| The uncertain quest: science, technology, and development |
Heitor Gurgulino de Souza
Rector of the United Nations University
Science and technology have long been recognized as essential driving forces in the development process. Yet the decade of the 1980s brought with it many disappointments on the part of the developing countries in their attempts to actually use the potential of rapid technological change to their advantage. For this reason, it became obvious that in light of global change and the struggle for a new world order in many areas, innovative theories, new paradigms, and creative approaches regarding science and technology policies were long overdue.
The United Nations University (UNU) has established over the years an extensive network of scholars representing different disciplines and cultural values and perspectives in approaching the linkages between science, technology, and society. Thus, considerable research had been carried out in the past through country and comparative studies. Building on this experience the UNU invited a selected group of specialists engaged in these past endeavours to write an authoritative sourcebook on science and technology policies for development to be published in several languages.
The objective of this UNU sourcebook on science, technology, and development is to provide a scholarly assessment of the role of science and technology in the development process and a critical analysis of the social, economic, and political dimensions of science and technology. All contributors have themselves been attached to science and technology policy units, either at a university or research institute or in other high-level administrative positions related to this field throughout their careers.
In order to establish a direct bridge between this scholarly work and the UNU's postgraduate training activities for professionals from developing countries, some of the authors of our sourcebook were also involved as lecturers in related training activities carried out by the UNU in cooperation with Unesco and several non-governmental organizations in Latin America, Asia, and Africa. Choosing priorities in science and technology, identifying strategies appropriate to existing national resources and needs, and establishing adequate institutions and strategic alliances of governmental, academic, and private sectors are essential stepping-stones in the management of science and technology. The UNU's training activities were designed to assist these processes.
Science and technology capacity-building in developing countries continues to be of great concern to the UNU, and new institutional and programmatic arrangements have been made by us over the past years to strengthen the position of science and technology in such fields as natural resources, development economics, environment, energy, and new technologies, particularly biotechnology and microelectronics, to mention just a few. The consolidation of the World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU/WIDER) and the establishment of the UNU institute for New Technologies (UNU/INTEC), the UNU International Institute for Software Technology (UNU/IIST), the Programme for Natural Resources in Africa (UNU/INRA), and the Biotechnology Programme for Latin America and the Caribbean (UNU/BIOLAC) represent major progress in this direction. Furthermore, a new series of international seminars on "The Frontiers of Science and Technology" was established by our University Centre in Tokyo, in cooperation with major Japanese universities, to explore some of the most recent trends and their potential implications.
New paradigms are evolving in development theory and practice. The "human development" aspect now emphasized by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the higher importance attributed to the role of the private sector by all major multilateral and bilateral aid organizations, the recognition of ecology as a vital factor in development, and the inevitable long-term trend towards a "one-world technology" - implying that there will not be one technology for the developing and one for the developed world, but global technologies- are all part of this process.
I wish specially to thank the editors, Jean-Jacques Salomon, Francisco R. Sagasti, and CÃ©line Sachs-Jeantet, and the authors of our sourcebook for their efforts, as well as the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and Unesco for the moral, intellectual, and financial support they have given to this project.