Highlighted Selections from:

Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) for the Post-2015 Development Agenda


UN Commission on Science and Technology for Development. "Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) for the Post-2015 Development Agenda" Issues Paper (2013): 1–38. Advanced unedited version. Print.

p.7: A well-functioning STI ecosystem needs to include, inter alia, political stability and wellfunctioning institutions, an educated workforce; sound research and education infrastructure and linkages between public and private innovation actors; enterprises committed to research and development; as well as a balanced intellectual property rights (IPRs) framework. -- Highlighted apr 5, 2014

p.7: In order to understand the connections between inequality, poverty, and STI, the results of science, technology, and innovation must be understood not just as technologies but as sociotechnical systems (Fressoli, Smith et al. 2011). -- Highlighted apr 5, 2014

p.8: Applying STI to inclusive and sustainable development involves three related approaches: addressing basic needs; grassroots entrepreneurship; and promoting inclusive growth by building STI capabilities. The first approach is to stimulate innovation in the sociotechnical systems that meet the basic needs of households, such as food, water, sanitation, health, housing, and transportation. As introduced briefly above, all these have technological elements. -- Highlighted apr 5, 2014

p.8-9: Grassroots entrepreneurship is also the centerpiece of the HoneyBee Network in India, which focuses on finding local inventions and providing the environment that can turn them into innovations that survive in the market (Gupta 2003). The sociotechnical aspects are illustrated by the fact that the inventor and invention by themselves would be unlikely to succeed, but the organizational complements that HoneyBee provides lead to quite a different outcome. The HoneyBee approach has been adopted at national policy level in India in the form of the National Innovation Foundation. -- Highlighted apr 5, 2014

p.9: Through its priority themes, the CSTD has worked on a range of science and technology issues that are relevant for development over the past decade. The priority theme papers that were presented and deliberated by experts and members in the CSTD Panels and Sessions can be grouped under five significant thematic areas of work. These are:

  1. Science, technology and innovation for the MDGs, and bridging the technological divide
  2. Science, technology and innovation to meet social goals, such as health, agriculture and energy
  3. Science, technology and innovation for capacity building, particularly through education and research
  4. ICTs and the digital divide
  5. The impact of new technologies on development

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p.9-10: The Commission discussed four main issues that were relevant from the point of view of promoting the application of science and technology for development through discussion and sharing of national experiences and best practices:

  1. Improving the policy environment for the application of science and technology for development by identifying potential risks and benefits of new and emerging technologies.
  2. Strengthening basic and applied research in developing countries and international scientific networking.
  3. Strengthening technology support institutions and science advisory mechanisms; building human capacity; identifying new technologies and applications; and encouraging international collaboration to support research in neglected fields.
  4. Promoting universal Internet access at affordable costs and building strategic partnerships in the field of science and technology for development and capacity building for competitiveness.

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p.11: Key findings on the issue of technological gap include:

  1. In spite of technological achievements made by some developing countries in recent years, the "technology gap" between nations remains wide. For instance, one billion people do not have access to telephones and around 8 million villages or 30 per cent of all villages worldwide are still without any kind of connection. The gap exists not just in the creation and diffusion of technologies, but also in domestic abilities to put available technologies into effective use.
  2. The gap is also evident in education. Mean years of schooling in 2003 was 12.1 years in the USA, 4.2 in Kenya and 0.8 in Guinea Bissau. Similarly, the tertiary science enrolment ratio in 2003 was 27.3 per cent in Finland, 5.5 per cent in Colombia, 2.4 per cent in Albania and only 0.1 per cent in Chad.
  3. Technology achievement indices such as UNCTAD’s Innovation Capability Index (ICI) measure the quantitative components of National Innovation Systems (NIS). Within this framework, sub-Saharan Africa has not made any significant gains in its innovative capacity between 1995 and 2001 and continued to have the lowest index values among the regions.
  4. Technology is not just slow in diffusing across the national borders but also within the borders. This gap within nations is a phenomenon that exists in both developing and developed countries. Within the technology gap, special attention should be devoted to the digital divide. The digital divide is defined as a growing asymmetry in the capacity of firms, institutions and individuals in different countries to use ICTs effectively in accessing and applying knowledge, and thus, spurring competitiveness and innovation. The digital divide between the information-rich and the information-poor remains significant – at twice the average levels of income inequality – and is therefore a source of increasing concern.
  5. Comparative Gini coefficients reveal that older technologies such as fixed phone lines are more equally distributed. Yet, also revealed by the Gini coefficients is that relative to other sectors, the mobile phones sector has demonstrated a leapfrogging by achieving much wider and faster technology diffusion, effective usage and the establishment of a dynamic sector.

