"Science and Technology for Development: Prospects Entering the Twenty-first Century," a public symposium, was held in Washington, D.C., June 22-23, 1987, to commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The anniversary of the Agency was thought to be a suitable occasion for describing and assessing the contributions of science and technology in selected areas to the development of Third World countries, and to focus attention on what science and technology are likely to accomplish in the decades to come. The symposium was cosponsored by the Agency for International Development and the National Research Council (NRC), two institutions that have long worked as partners in examining the role of science and technology in the development process through the programs of the Council's Board on Science and Technology for International Development (BOSTID).
Dr. Nyle C. Brady, USAID senior assistant administrator, opened the symposium by describing briefly the history of U.S. technical assistance. Twenty-Five years ago most development experts believed that the technology needed by developing countries was available and waiting for the appropriate applications. They also believed that the primary responsibility of the United States was the transfer of technological products and methods to those countries. This short-term vision of development needs limited the role that research, which is by nature long term, could play in the process.
The experience of the last three decades has shown that the transfer of available technology is a necessary but insufficient condition for development. Progress in most sectors has required continuous advances in science and technology. Increasingly, successes have been achieved by generating the specific technologies needed to overcome Third World problems. This has meant a surge in the growth of (1) indigenous scientific capacities, (2) national and regional institutions using the newly acquired skills of developing country scientists, and (3) scientific networks sharing research findings. Through these cooperative efforts, for example:
The first part of this report, "The Past 25 Years," describes more fully the vast contributions made by these disciplines to development over the last three decades. This description is based on presentations made at the symposium by four authorities who have broad experience in developing countries (see the Appendix for a list of all speakers and presentations).
The second half of the report, "Entering the Twenty-first Century," examines advances in specific technologies and asks how these advances might benefit the Third World. This examination is based on presentations made by 19 scientists who are pursuing cutting edge technologies in national laboratories, universities, research centers, and private industry. The technologies addressed seem certain to have major impacts in both industrialized and Third World countries, although the development related applications of some are not yet as clear as for others.
The final section of this report is based on the summation delivered by University of Houston Professor Thomas R. DeGregori, who has published extensively on the role of technology in today's rapidly changing world.
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