A call for more international cooperation in science and technology policies

17 November 2021

Officials engaged in science, technology and innovation policymaking in Africa, Asia and Latin America enhance their capacity and exchange experiences.


Kenyan pastoralists are using a mobile application to help fight drought. © ITU

Scaling up international cooperation would equip more countries to formulate, implement and evaluate science, technology and innovation (STI) policies, said participants in a joint UNCTAD – China online training workshop held from 11 to 22 October.

The workshop sought to help officials improve their capacity to formulate, implement and evaluate STI strategies and policies, and promote STI cooperation among developing countries, with a view to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

It attracted 25 participants from 22 developing countries and countries with economies in transition. They were mostly mid-level officials engaged in STI policymaking in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

“Countries with successful STI policies – policies that translate into STI-led growth – have an advanced understanding of the systemic nature of STI policy,” said Shamika N. Sirimanne, UNCTAD’s director of technology and logistics.

“Such policies appreciate and involve the broad community of STI stakeholders, which includes both public and private firms, small and medium enterprises, farmers, inventors and researchers, academics and policymakers.”

Five lessons on STI

Ms. Sirimanne outlined five lessons from UNCTAD’s work on STI:

  1. STI are not deterministic. Proactive policy interventions are needed to steer the direction of technological change towards more equitable outcomes and sustainable development.
  2. STI policies must be closely aligned with national development policies and aspirations.
  3. Successful STI policies recognize the importance of human capacity-building as an indispensable input. This includes building capacities for technology transfer, knowledge absorption and diffusion, from abroad as well as within the economy.
  4. Successful STI policies require the allocation of sufficient financial resources to enable STI activities and human skill-building.
  5. Successful policies rely on the competent collection and processing of data or “evidence-based policymaking”. Data and evidence are baseline inputs into STI activities.

Wide-ranging topics

The workshop covered topics ranging from considerations of technological issues in STI for rural and agricultural development to specific policy questions, such as policy evaluation and long-term STI planning.

“I’ve never considered the role of evaluation of a STI policy, but I’ll now incorporate it in my work in the near future,” said Violeta Perez, an STI specialist with Peru’s National Council of Science, Technology and Technology Innovation (CONCYTEC).

“I’ve learned that we in developing countries need to synchronize our approaches towards STI policies,” said Simion Rutto, an economist in Kenya’s ministry of ICT, innovation and youth affairs.

Participants also presented their countries’ STI development strategies or policies. Many emphasized their efforts to strengthen their STI policymaking capacity and the importance of learning from other countries’ experiences.

International cooperation example

The workshop was an example of the kind of international cooperation and partnerships in STI that should be scaled up to support developing countries’ domestic efforts.

“We hope that all participants make full use of what they have learned in their practical work and play a role in promoting STI in their countries,” said Nie Biao, the director-general of China’s National Centre for Science and Technology Evaluation, which co-organized the workshop with UNCTAD.

Mr. Biao commended the geographic diversity of the participants and the excellent presentations, lectures and discussions held during the workshop.

It was the third event of an initiative that China offered at the annual session of the UN Commission on Science and Technology for Development (CSTD) in 2017.

The initiative provides a platform for CSTD member states to learn from each other and share successes and lessons in using STI to promote national development.

The previous two workshops were held in person in China in 2018 and 2019. The third one was initially scheduled for 2020 but had to be postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.