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p.13: At the national and local level, the CSTD pointed out policy challenges that call for immediate attention such as (a) private sector development, (b) supporting universities and public research centers, (c) providing incentives for R&D at firm level to support technology deployment in niche markets and (d) Government procurement. -- Highlighted apr 5, 2014

p.15: As outlined in the Rio+20 Conference outcome document, cities in the developing world face challenges that cover a wide range from urban sprawl and traffic congestion to inefficient buildings and unplanned informal settlements. In addition to haphazard and unplanned city growth, peri-urbanisation is a process that is closely linked with urban sprawl. It refers to urban growth into zones that lie between the city and rural zones, sometimes also referred to as “spill-over growth”, usually without spatial planning and the provision of basic services. Development of the city fringes that undergo peri-urbanisation is most often triggered by a real-estate boom that accompanies rapid urban growth. Populations that were previously rural benefit from new economic dynamism in manufacturing and services brought by urbanisation, but they do not always enjoy improvements in quality of life. -- Highlighted apr 5, 2014

p.15: The CSTD therefore explored potential pathways for more inclusive urbanisation that take into account the needs of peri-urban zones, as enabled by science, technology and innovation. In particular, the Commission's focus was on innovative planning, technology and governance models already in use in several cities across the globe ranging from spatial planning to mobility, from energy to waste management and from the built environment to disaster resilience in order to address these complex challenges. -- Highlighted apr 5, 2014

p.16: Finally, integrating peri-urban zones into urban planning can bring benefits in terms of food security, water and employment opportunities. -- Highlighted apr 5, 2014

p.16: The CSTD's work on the topic shows that several innovative planning, technology and governance models exist in the developing world that can be more broadly applied in cities, such as:

  1. Density, land use and spatial planning: Increasing density can be beneficial for cities with growing populations and provides alternatives on how to achieve this. Cities can accommodate growing populations in accordance with their land use, spatial design and density plans by combining regulatory instruments that can contribute to sustainable growth in cities. For example, setting up urban growth boundaries and establishing clear limits to any form of building development around cities to limit urban sprawl; creating green corridors that protect existing ecosystems.
  2. Mobility: Inadequate transportation infrastructure in cities can be addressed through technologies that can improve urban mobility, such as mass rapid transit – including urban rail systems (metros/subways).
  3. Energy for cities: An important sector for sustainability in cities is energy. Emphazising that the future of energy supply for large metropolitan areas increasingly needs to be decentralised, a range of innovative energy solutions that work best in crowded urban environments have been suggested such as kinetic energy generating pavements, district heating systems, and smart electric grids.
  4. Solid waste management: Problems surrounding waste management are growing at an even faster rate than urbanisation itself. Integrated waste management, which requires considerable infrastructural investments as well as waste collection initiatives through partnerships with private sector, NGOs and local citizens at large are important ways to resolve the issues.
  5. Resource efficient buildings: There is a multitude of available technologies that can improve resource efficiency in buildings. Although start-up costs may be higher, in the long term, buildings that have a smart design generate energy and conserve water to save costs.
  6. Resilience against natural risks: A resilient city is one that can predict and react to natural disasters in order to minimise the loss of lives and disruption of city utilities and services.

