Knowledge and Innovation for Development
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Knowledge and Innovation for Development

The Sisyphus Challenge of the 21st Century

Francisco Sagasti

This text provides a comprehensive introduction to the many different issues related to the Sisyphean task of building science and technology capabilities in developing countries. It attempts to answer crucial questions including: how can knowledge be utilized to improve the human condition, and how can we bridge the growing knowledge divide between those who produce and use modern science and technology – and those who do not?
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Chapter 1: Knowledge, Technology and Production: A Conceptual Framework

Francisco Sagasti


This chapter introduces a set of basic concepts that will be used throughout the book. It begins with a discussion of prevailing views regarding the diffusion of Western science and then proposes an integrative framework to view the interactions between knowledge, technology and production and service activities. 1.1 THE DIFFUSION OF WESTERN SCIENCE In a well-known and widely influential paper George Basalla1 proposed a conceptual framework to explain the spread of Western science throughout the world. His model consists of three partly overlapping stages. In the first stage, the non-scientific or pre-scientific society of the developing world constitutes a source of problems for European science to delve into; in the second, there is an incipient development of what Basalla calls ‘colonial science’; and in the third stage, developing countries struggle to establish an independent scientific tradition of their own. During the first stage, a few European scientists visit the new lands, explore and collect fauna and flora, study the geographical and physical characteristics of unexplored areas, and then return to their place of origin to complete their scientific work. In their relatively tranquil home academic settings, they put forward their theories and describe their empirical findings. A dependent ‘colonial science’ emerges in the second stage. Natural history continues to be the main focus of interest and attention, but the range of scientific activities and problems studied begins to expand until it almost coincides with that of the colonizing power. The colonial scientist is dependent...

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