Imagine not having your cellphone handy to send a quick message, receive traffic updates, find your doctor's telephone number, check a map on your way to visit a friend, or make a payment?
Soon our homes will be remote-controlled, allowing us to regulate heat and prevent water leaks while away In the not-too-distant future, we may have autonomous vehicles. Big data and artificial intelligence (AI) are leading to breakthroughs in how we can treat deadly diseases. But who really benefits from these innovations? How many of us will ultimately profit from this Fourth Industrial Revolution or from the green technology we hear and read about, made possible through ground-breaking advances in robotics, AI, biotechnology, machine learning and the Internet of things?
We live in a time of stunning technological wizardry, but unfortunately, not all of us benefit from it. Many have already been left behind and risk falling even further behind due to the political, economic and social consequences of rapidly expanding inequality. Tremendous technological leaps are being made, but the economic and social benefits remain geographically concentrated, primarily in developed countries. Too often the least developed countries (LDCs) remain far behind if not excluded entirely. Many have little choice beyond the use of obsolete technologies, such as those used in the garment or agricultural sectors.
This is not because LDCs lack the determination or the will to catch up with the rest of the world. What we are seeing is a result of the serious and manifold development challenges these countries continue to face, experiencing delays in their efforts to eradicate poverty, achieve sustainable development and participate fully in an increasingly competitive global market. One of the root causes is found in structural limitations, as there are marked gaps between LDCs and other countries in such areas as science, technology and innovation (STI). If these gaps are not closed sooner rather than later, LDCs will not be able to achieve the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This will also mean that we will not have reached our objective of "leaving no one behind".
The shortcomings of STI find their origin in a range of factors. Traditional development approaches based on the trickle-down assumption that increasing imports of capital goods and direct foreign investment would lead, through the diffusion of technology and innovation, to development...