Development is a broad term that describes social, economic and technological change. It encompasses growth and improvement in many different areas of a nation’s life, including housing, education, health, communication, employment, transportation and the economy. The development sector is a major player in raising the living standards of people throughout the globe. Development organizations can include international or intergovernmental agencies, such as the United Nations and the World Bank, as well as for-profit businesses that invest in research and development projects.
The pace and scope of development varies depending on the stage of society’s evolution. Sociologists distinguish three main stages: physical, vital and mental. Physical stages are characterized by a preoccupation with bare survival. Inheritance and position dominate this stage, which can be divided into the hunting-and-gathering, agrarian or feudal phases. In the vital phase, societies focus on agriculture and the exchange of goods. This phase is dominated by land ownership and property rights. The mental phase is characterized by organizational innovations. The development of large business corporations, the invention of telecommunications and weather reporting are examples of this stage.
The notion of development is rooted in the idea that society is a complex fabric made up of interrelated activities and systems. The development sector aims to improve the overall organizational quality of this fabric by introducing new technologies and promoting new policies. It also strives to provide better education, advanced medical facilities and equal rights for women and men.