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close this bookScience and Technology in the Transformation of the World (UNU, 1982, 496 p.)
close this folderSession II: Technology generation and transfer - Transformation alternatives
close this folderThe collective self-reliance of developing countries in the fields of science and technology
close this folderSlobodan Ristic
View the documentI. General considerations
View the documentII. Co-operation among developing countries in developing national potentials
View the documentIll. The strengthening of the negotiating position of developing countries in science and technology
View the documentIV. Instead of a conclusion
View the documentNotes

II. Co-operation among developing countries in developing national potentials

1. No traditions exist in co-operation among developing countries in general, and, in science and technology in particular, numerous restraints, both internal and external, hinder the complex process of fortifying joint interests and extending co-operation. These are, inter alia, an insufficiency in the indigenous development of science attained through education and co-operation with developed countries, a lack of reliable information on the resources and capacities of other developing countries, and a deep-rooted attitude that it is only the developed countries that can offer what is usually referred to as science and "modern technology." Obviously, changes cannot be effected solely by declarations, but by conscious determination and action within developing countries themselves and through joint organized efforts at the international level, so that their activity may gain the support of the international community. Departing from the fact that it is not an end in itself, this co-operation has to be directed and motivated within developing countries so as:

- to promote a policy of goodwill and the creation of a climate whereby common or similar problems may be successfully resolved through using the knowledge and experience of other developing countries and through cross-fertilization;

- to introduce simulative measures to expand this co-operation (national policies, programmed, financial resources, priorities in national undertakings, and so forth);

- to establish and strengthen channels of communication with other developing countries (bilateral agreements, programmes of joint teamwork among interested or similar institutions, active involvement in regional programmes and projects, and so on).

2. The formulation of scientific and technological policies and strategies is a primary need and the responsibility of every country, including developing countries. Such policies and strategies should define the availability of resources and constraints in terms of human, physical, and financial resources in scientific and technological progress, including technology transfer. This strategy should be aimed at achieving national objectives such as economic growth, development of national capacities for innovation and education, management of national resources, a guarantee of national security and balance of payments, improvement of the quality of life and the position of man, and so on. With a few exceptions, developing countries do not tend toward elaborate scientific and technological policies and strategies. On the other hand, it is frequently thought that these are one and the same thing, that is, that merely the setting of objectives in science determines the framework for technological development, thus implying that it is a unified process consisting of the same set of activities. It is a well-established fact that speculative abstract science is increasingly giving way to applied science and that this requires social evaluation. Nevertheless, applied science is directed at research of natural and social phenomena without the possibility of a more exact economic evaluation. Technology, with its "hardware" and "software" components, requires a multi-disciplinary approach and teamwork, as it is directly linked with the decision-making process and changes in production and provision of services, as well as in meeting society's present and potential needs. The need therefore arises, in spite of the existing correlation, to differentiate between scientific and technological policies.

Every developing country needs to define its strategy of technological development, which is not easy. The long list of available technologies in the world is undoubtedly a potential source, but there is a basic need for selecting and developing technologies suited to each country's real needs and resources. The development of methodological bases for scientific and technological development strategies is a significant area of co-operation among developing countries since there are many common features and similarities in conditions and available resources. On the other hand, the availability of technological achievements through transfer and indigenous research in developing countries is highly valuable and very often suitable for other developing countries. An exchange of knowledge and experience in this domain provides opportunities to define alternative strategies.

3. A scholar once said that science is not a magic wand that can turn a poor country "into a rich one overnight." Every country uses its limited resources for endogenous social, economic, scientific, and technological development (financial, physical, research, and educational resources, human potential, indigenous and imported know-how and technologies, and so forth). An efficient system of management and decision-making is therefore needed to enable effective use and further development of re sources.

Consulting services, educational programmed, and assistance in establishing various institutions are offered to developing countries through different bilateral and multilateral channels. There is hardly a country today that is not carrying out a project of some sort on management assistance. This transfer of management know-how and foreign concepts is for the most part mechanical and lacks the necessary adaptations. Considering what has already been said about the social content of management and decision-making processes, the "import" of foreign solutions yields an undeveloped system of management and poor practical results and, frequently, certain negative political and economic implications. There is obviously an urgent need to create an indigenous concept and methodological basis of management in developing countries, along with selective use of developed countries' achievements.

Developing countries' needs are many, and vast possibilities exist for the mutual exchange of management know-how. Many similarities in social and economic strategies, economic status, and limited resources, along with the growing role of the public sector and public enterprises, indicate the value of joint research and exchange of knowledge and experience.

4. World research and development activities are growing rapidly. Total expenditures in research and development of the developed market economies rose from $29,000 million in 1963 to $63,500 million in 1973. However, the developing countries' share in total expenditures (estimated at $96,500 million in 1973) was a mere 2.8 per cent compared to 58 per cent for the activities of the US and the USSR.

