14 September 2005
UN Global Round Table Recommends Ways to Utilize Science and Technology for Development
NEW YORK, 13 September (UN Headquarters) -- Scientific and technological innovation must be at the centre of efforts "to reverse the devastating poverty, hunger and disease that afflict so much of our world", Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette today told participants of a United Nations global forum on harnessing science and technology for development.
Ms. Fréchette told the "Global Round-Table Forum: Scaling science and technology to meet the Millennium Development Goals" that collaboration would be essential, "not just among governments but also among regional and local authorities, the private sector, academia and non-governmental organizations".
"We must provide incentives to various stakeholders, including the private sector, so that they do indeed focus their efforts on the needs of poor people", Ms. Fréchette said, adding that rising to the financial challenge of building scientific and technology capacity in the developing world would require substantial investments whose cost "pales in comparison to the human and economic costs of misery and underdevelopment".
President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan, who chaired the Forum in his capacity as President of the Economic of Social Council, said "the development promise of science and technology remains unfulfilled for the poor of the world", adding that it was vital to strengthen the educational institutions and the research and development organizations in the developing countries and their linkages with industry.
The international community should evolve a concrete action plan to promote the application of science and technology for realizing the Millennium Development Goals, Mr. Musharraf said. Developing countries needed to adopt strategies for technological learning, involving continuous interaction between Government, industry, academia and civil society. They needed to improve their infrastructure, establish business and technology incubators and create export processing zones and production networks. They should also structure their trade policies in ways designed to acquire technological capabilities, including through incentives for foreign direct investment placing a premium on technology transfer.
For their part, the international financial institutions and the United Nations should increase resources to promoting the application of science and technology and technological innovation, Mr. Musharraf said. International rule-making and standard-setting activities should respond to the concerns of developing countries, allowing them to participate fully in standard-setting bodies. The agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) and other intellectual property laws should be reviewed to enhance their contribution to development.
"The figures relating to the digital divide make grim reading", said Malaysia's Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. "One billion people in the world do not have access to a telephone; around 8,000,000 villages, or 30 per cent of all villages worldwide, are still without any kind of connection", he said, while people living in developed economies enjoyed five times better access to fixed and mobile telephone services, nine times better access to Internet services, and owned 13 times more personal computers than the 85 per cent of the world population living in low- and lower-middle income countries.
Ensuring greater connectivity and bridging the digital divide were central challenges to overcome if information and communication technology was to achieve "its potential as the great enabler and equalizer", Mr. Badawi said. The lack of capital for infrastructure development, which was pivotal for development, should be addressed. The private sector should do more to create products and solutions for the benefit of the poor, not as an act of altruism, but as efforts at market expansion.
Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Jose Antonio Ocampo said development required the concerted application of technology and innovation to amplify and "scale up" development efforts to new levels of reach and impact. But developing countries faced the immediate problem of efficient application of technology to address their needs, while many benefits of science and technology remained beyond their reach.
Developing national policies for science, technology and innovation would be essential, Mr. Ocampo said. This meant "bringing scientific advisers and members of the private sector together with policy-makers to build science and technology into the front-end of policy formulation", an effort that the round table sought to advance.
Also speaking were Queen Noor of Jordan, Senegal's President Abdoulaye Wade, European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid Louis Michel, Dominican Republic President Leonel Fernandez Reyna, Grameen Bank Chairman and founder Muhammed Yunus, ICANN Chairman Vinton Cerf, Haiti Prime Minister Gerard Latortue, Nobel Laureate Richard Axel, and Professor Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University.
The event was organized by the UN ICT Task Force and the UN Millennium Project, in association with the UN Fund for International Partnerships.
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