In recent years, the global development community has transformed its goals to mainstream them into the concept of sustainable development – development that is climate resilient, promotes health for all, uses clean energy, provides decent jobs and uses technological solutions for environment-friendly industrialization through partnerships between governments, private sector and the civil society. This new approach calls for new pathways of development accompanied by focused attention on knowledge systems that can enable the production, diffusion and adoption of innovation and technology.
Science, technology and innovation (STI) impact our lives in many different ways. From the fast changes taking place in the digital sphere of the economy, to the anticipated shifts on the labor markets through vastly altered demand for skills, the impact of STI can also be seen on global, national and regional policies, the business environment and the understanding of knowledge systems. Innovation has clear implications for development in sectors such as health, agriculture, and industry and it has become the key driver of growth in the knowledge economy.
GDN and its partners invite developing country researchers, policymakers, private sector and civil society to discuss the ways forward to foster the use of STI in enabling progress for development. The conference will be a platform for discussions on innovation and its applications for development needs and structural economic transformation by focusing on the following themes: Global Health Challenges; Sustainable Agriculture; Skills, Employment & Industrial Transformation.
State-of-the-art research, policy and practices having a direct impact on development outcomes will be shared and discussed throughout the conference. GDN and its partners propose to frame the activities around three thematic areas of interest to the general topic of STI for development, in the tryptic sub-themes of global health challenges, innovation in agriculture, and skills, employment and industrial transformation.
Global Health Challenges
Pressing issues in global health call for a global partnership for innovation in healthcare and improved practices making the best use of available technologies. All actors of the international development community need to foster global cooperation in R&D on health and support a more enabling system of intellectual property rights, one that can help to improve access to medicines and to change the incentives towards neglected diseases of developing countries. Malnutrition, obesity as well as communicable diseases remain high on the agenda as recently recalled with the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Digital public health services are rapidly developing along with adequate technology. New technologies are enabliing better targeting of beneficiaries, providing insurance and accessible ways to maintain medical records online - a major advancement for developing countries with low literacy rates. Important questions remain: how can modern technologies be used to improve the qualilty of health services at an affordable cost? What are the challenges and opportunities ahead?
Technology has been driving agricultural productivity over centuries, and the digital age has opened new possibilities for innovation in agriculture. This translates into the use of new technologies for sustainable farming practices, supply chain management or grassroots agriculture innovations to produce considerable increase in crop productivity. The digital economy has also facilitated access to markets and real time information on demand and pricing, crucial for small-holder farmers. Sustainable agricultural practices must be equipped to tackle the challenges of climate change, preserving biodiversity, protecting and supporting small-holder agriculture. The challenges of malnutrition and food security remain a major issue, especially in low-income countries where technology and infrastructure are still lacking. In addition, intellectual property rights as well as land management policies continue to hamper small-holder farming and the development of this activity.
Skills, Employment & Industrial Transformation
The ongoing digital revolution, coined as the fourth industrial revolution, will transform our societies in unprecedented ways. With the arrival of artificial intelligence, robotics and nanotechnologies, disruption in global value chains is likely to bring a change of paradigm in industrial policy that could translate to less foreign investment to low-income countries. The technology gap should be bridged by reforming knowledge systems to ensure that they can compete in the global knowledge economy. The question of skills and employment will be crucial to ensure that technological innovation does not exacerbate inequalities and poverty in low-skilled manufacturing countries, posing a large challenge to entrepreneurship and human capital formation. Finally, renewable energy should build on technological progress to improve energy efficiency and support global climate change agreements.
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