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 4: The Knowledge Divide and Disparities in Developing Country Capacities

Francisco Sagasti

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4. The knowledge divide and disparities in developing country capacities The impact of the knowledge explosion has been felt throughout the planet, but in a most uneven manner. The capacity to generate and utilize scientific and technological knowledge has become highly concentrated in a few developed countries, while the majority of developing countries still rely on traditional knowledge and techniques, complemented by a rather thin layer of modern knowledge, technologies, products and services, passively received from the technologically advanced countries. This has created a ‘knowledge divide’ between those parts of the world where science, technology and production are tightly intertwined, and those in which the limited scientific, technological and modern production activities remain apart from each other and where traditional knowledge, techniques and products still play a major role. The knowledge divide has been relentlessly deepening and enlarging, and has led to a sort of ‘knowledge apartheid’ that radically separates those societies that have an endogenous science and technology base from those that do not. The explosive growth of information technologies and of the infrastructure to support them has also become a source of inequality between developed and developing countries. The terms ‘information poverty’ and ‘digital divide’ have been coined to describe the plight of poor countries with very limited access to the world sources of information, a condition that drastically reduces possibilities, options and choices for development. Yet, there is also great variation in the level of science and technology capabilities of developing countries. A few have...

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