The Royal Institute of International Affairs
Energy and Environment Programme
High-level workshop on strategies for addressing
the linkages between technology and sustainable development at
the World Summit for Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg
Funded by the UK Department of Trade and Industry.
Technology has a crucial role to play in the
overall economic development of developing countries, and in their
strategies for eliminating poverty, conserving natural resources
and protecting the environment. Countries with strong technical
capabilities are also best placed to benefit from globalisation.
Enabling developing countries to manage their technological development
has the potential to help address many of the challenges of sustainable
development, and should therefore be a central focus of WSSD.
In the past, technology transfer policy has
tended to be narrowly focused on the acquisition of equipment.
This approach needs to be significantly broadened to include policy
approaches that will improve developing country stakeholders'
capabilities to access, apply and adapt knowledge. The key challenge
is to develop the human resources of developing countries to enable
them to contribute to, and benefit from, technological development.
Many different kinds of technology can contribute
to sustainable development. Some of these may be designed specifically
to tackle environmental or poverty related problems (eg solar
photovoltaics, or hand pumps for fresh water). However, other
technologies that have not been designed to directly address these
issues (eg computers and mobile phones) may have an equally important
role to play.
The technologies needed for sustainable development
will differ from country to country, and between different localities
within countries. Actors in developing countries themselves are
best placed to identify their technology needs, and to develop
new technologies or to adapt existing technologies to meet these
needs. However, they will only be able to do so if there is a
supportive and enabling environment: if they have a well developed
skills base; strong, well-targeted programmes of research and
development; an entrepreneurial private sector and if financing
is available to the companies that are developing and utilising
Countries which are successful at technological
development combine all of these factors together to create dynamic
innovation systems, which link a wide range of actors from both
the public and private sectors. At WSSD, the international community
should commit to actions that will assist developing countries
in developing their own innovation systems. Such systems should
include the following elements:
A process of assessing needs. Technological
development per se will not necessarily meet the needs
of the poor, or ensure the conservation of natural resources.
In order to ensure that technological innovation systems meet
the real needs of developing countries, technology development
strategies should be based on a bottom-up process of assessing
needs. Such processes should be dynamic and ongoing, as needs
change over time, and should involve a wide range of stakeholders,
including the poor themselves.
Investment in well targeted R&D has
a crucial role to play in technological development, and in economic
development as a whole. Investment in R&D has a higher pay-off
than any other type of spending in terms of its impact on economic
development. There are currently enormous differences between
the percentage of GDP that is invested in R&D by countries
in the North and South.
R&D capacity needs to be built in developing
countries for the following reasons:
To help assess technology needs.
To help identify potential indigenous
technologies, and to enable their development.
To imitate or adapt existing technologies
from other countries.
In order to contribute to sustainable development,
R&D needs to be guided by real needs (which can be identified
through needs assessmentssee above) and should have strong
links to the private sector and to the public sector and to groups
working to alleviate poverty.
Training and education programmes geared
to technological development. Wide reaching training and education
programmes are needed if countries are to develop technologically.
These programmes should include:
Managerial training, with an emphasis
on developing entrepreneurial skills.
Higher education in technology related
disciplines (eg applied sciences).
Training and education programmes should be
designed to integrate strongly with all other aspects of a country's
technological innovation strategy.
Information provision. Many initiatives
already exist to provide technological data to developing countries.
However, current approaches to information provision tend to be
"supply led". Information provision should be designed
to meet the needs of developing countries, both in terms of the
nature of the information and the medium in which it is made available.
Such needs can be identified through country-led needs assessments
(see above) and communicated to information providers. Strategies
for ensuring that information is provided through as many channels
as possible should be developed in-country, in order to provide
access to technology information to as many people as possible,
specifically by engaging active brokers and formal and informal
"human" networks as well as through using the more common
information technology channels.
Taxation, regulation and incentives. Governments
should implement fiscal and regulatory policies that encourage
innovation, and provide where possible direct incentives to companies
that develop or disseminate technologies that contribute to sustainable
development. Fiscal incentives can also be used to encourage businesses
and households to purchase such technologies.
Finance. Private sector finance has the
potential to play a central role in enabling developing countries
to invest in technologies for sustainable development. However,
innovative financing strategies are needed to overcome barriers
to private sector investment in countries of technologies that
are perceived as risky. Strategies that utilise public finance
to leverage private investment should be incorporated into developing
countries' technology innovation systems.
Small scale enterprise has a key role
to play in developing and disseminating technology, and in sustainable
development more generally. Smaller businesses often have difficulty
in obtaining finance in developing countries, as they are too
large to benefit from the services that are provided by microfinance
institutions, or are too small to qualify for project financing,
and may be perceived as too risky to obtain commercial finance.
Strategies for providing funding to small scale enterprise need
to be developed, either through "bundling" projects,
or through supporting the development of intermediary organisations
that can act as a link between small scale enterprise and large
private and public sector finance providers. Capacity building
for the management of small scale enterprise should also be a
Institutions for managing and "joining
up" innovation. Given the need to take a systemic approach
to technology innovation for sustainable development, and the
need to involve a wide range of actors in the development and
implementation of innovation strategies, institutional frameworks
have a crucial role to play in technological development. Institutions
can provide the "glue" between all of the elements of
an innovation system, and can provide the following functions:
Awareness raising, information provision
and influencing demand from consumers.
Assessing needs and consulting stakeholders.
Linking R&D and business.
Building partnerships and aggregating
projects or demand.
Assessing the impact of policy and
making recommendations for policy changes.
Supporting the development of new
technologies (eg through helping to find finance, or through providing
General: All commitments made on technology
issues at WSSD should have the objective of helping developing
countries to develop their own capacity to develop, adapt and
Developing Countries should consider:
committing to developing integrated
strategies for technological innovation, including the elements
listed above, with a strong emphasis on meeting the needs of the
poor and on conserving natural resources and reducing pollution;
committing to setting up dedicated
institutions for developing and implementing these strategies
(with the help of donors), or to giving this role to existing
institutions, and developing them accordingly;
integrating such strategies into
wider Poverty Reduction Strategies and /or National Strategies
for Sustainable Development; and
using monies made available by the
HIPIC initiative to support the implementation of technology development
programmes, as well as for more immediate poverty reduction programmes.
Developed countries and international organisations
committing to an OECD strategy for
increasing support for developing country R&D into technologies
and processes that can contribute to sustainable development.
Such R&D should have a strong link to bottom-up technology
needs assessment processes (see above);
committing to providing sustained
support for those developing countries which commit to developing
integrated strategies for technology innovation for sustainable
development (see above);
providing increased funding and better
targeting existing funding for technology projects that contribute
to sustainable development, with a focus on small scale projects
that meet local needs, and on leveraging private finance; and
fostering new international centres
of excellence in research into technology for sustainable development.