The total influx of technology in underdeveloped countries is from the advanced capitalist countries for obvious reasons, which will be the highlight of this discussion. Multinational corporations play a vital part in technology transfer, the motive being profit maximization for the parent company through their subsidiaries. These corporations act as the principal instrument of technology transfer, either through their subsidiaries or through contractual agreements made with developing countries. The idea is to bring mechanized processes and equipments that are not locally available.
The technology supplier usually takes the upper hand owing to his monopolistic strength that arises from the patents protection for differentiated products and processes. Very often, the terms and conditions of transfer are arbitrarily settled under highly imperfect market conditions by the technology supplying multinationals. Advanced nations have the advantages of reduced population density, even distribution of national wealth, high standard of living, more infusion of capital into research and development, availability of skilled personnel inclined towards research etc. Developing nations on the other hand are subject to the pressures of high population density, uneven distribution of economic wealth (poor people become more poor and the rich even richer),moderate or low living standards etc. Capital drain occurs due to heavy borrowings from the World Bank which leads to increase in the social overheads. In such a situation, it is next to impossible for a developing nation to pump capital into activities concerning research.
The bargaining power of developing nations is weak, as they have no access to information about alternate technologies and their sources nor the necessary infrastructure to evaluate the appropriateness of equipments, intermediates and processes. Moreover, the large part of the influx of technology in developing countries is in response to the policy of industrialization through import substitution. Transfer of technology from the developed to the underdeveloped countries is made in a number of ways. They are classified into two broad categories, viz. , direct mechanism and indirect mechanism. The direct mechanism includes transfer of technology through banks, journals, industrial fairs, technical co-operation, movement of skilled people etc. Here there is a choice for the developing nation to select the appropriate technology that best suits their requirement. However, this is not the principal form of technology transfer that advanced nations would prefer.
The indirect mechanism implies technology transfer in a “package” or a “bundle” containing technology-embodying equipments, industrial properties like patents and trademark, skill, equity capital, etc. In this system, a local enterprise negotiates with multinational corporations for transport of the required elements of technology, and the terms and conditions are settled through a process of commercial transaction. Since the trading partners are unequal, the terms of contract are invariably restrictive and the price extended for the technology unreasonably high.
All the underdeveloped countries, which have opted for growth along the classical path of capitalist development, are in a position to invite multinational corporations, if for no other reason than at least for the diffusion of technology.