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p.17-18: Key issues in the deployment of science and technology for development as identified by the CSTD in this context include the following:

  1. Building indigenous capabilities for science, technology and innovation requires absorptive capacity, but is insufficient by itself, to achieve technological catch-up in developing countries.
  2. Building innovative capabilities at the national level in latecomer countries further depends on efforts in three interrelated areas: (1) enterprise development; (2) human capital; and (3) STI policy capacity.
  3. From a national innovation system perspective, STI-related policies cross various sectoral/ministerial mandates, including (but not limited to) education, trade, industry, health, agriculture, energy, and environment. Building a successful innovation system will depend on both the prevailing national and global contexts, and these are constantly changing.
  4. North-South and South-South cooperation at the national government level in STI policies through sharing experiences is crucial. Due to the lack of understanding of innovations systems, and the associated weak capacity to measure the impact of policy intervention on the performance of an innovation system, there is a case for some sharing of experiences and lessons between international organizations, and involving the national counterparts from the participating countries.

-- Highlighted apr 5, 2014

p.19-20: The CSTD reflected on one of the most critical linkages in the innovation system, that is, the link between education and R&D. Educational institutions, especially those of higher learning, play a critical role not only in education, but also in research and economic development – they provide the pool of indigenous researchers and technicians required to conduct R&D, as well as the platform for conducting R&D. In addition, many universities in developing countries increasingly carry the responsibilities of improving regional or national economic performance.

Key findings on the mutual interaction and dependency of science and technology education in R&D include the following:

  1. Improving the educational system, especially S&T education, will result in more domestically trained scientists, provide for the requisite infrastructure to sufficiently challenge talented graduates and attract foreign enterprises interested in making R&D-related investments in developing countries.
  2. Moreover, scientists should go beyond their fields of specialization in order to address global challenges and to influence policy-making. Thus, it is important to incorporate social science in science education, and to encourage scientists to focus attention and effort on addressing indigenous issues of importance to their country or region.
  3. Within prominent international S&T communities, problems related to developing countries are not viewed as cutting-edge, and thus considered to be of lesser merit. Academics that undertake such studies risk the real possibility of not being able to publish or present their findings in those academic journals or conferences most relevant to improving their standing and enabling them to attract funding. A review of the academic reward system, particularly within developing countries, is therefore necessary. In addition, innovative compensation and reward structures should be created to promote research directed to solving developmental problems aligned to national objectives.
  4. By providing jobs and career paths for scientists and technologists, enterprises encourage students to enroll in these fields. As more students matriculate with relevant skills and motivation, this growing pool of human capital will in turn attract more enterprises to the region, thus creating a virtuous, self-reinforcing circle of technological capacity development and R&D activity.
  5. For enterprises lacking the scale or capability to internally conduct necessary R&D for the development of a particular product or process, they can resort to the R&D resources of local universities, including trained staff and research infrastructure. These relationships simultaneously benefit the universities, which frequently lack the full capability to commercialize R&D. Working with industry provides them with the necessary capital to develop their infrastructure and support their R&D efforts. Moreover, it also affords the opportunity for students and faculty to conduct research that closely relates to the productive sector.

-- Highlighted apr 5, 2014

p.21: Key findings on enhancing digital opportunities for all include the following:

