Development is about the social acquisition of technological capabilities. Successful development strategies are, and always have been, successful processes of technological development, implying intense efforts towards mastery of technology. They have essentially been successful learning processes with the ability to modify, adapt, improve and eventually, radically innovate foreign technologies. The experiences of Japan and the four new industrializing economies of Asia have shown that there is a deep and fundamental connection between catching up, or forging ahead, and mastery of technology. A main policy implication of this crucial lesson is that technology must be placed at the core, not at the edge, of development strategies. It must no longer be seen as a simple ingredient in development, nor can it be uniquely the province of specialists in science and technology. Technology must be one of the main concerns of top leaders of the development process, both in Government and in business.
Fast growth and development are not equivalent. In this regard, it is important to note that the crucial difference is technological capabilities. It is neither the degree of liberalization, nor the speed of State disinvolvement, nor the depth of macroeconomic adjustments but the direction and intensity of technological learning that accounts for the real distinction between success and failure. Therefore, it is very important to understand that fast growth processes do not always lead to catching up or to development, and are not necessarily irreversible. But, those periods can be crucial in creating platforms for later advances.