“Harnessing the fruits of science, technology and innovation (STI) for development is one of the biggest development challenges of our time,” said Pierre Jacquet, President of the Global Development Network, as he opened the 18th Global Development Conference on 22 March.
Echoing this, François Bourguignon, Director of the Paris School of Economics and former chief economist of the World Bank, noted that STI is at the heart of global development for both developing and advanced countries. He also warned that changes stirred by the Fourth Industrial Revolution may be accompanied by growing inequalities, which will require targeted interventions from public policy institutions.
Participants agreed that STI has the potential to contribute to global health challenges, sustainable agriculture and skills, employment and industrial transformation. However, with regard to STI, an important and growing divide remains between and within developed and developing countries. The Conference explored the many links between STI and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and how STI can help improve the lives of people around the world, and not only be used for profit.
“SDG 9 on industry, innovation and infrastructure is one of the goals that is probably most in need of new technologies,” said Cecilia Ugaz Estrada, Director of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization’s (UNIDO) Department of Policy Research and Statistics. “Productive processes need to be geared towards enhancing well-being by taking into consideration sustainability and inclusion.”
Sonal Shah, Executive Director of the Beeck Centre at Washington’s Georgetown University, said: “Scaling innovation is important for long-term impact. Good policy is essential in order for new technologies to work for all of society.”
Participants also explored the challenges and opportunities arising from digital transformations. “Digital technology helps the poor because it brings down the cost of production, but changes in suppliers can disrupt income distribution,” said Stefan Dercon, Professor of Economic Policy at the UK’s University of Oxford.
Chidambaram, Scientific Advisor to the Prime Minister of India, noted that there is no single roadmap for sustainable development in all countries and, instead of focusing on the transfer of technology and innovation, a more suitable approach is to facilitate the transfer of concepts followed by local re-innovation and adaptation.
During the launch event of UNIDO’s 2018 Industrial Development Report, panelists agreed that “technological innovation and the development of environmental goods are key to ensuring demand-driven industrialization can be sustainable.”
The international conference gathered over 300 participants from 46 countries, including researchers, policymakers, the private sector, civil society actors and representatives from international organizations. The two-day event was organized by the Global Development Network, UNIDO and partners.