  1. Despite the fact that the digital divide has been shrinking over the past 10 years, in terms of fixed phone lines, mobile subscribers, and internet usage – there remains a substantial gap. ITU estimates that 800,000 villages – representing around one billion people worldwide – still lack connection of any kind of ICTs.
  2. It is important to go beyond simply deliberating access per se, to the speed of access to the network. Discrepancies in international internet bandwidth – the critical infrastructure that dictates the speed at which websites in other countries can be accessed – are dramatic, and are therefore an important indicator of access to the Internet itself.
  3. There are not only economic, but also behavioral, cultural, political and other barriers to the penetration of ICTs, particularly the internet, leading to a significant gap between and within countries. The gap is visible, at various proportions, in all ICT areas, namely the distribution of fixed and mobile telephone subscribers, personal computers and internet users per 100 inhabitants by regional economic groupings.
  4. The main obstacles to narrowing the digital divide consist of: (1) the high cost of telecommunications; (2) lack of human resources and the brain drain; and (3) lack of relevant content. The impact of ICT on economic growth is not only the result of the capital deepening effect of ICT investment, but also the spillovers from the greater diffusion of computers, software and telecommunications created by ICT investment. Reaping the benefits from ICT investment is not straightforward and typically requires complementary investments and changes e.g. in human capital, organizational change and innovation. Hence, the economic benefits of ICTs should be considered on a long-term basis.
  5. The benefits of ICTs consist of, inter alia, (1) contribution to sustainable economic growth; (2) globalizing production through e-commerce; (3) opportunities for education and research; improvements in healthcare; and (4) improvements in government services to citizens. ICTrelated risks entail, inter alia, (a) cyber-crime and cyber-terrorism; (b) erosion of multilingualism and cultural identity; and (c) spam and privacy protection. -- Highlighted apr 5, 2014

p.22: All countries should have a national innovation system (NIS). The NIS system defines domestic capabilities in absorbing international technology and adapting and improving upon it on a local level. The key concept behind the success of any national innovation system is the degree of linkages and interactions among the actors involved in science and technology development, including R&D institutions, science and technology parks, innovation hubs, financial institutions and industry. In developing countries, there is an urgent need to strengthen the relevance of institutions and policies dealing with science, technology and innovation and in particular ICTs. -- Highlighted apr 5, 2014

p.25: The CSTD considered how three ICT assets – Open Access, virtual science libraries and geospatial analysis – can be harnessed to enhance education for development. The importance of education in development and the growing use of ICTs to support the education sector are highlighted. The Commission also looked at how the related issues of Open Access and virtual science libraries can facilitate knowledge dissemination throughout the world. It examined the growing use of geospatial analysis as an ICT tool, and explored how it might be used to enhance education.

Key findings include the following:

  1. Linking education, development and ICTs The link between education and development is highlighted and traces the growing use of ICTs in education, particularly in science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects. It focuses on how ICTs can enhance education when combined with efforts to facilitate human development in accompanying areas, such as ICT literacy training, curriculum reviews, maintaining teaching quality.
  2. Sharing the wealth of knowledge: Open Access and virtual science libraries This section focuses on how ICTs can facilitate wider access to knowledge. In academia, the mainstay of scholarly output is the subscription journal, and the main barrier to dissemination of this academic knowledge is access to published research. This is largely due to journal subscription fees, and the location of resources, which can make academic research difficult, time-consuming and costly to find and retrieve. Such challenges affect learners in low-income countries disproportionately due to limited resources and therefore contribute to a de facto bias towards strengthening research capabilities in rich countries. Open Access and virtual science libraries are two ways in which ICTs can be harnessed to overcome barriers to the building and dissemination of the global stock of knowledge, particularly in developing countries.
  3. Geographic information systems and geospatial analysis to enhance education The key challenges related to the use of geographic information systems and geospatial analyses in education are addressed here. ICTs offer novel ways to interpret the world: they can help us to do tasks more quickly, make complex problems more manageable, and use advanced methods of analysis. One such example is geographic information systems (GIS). It became obvious shortly after the introduction of GIS that it would have significant, long-term impacts on society and the policy-making process.

-- Highlighted apr 5, 2014

p.25-26: Policy considerations include:

  1. Open Access and virtual libraries are two complementary mechanisms to increase and extend knowledge flows, particularly in disadvantaged communities affected by the digital divide. By designing information systems that are simple to use, and housing information that is easy to find and free to access, these ICT assets overcome traditional limitations associated with obtaining data and research.
  2. GIS and geospatial analysis are used in many sectors of society and have important uses in addressing development challenges. Meanwhile, GIS can also be used in education to help develop spatial abilities required in a range of different subjects beyond geography classes.
  3. However, learning through GIS is not widespread and the transformational potential of GIS in education remains untapped. Some policy options to overcome these challenges include integrating GIS in policy making more fully, building capacity in GIS at all levels, supporting the development of GIS applications for education and building networks of GIS practitioners to share knowledge and best practices.
  4. Understanding the local context is imperative to ensuring that education policies and strategies, at national, regional and school level, are tailored to local needs. Technological assistance should only be included in those policies and strategies if it will provide additional benefits and if the capabilities to fully integrate it exist.

