More needs to be done to build technologies that can help the developing world, according to a new report.
The recent study finds that companies and governments are driving too much technology research in the Global North, sometimes referred to as the developed world. Experts say that the technology gap contributes to the growing inequality between different parts of the globe.
“Developed countries will generate the bulk of revenues (so goes the thinking), and therefore, building technology that is accessible and helpful for those in underdeveloped nations is not a priority,” Art Shaikh, the CEO of the software company CircleIt, told Lifewire in an email interview. “The other reason is a bias that exists within the tech industry. As many countries are viewed as poor, they are also seen to have inferior technological understanding and therefore won’t ‘get’ the latest developments.”
More Progress Needed
The study’s authors find science, technology, and innovation research is not focused on the world’s most pressing problems, including taking climate action, addressing complex underlying social issues, tackling hunger, and promoting good health and well-being. Research and innovation worldwide are not focused on meeting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), a framework to address and drive change across all social justice and environmental issues.
The report finds that research in high-income and middle-income countries contributes disproportionately to a disconnect with the SDGs. Most published research (60%-80%) and innovation activity (95%-98%) are unrelated to the SDG.
The report’s authors urged an increase in funding for SDG-related research and innovation, particularly in lower-income countries, on social issues, social policy and grassroots innovations, and research.
“If we don’t see an urgent overhaul in the way science and technology research is undertaken, we will not do justice to the biggest problems we face—including preventing disease, tackling climate change, and fairly distributing food,” Andy Stirling, a professor of Science & Technology Policy at the University of Sussex, said in a news release. “Failing to address this challenge will further embed research and innovation as just another way to accumulate power and wealth for those who already have it. What we need is more equality, diversity, and democracy in research and innovation.”
Software can also play a part in increasing the availability of drinking water. The recently launched Well Beyond app allows community members to independently maintain and diagnose water systems.
“While well-intentioned, the majority of water infrastructure that is installed in these remote regions fail to work after a few months, if ever at all,” Sarah Evans, the founder of the non-profit organization Well Aware, which developed the app, told Lifewire in an email interview. “With the growing landscape of connectivity—Wi-Fi coverage and mobile phone accessibility—as well as new talent that’s graduating from universities within these regions, we can leverage these new opportunities to create solutions that last.”