Table of Contents

  • We live at a time of technological change that is unprecedented in its pace, scope and depth of impact. Harnessing that progress is the surest path for the international community to deliver on the 2030 agenda for people, peace and prosperity. Frontier technologies hold the promise to revive productivity and make plentiful resources available to end poverty for good, enable more sustainable patterns of growth and mitigate or even reverse decades of environmental degradation. But technological change and innovation need to be directed towards inclusive and sustainable outcomes through a purposeful effort by governments, in collaboration with civil society, business and academia. If policy-makers are not proactive technological disruption can entrench inequality, further marginalize the poorest, and fuel reactionary movements against open societies and economies.

  • The Technology and Innovation Report 2018 was written by an UNCTAD team led by Shamika N. Sirimanne, Director of the Division on Technology and Logistics. The team members included Bob Bell, Pilar Fajarnés, Angel González Sanz, Michael Lim, Tansug Ok, Abiy Solomon and Blanche Ting.

  • The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development sets ambitious global goals, demanding unprecedented actions and efforts across multiple interconnected social, economic and environmental issues. Science, technology and innovation (STI) must play a central role in the achievement of these goals. The process of creative destruction initiated by technological progress can help to transform economies and improve living standards, by increasing productivity, reducing production costs and prices, and helping to raise real wages.

  • With the vision of “leaving no one behind“, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development demands unprecedented actions and efforts. Unlike the Millennium Development Goals, the Sustainable Development Goals are universal and comprehensive goals that give equal importance to the economic, social and environmental pillars of sustainable development. Islands of prosperity surrounded by poverty, injustice, climate change and environmental degradation are viewed as neither sustainable nor acceptable.

  • Developed and developing countries face the challenges and opportunities of sustainable development in the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution presented in chapter I from very different starting points. Trends in frontier technologies, which are fundamentally enabled by the Internet and ICTs, are superimposed on a world with existing technological divides both between and within nations.

  • The overarching challenge for developing countries in reaping the benefits of STI is to learn, adopt and disseminate knowledge and technologies to promote sustainable development. For developing countries, this challenge is equally vital with regard to frontier technologies and those that are more established in international markets, which many developing countries still face difficulties in accessing, adapting and deploying to their full potential. Without appropriate STI policies, no form of technology is likely to deliver progress in the global development agenda. Such progress requires an environment that nurtures learning and innovation – and the dedication of resources, time and concentrated efforts – to build and manage effective innovation systems.

  • Changes in the environment for STI policy are not limited to the technological landscape and development goals discussed in chapters I to III. There have also been a number of important developments in conceptual and policy approaches to technology and innovation, some of these reflecting the nature of frontier technologies, particularly the opportunities for networking and collaboration that digital technologies and platforms afford. A key part of building on the foundations of STI policy outlined in chapter III is to apply these new concepts effectively and to make optimal use of new opportunities and emerging policy approaches.