-- Highlighted apr 5, 2014

p.28: Government agencies particularly concerned with science, technology, and innovation are always acutely aware of the problem of the shortage of people with the right levels of education to initiate and support innovation in the economy. However, they almost never have much influence over the supply chain. Ministries of Science and Technology are usually separate from Ministries of Education; they may or may not communicate and work together. Thus the essential flow of numerically literate and scientifically aware students that is crucial to recruitment into scientific and engineering careers is not under the control of those who want it most. Furthermore, for inclusive innovation it is important that community-oriented values and examples of effective science/community engagement appear early in a student’s educational experience. Otherwise, the whole system reinforces elite values and aspirations. The monumental effort to train and recruit, however, may direct attention towards how many scientists and engineers are being educated, rather than the value system they are absorbing. -- Highlighted apr 5, 2014

p.29: Finally, the research councils often maintain registries of scientists and engineers in the country and provide small grants to support curiosity-driven research. The competition for the small grants helps to provide quality control for the system, sometimes reinforced by rating systems for the researchers themselves using international criteria. All these programs help to build and maintain a human resource base for a developing country. The goals of inclusive and sustainable development can be built into those efforts. Community engagement can be a requirement of fellowships. Sustainability and community innovation can be themes in smallgrants schemes. The Council for Scientific Research at the University of the Republic in Uruguay, for example, has pioneered in the design of programs that link university researchers effectively with local communities to solve problems (Alzugaray, Mederos et al. forthcoming). -- Highlighted apr 5, 2014

p.36: The CSTD could also organize dialogue among national STI policymakers on the most effective pathways for incorporating poverty reduction in research and innovation policies and programs. As earlier sections have explained, public laboratories are particularly well suited to providing leadership in this area. The CSTD might encourage national government to

  1. Adopt both impact on poverty reduction and sustainability as criteria in choosing projects undertaken by public laboratories.
  2. Make collaboration with marginalized communities a central feature of the mission of public laboratories.
  3. Encourage cooperation among sectoral research laboratories and agencies and transversal ones on collaboration with marginalized communities for local problem solving.
  4. Study and draw lessons from the experience of both domestic and foreign researchers in contributing to problem solving by marginalized communities.

-- Highlighted apr 5, 2014

Add to Reading List, MOST OF THE BIBLIOGRAPHY :)

Alzugaray, S., L. Mederos and J. Sutz (forthcoming). "Building Bridges: Social inclusion problems as research and innovation issues." Review of Policy Research.

Bijker, W. E., T. P. Hughes and T. Pinch (1987). The Social Construction of Technological Systems. Cambridge, MA, MIT Press.

Cozzens, S. E., K. Bobb and I. Bortagaray (2002). "Evaluating the Distributional Consequences of Science and Technology Policies and Programs." Research Evaluation 11(August): 101-107.

Cozzens, S. E. and J. Sutz (2014). "Innovation in Informal Settings: Reflections and Proposals for a Research Agenda." Innovation and Development Forthcoming.

Daniels, S. (2010). Making Do: Innovation in Kenya's Informal Economy Analogue Digital.

Fressoli, M., A. Smith and H. Thomas (2011). From Appropriate to Social technologies: some enduring dilemmas in grassroots innovation movements for socially just futures. Globelics 2011. Buenos Aires.

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Nelson, R. R. (1993). National innovation systems: a comparative analysis, Oxford University Press, USA.

Sen, A. (1992). Inequality Reexamined. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press.

Soares, M. C. C., J. E. Cassiolato and H. M. M. Lastres (2008). Innovation in Unequal Societies: How can it contribute to improve equality? International Seminar Science, Technology, Innovation and Social Inclusion.