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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Appendix 2: Science, technology and development: the imperative of social innovation

Francisco Sagasti


A declaration issued by the former chairmen and members of the United Nations Advisory Committee on Science and Technology for Development (ACSTD) on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the Vienna Programme of Action in October 1989 1. Humanity approaches a new century confronting a fundamental paradox: we have never had so much power to influence the course of civilization, to shape the way our species will evolve, and to create an ever-expanding range of opportunities for human betterment – but we remain unwilling or unable to use this new-found power to achieve our full potential as human beings. Throughout most of history, nations and societies have been compelled to behave as though some groups could only progress at the expense of others. Today, advances in science and technology have created new possibilities for all humanity to prosper, if we could but summon the collective will and wisdom to employ the new means available to us. Science has been the most important factor in placing this unprecedented opportunity within our grasp. During the past four centuries, the systematic process of subjecting abstract conceptions and propositions about the world to the test of empirical observations – which is the hallmark of modern science – has superseded other forms of knowledge generation. As a result, science-based technologies are steadily replacing or improving those that developed through trial and error. At the same time, our understanding of the potentials and limitations of modern science and its applications has increased considerably. Paradoxically, progress in material...

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