A study published by UNESCO sheds light on another perspective on research problems in the world today. It is estimated that only 3 per cent of research and development activities are devoted to the specific problems of developing countries, one third of which are carried out in developed countries. Although conclusions cannot be drawn mechanically from these indicators, primarily because many world scientific achievements may be applied universally, it can nevertheless be noted that the objectives and programmed of scientific and technological research are determined by the needs and interests of developed countries. The following data confirm these findings.

a. The nature of accumulated world knowledge is decreasingly relevant to developing countries as it has not been, historically speaking, adapted to the conditions in developing countries where the distribution of production factors (scarcity of capital, abundance of manpower, manufacture of raw materials, and so on) differs from that in developed countries.

b. The development of research and development activities quite frequently contradicts the interests of developing countries. While a thousand million dollars has been allocated for research and development of synthetics production, little or nothing has been done to advance tropical agriculture and to intensify the use of raw materials.

c. Nearly 45.5 per cent of total expenditures have been allocated for military research and development.

We may partly or fully agree with these findings, but it is nevertheless true that developed countries, by power of their indigenous potential and monopolistic position in international transfers, dictate the trends of research and have subordinated science and technology to their interests. If various political, economic, and personnel constraints and the restrictive practices in the international transfer of knowledge and technology are added to those, then it is obvious that the transformation of present relations is out of the question, unless developing countries exert a more decisive influence on scientific and technological research programmes in the world.

A similar position with regard to the potential, needs and natural and climatic conditions in many developing countries call; for joint research programmes and a wider circulation of knowledge and experience among developing countries. Collective self-reliance is the only way to develop research programmed based on alternative strategies, providing for the interdependence of existing world achievements and local conditions in developing countries. Pooling efforts makes possible a rational use of imported knowledge and technology, which are not lacking in developing countries and for which immense resources are spent. Finally, this cooperation will improve the efficiency of joint research programmed and the exchange of experience through the purchase of industrial property, which are already being carried out through UNESCO and UNIDO.

5. It is estimated that about 15 per cent of research workers and engineers are in developing countries, not to mention the "brain drain," or the reverse transfer of technology and the gains of the developed countries in recruiting specialists from developing countries. A strengthening of scientific and technological infrastructures in developing countries, their closer liaison with production systems, and their capability to meet the demands arising from set objectives and needs present a broad framework for prosperous social and economic development. National efforts are being made in this direction and bilateral and multilateral support given, but the change is slow. The process is a highly complex one and closely related to a series of objective constraints. However, there are certain problems in the developing countries' approach to establishing technological infrastructures:

- The research potential is highly concentrated in industrial, technological and social science institutes, and rarely in the universities. Their essential features are an "academic" approach to research and almost exclusive government financing. Dependence on the state is natural under the conditions of the undeveloped economy and social services and, consequently, there is a small "demand" for research. However, the consequences are serious with respect to the promotion of scientific and technological research in society. The dependence of programmes and financing on governments actually makes them a part of the state bureaucracy. The motivation and stimulation to achieve practical results are actually negligible, and the interest of institutes in long-term co-operation with the economic sector and other users is insufficient.

- Due to a lack of indigenous knowledge, experience, and material resources, the majority of institutes in developing countries resort to developing their endogenous potential and spreading knowledge through bilateral and multilateral assistance. In addition to importing knowledge, the creative activity of the recipient country, solutions, organizational philosophy, and other technical assets are employed. This input is significant and very often indispensable, but it creates a basis for a more lasting dependence on and influence by developed countries in further development of institutions and personnel.

- The research and development potential in developing countries is very rarely located in larger, modern technological companies and other systems. This, objectively speaking, is a limitation from the aspect of monitoring and evaluating powerful technological changes, requiring constant imports of know-how without the capability of selection, adaptation, and fertilization of imported technical skills. And, finally, lack of internal research and a development base in large systems limits the involvement of institutes and universities in applied and technological research.

- Consulting and engineering activities, as a bridge between scientific research and practice, are today very important factors both in the utilization and development of indigenous resources and in international expansions.8 However, consulting and engineering activities have no precedents in developing countries, which are the almost exclusive users of these services. The consulting service approach to research aimed at resolving existing problems is slowly being accepted. The most qualified personnel prefer to be involved in academic research. The small number of existing organizations is spread out and strongly influenced by those in developed countries. The establishment of branches of large multinational consulting and engineering organizations is a frequent phenomenon substantially limiting the creation of an indigenous base. In view of the fact that consulting projects are directly involved in major undertakings in social and economic development, the infiltration of international consulting activities has an immediate influence on national decisions.

