP based intranet technologies. Today it is easily possible to establish a perfectly functioning intranet of a TNC with branches over distant parts of the globe.


The satellites today lie at the heart of the global networks. The foundation of INTELSAT in 1964, as an international organization for satellite utilization, was an important step towards the handling of several techno-political issues such as scarce resource satellite positions on Clark belt, an imaginary line 35780 km. Above the equator. The foundation of INTERSPUTNIK in 1971 by the Soviet allies, also improved the communication capabilities of many non-Western countries. The foundation of EUTELSAT in 1974 was another response by the European countries in the “space race”. Today Turkey has three satellites positioned at 42 degrees East and 31.3 degrees East.


Internet and especially e-commerce are the terms that are basically used for justifying the recent approach of techno-globalism. Techno-globalism can be summarized as the ideology which rationalizes globalism on technological grounds. 


The techno-globalists, most of them live in the Anglo-Saxon countries claim that technology makes globalism irresistible. Therefore, techno-globalists wishing to dismantle all worldwide barriers to economic or technology flows, suggest a “liberal” global economic system on technologically improved infrastructure.