Bridging the global STI divide: identifying and addressing the technological needs of the least developed countries

12 April 2024

Written by Taffere Tesfachew, Member of the Council of the UN Technology Bank for the Least Developed Countries

Taffere Tesfachew
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Taffere Tesfachew is a member of the Council of the UN Technology Bank for the Least Developed Countries

Technology and innovation are powerful drivers of sustainable development and structural transformation in developed and emerging economies.

Yet their potential in the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) remains under-realized, hindering the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): too many countries are not on track to meet the SDGs targets within the current decade.

Technological progress brings the promise to deliver innovative solutions to address some of the most urgent challenges the world is facing today, such as food security, inequality, global health issues and climate change.

These challenges transcend borders, demand a collective response, and make the imperative for global cooperation in science, technology, and innovation (STI) more urgent than ever.

Benefits unevenly distributed

The recent pandemic has stressed the importance of global cooperation in science and technology.  However, it has also highlighted the wide gap between countries.

The benefits of technological progress are still unevenly distributed, and the Global North largely dominates the forefront of technological advancements, agenda setting, and regulatory decision-making. Bridging the gap is not only a matter of equity but a strategic necessity to foster inclusive development globally.

Growing technological complexity, the fast development pace, and the scale of global challenges call for increased directionality of STI policies and more efforts to support collaborative and transboundary approaches.

However, the risk of being left behind is growing for the 45 least developed countries and this is why the promotion of technology transfer on mutually agreed terms is a key intergovernmental call to support LDCs.

The recent Doha Programme of Action for LDCs for the decade 2022-2031 (DPoA) identifies STI and the process of structural transformation as key priorities for addressing the pressing economic, social and environmental challenges facing the LDCs.

Insufficient resources

The United Nations Technology Bank for the Least Developed Countries has the mandate to bridge the technological gap between these countries and the rest of the world and strengthen their STI capacities.

LDCs lack sufficient resources, technical expertise, and infrastructure to reap the benefits of technological development and tap into the full potential of innovation.

In this context, directionality and a strategic approach to STI policies is key to achieve sustainable growth. Together, they can provide a strategic framework for harnessing the often-limited resources, prioritize key sectors, and align innovation efforts with national development goals.

Technology Needs Assessments

The Technology Bank conducts Technology Needs Assessment (TNA) to support this process of identifying technologies and technical know-how that the LDCs need. TNAs build on existing technology and innovation assessment conducted by other UN entities, such as UNCTAD, UNESCO and UNEP.

However, the Technology Bank focuses on LDCs only and on the mapping of specific sectors and economic activities, recommending appropriate technological solutions and targeting areas of technological capacity building to effectively deploy specific solutions.

By so doing, TNAs facilitate a prioritization process often overlooked in LDCs, thus enabling strategic deployment of limited resources to pursue concrete pathways for technological advancement and to foster the development of local innovation ecosystems.

To date, the Technology Bank has completed 12 TNAs, mapping challenges and prioritizing technological solutions in agriculture, water and fisheries, healthcare, education and skills development, climate change and environmental resilience.

Technology Needs Assessments are available to the international community to inform about needs and solicit support to ongoing efforts to facilitate and make effective technology transfer to LDCs.

The imperative for directionality in STI cannot be overstated and global cooperation at scale is essential to foster technology transfer between countries and empower LDCs with the STI capacities for a process of sustainable development.

The needs of the most fragile countries should be moved at the forefront of the global STI agenda.


Science, technology and innovation can be catalysts for achieving the sustainable development goals.

In the context of the UN Commission on Science and Technology for Development, the CSTD Dialogue brings together leaders and experts to address this question and contribute to rigorous thinking on the opportunities and challenges of STI in several crucial areas including gender equality, food security and poverty reduction.

The conversation continues at the annual session of the Commission on Science and Technology for Development and as an online exchange by thought leaders.


CSTD Dialogue