This book investigates how individual firms in developing countries undertake technological learning and capability building (TCB) efforts and explains why some developing country firms are world-class and others struggle with these important processes. The study concludes that it is internal competencies, such as the ability to manage strategic change and develop coherent systems that enable firms in developing countries to effectively navigate technological frontiers, the network of global suppliers and weak national innovation systems. In particular, the ability to strike a strategic balance between developing a diverse range of internal learning routines and managing boundary assets over which they have only partial control is found to be of importance. The conceptual framework developed for this study - the TCB system approach - draws on a number of intellectual traditions, including organizational development, strategic management, innovation studies, development studies and evolutionary theory of the firm.
Conclusions are drawn using this approach to perform a detailed cross-sectional analysis of technological learning in a sample of 26 telecommunication operating companies in Uganda, Ghana, Tanzania and South Africa. By focusing on firms in the services sector, rather than in manufacturing, the study covers an area that is under researched and identifies many distinctive features of the capability building process. It is also able to offer insights on how the majority of firms in developing countries should cope with the challenges of speed and complexity of technological change even when they not aiming to generate radical innovations at the frontier. Technological Learning will be of great interest to a wide-ranging audience, including science and technology academics, scholars and policy makers in developing countries, telecommunications managers and executives, and organisational management scholars focusing on developing country issues.