President Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Bill Gates have all supported the need to increase technological innovation through development, education, and investment in science and mathematics related fields. It is no surprise that Obama’s Innovation Strategy is one of the avenues through which the U.S. government is “aiming to foster innovation.” While building and investing in human capital is important, Michael Spence of Foreign Affairs argues that the critical areas deserving attention are infrastructure building coupled with technology investment. This blog post gives a few examples of what many development actors are doing move technological advances forward through foreign aid.
OECD: One of the long-term goals of the OECD Science, Technology, and Industry Scoreboard 2009 is to invest in the knowledge economy, namely the human capital within science and technology. The OECD argues that technological innovation begins with an investment in projects that launch and support innovative entrepreneurs.
Private Sector: Micro-enterprises that focus on technological innovation in an effort to change the global community have been acknowledged and supported through private sector investment such as the HP Graduate Entrepreneurship Training and the Micro-enterprise Acceleration Program; both of these projects are a part of HP’s Social Innovation goal.
UN: Additionally, the United Nations supports the expansion of an information web, the advancement of communication technology, and rapid infrastructure growth so as to support progressive growth in the economy. The UN has noted that by building an effective information and communications network, outreach to the developing world becomes easier and faster. Sha Zukang, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, supported the Global Forum on Information and Communication Technology and Innovation for Education by noting that technology and innovation are also helping developing countries reach the eight anti-poverty MDGs. He argues that “multi-lingual software, low-cost hardware, new mobile phone, etc., will afford access to higher education.” The increase in cheap mobile phone and more affordable computers allow once isolated developing countries to gain access to a wider network of knowledge.
Thus, both the private and public sector can promote programs and incentives to engage younger generations in their pursuit of innovation. While technological innovation allows developing countries to gain access to information and financial systems, among other things, those who work within development are increasingly utilizing advanced technology to better serve the people.