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Science for Development in the South


Third World Academy of Sciences (TWAS)
Committee on Science and Technology in Developing Countries (COSTED)

prepared by

Prof. D. Balasubramanian
Director of Research
Hyderabad Eye Research Foundation, India

Helpful suggestions received from Prof. A.M. Cetto, Prof. M.H.A. Hassan, Prof. Lu Y.X., Prof. C.N.R. Rao, Prof. J.I. Vargas, Prof. S.O. Wandiga and Dr. V. Zharov are gratefully acknowledged.

An overview of the status of science and technology in the South presents a mixed profile.  Some of the large countries in Asia and Latin America have established, in varying degrees of sophistication and effectiveness, the infrastructure and the educational system that feed into research and development efforts. These efforts involve both national missions (such as pertaining to food and agriculture, health care and delivery, power and energy, communications) and transnational programs (such as those of UNDP, WHO, IGBP and the like). Trained manpower is also available within. A few of these countries are expected to rise to equal the achievement levels of several countries of the North, provided the rate of growth and funding for education, research and development are sustained and enhanced. Even among the smaller countries of these regions, national policy and the standards of education are commendable. Their research and development efforts, over the last decade, have shown some rise.

Among the newly independent countries of Central Asia, Eurasia and Eastern Europe, national commitment to, and standards of, education up to the tertiary (and quaternary) levels have been traditionally good; however, investment in science and technology at present is sub-optimal. As their financial difficulties ease, their progress in science and technology is expected to be rapid.

The problem, however, is with the less developed countries (LDCs). Barring a handful, the nations of the African continent are faced with the problem of inadequate educational facilities and poor levels of science and technological attainments. This is, in a way, ironic since in many of these countries traditional and practical knowledge about handling the immediate environment and in winning essential material from the land has been notable. Budgeting for education, science and technology research and development is higher among some of the larger nations, of the order of 1-3% of their gross domestic products, while that in the LDCs is negligible.

In many ways the status of science and technology in many countries of the South is a reflection of their literacy rates, colonial history, economic status, national planning and political stability. Many nations of the South have become free but two generations ago, and have begun planning and committing their resources for education, health and welfare, and science in a sharpened manner only recently. It is clear that for science to be used as an engine for national development and welfare, greater efforts, inputs and planning are called for.

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