Technology Forecasting as the name indicates, deals with the estimation of future growths/trends in technology. This purports to answer questions like (1) What may happen to Indian steel production in the year 2020? (2) What may be transportation modes available in the country at that time? Technology forecasting is of recent origin and is useful for examining future choices and making current decisions(which may influence the future) for an extremely wide range of long term planning processes, be it national or regional planning, or organizational planning such as corporate, or parts of it such as production planning and marketing planning.
Technology is an important change element, which brings about social and political changes in the world at large. Since long range planning involves the consideration of national and international economic, political, social forces in the future to come, technology forecasting is a vital tool in the hands of planners even at the micro-level of corporate production planning. For instance a corporation making heavy machines or machine tools, or heavy electrical equipment needs a long time horizon for its planning purpose. It cannot plan for a year or two but has to plan for a longer period. Unless long range planning is done properly, the intermediate range or short range planning will have only temporary and sometimes marginal beneficial effects. Intermediate range planning has to fit into the framework of a long range plan and short range planning has to be done within the framework of the intermediate range plan. For high technology products, which need a long preparation or gestation time to become productive, forecasting of long-range technology trends and developments is imperative.
Uses of technology forecasting:
Technology forecasting can give qualitative or probabilistic quantitative indications about future developments in technology. This part of technology forecasting is termed Exploratory Technology Forecasting and depends on the past and the present data for exploration of the things to come in the future. An interesting fact to note is that there is a definite relationship between the past, present and the future of technology developments, inspite of the so called breakthroughs in the technology. In fact many of the so called breakthroughs are due to a deliberate and consistent research effort and corresponding expenditure of finance and manpower energies involved in the past. Many discoveries and developments in the field of atomic physics and space research are really not breakthroughs in the real sense of the word because they follow the continuous research efforts planned and deliberately helped by national and international policies. This is borne out by the past continuous trends observed in the various technological developments in the world such as: the increase in the efficiency of illumination, increase in the use of artificial fiber as a substitute to natural fiber, the development of polymers, increase in the use of synthetic detergents as a substitute to soaps and various such technological developments. For this reason, exploratory forecasting is of much use in understanding future technological developments, so as to be prepared with adequate production capabilities to cope with future developments.
If the projection given is combined with the projections of hydel and thermal power availability and the availability from non-conventional sources of energy and conservation, it throws light on the necessity of nuclear power generation as well as various controversial issues such as the nuclear power plant at Kaiga, Karnataka.
Another aspect of technology forecasting is called Normative Forecasting. This follows from the long term future backwards. For instance, one may project the requirements /objectives and goals of a nation, or of an organization, and from this deduce what technology might be required to achieve these targets. From the very long term future, we plan technological requirements for the long term future, and for the intermediate term future.