We may thus conclude that the establishment of scientific and technological infrastructures cannot, as is often the case, be identified solely with the establishment and financing of scientific and research institutes. The development of consulting and engineering activities is frequently identified with the establishment of new organizations. However, it is necessary to consider the development of professional activities rather than that of institutions. Consulting-oriented research may be undertaken by research institutions that are methodologically and professionally equipped to provide services aimed at resolving these problems. Obviously the establishment of technological infrastructures is a complex undertaking.

Collective self-reliance in the establishment of scientific and technological infrastructures more often means the creation of regional and subregional centres and institutes than that of joint programmes and projects. It can be a bureaucratic act which usually results in the development of "supranational" institutions producing their own programmes and methods of work without taking into account the interests and needs of their founders. The intention here is not to oppose joint institutions, but to draw attention to the delicate nature and responsibility involved in such undertakings. Even in the developed world numerous examples may be found of international research institutions that have been transformed into a special type of "international bureaucracy."

Scientific and technological co-operation among developing countries should depart from joint programmes and projects and determine the institutional framework of their activity. Long-term inter-institutional activities of national research, consulting, and engineering organizations should be the basis and by all means the most popular form of co-operation among developing countries. It should be carried out through joint programmes, projects, exchanges of information, personnel training, and so forth. Such long-term activities may also serve as a basis for the establishment of a network of institutions of developing countries for joint programmed in specific fields at the subregional, regional, and interregional levels. Rudimentary examples already exist, and there is a growing awareness of the need to increase their number. However, the success of this undertaking will depend on a more lasting solution of mutual relations based on the interests of national institution development, on devising programme and project management methods, ensuring stable courses of financing, and so on. This requires an effort by the institutions themselves and their governments, and by the international community as well.

The wide range of common interests of institutions in developing countries includes the promotion of management in research and development, as well as in large research, consulting, and engineering projects. Most frequently, knowledge transfer from developed countries in this domain has either failed to yield corresponding results or created certain forms of dependence. This indicates the need to establish, through an exchange of experience and joint research, new forms of management in research and development tailored to the needs of developing countries and autonomous decision-making in all spheres of creative activity. The close liaison between national and collective self-reliance needs to be emphasized in this respect.

6. A series of international indicators shows an accelerated development of higher education in developing countries. The number of students in universities, colleges, and other institutions of higher learning has increased from less than one million in 1950 to nearly ten million in 1975. The number of students in developing countries caught up the number in developed countries, including countries with centrally planned economies, in 1960. Although it is not the purpose of this paper to make a broader analysis of these indicators, all the more so since it does not dwell on the structure and level of research activities, global indicators show that developing countries possess a far broader educational base than developed countries had at their disposal in the early stage of their industrialization. This is a significant prerequisite for the social, economic, and technological transformation of developing countries. However, without going into detail, mention will be made here of certain major problems in the development of higher education and the utilization of personnel. Some problems are: a high degree of imitation in the programmes and organization of higher education, undeveloped research activities in the universities, and "brain drain."

Higher education's modern development is faced with a categorical demand for a radical reform of the university system and educational process. The growth, structure, and quality of educational activities should be more suited to the dynamic social, economic, and technological changes in each country. Usually conservative, bureaucratic, and insufficiently capable of dynamic changes, the educational systems are not in a position to ensure interdisciplinary activity, continuing innovations in programmes and methods of work in accordance with the development of science and indigenous practices, a system of lifelong education, the use of modern technology in education, and so on. All these changes require the advancement of higher education based on a high interdependence between users and everyday practices instead of on the academic independence of the university.

Under conditions of higher education reform throughout the world, cooperation among developing countries is of special significance. Through joint research, exchange of experience, exchanges of teachers and students, and other forms of co-operation it is possible to promote the concept of a new university adapted to the dynamic development needs of countries striving for the respect of their cultural identity and a more equitable position in international relations. It is not a "universal model" of higher education in developing countries that is sought, for this is determined by each country's special conditions and needs. Rather, what's necessary is co-operation and joint research that will help devise specific solutions for developing countries in present complex conditions of higher education reform in the world.

7. All countries are faced with the responsible task of framing policies and establishing mechanisms to safeguard national interests in the international transfer of technology. These problems cannot, evidently, be resolved only by the adoption of international codes of conduct, on which developing countries insist, but primarily through effective national regulations and mutual co-operation of developing countries in the transfer of technology.

Co-operation among developing countries in this domain may be promoted in three directions:

- exchange of experience and mutual assistance in defining national policies and establishing machinery to achieve favourable conditions and harmonize imports of technology and knowledge with real needs and indigenous research;

- co-operation in the field of related imported technologies in order to adapt them to specific needs and introduce innovations in imported know-how; these activities may lead to joint economic undertakings between corresponding partners;

- exchange of information on imported technologies aimed at undertaking joint programmes and projects.9