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Science, technology and innovation policy advice important for development

The third Global Forum of National Advisory Councils on Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) got underway in Pretoria today with robust discussion on the impact of STI policies in transforming societies.

Representatives from Canada, Kenya, China, Egypt, Nigeria, and the United Kingdom are among the delegates attending the event.

The Global Forum is a platform for discussion and mutual collaboration among peer institutions, recommending ways of fostering policy advice for STI around the world.

While advisory councils on STI play an important role in informing policy decisions that can address national objectives in developing and developed nations, and while the number of science academies around the world is rising, there are not enough advisory bodies. It is hoped that the forum will inspire the developing world, especially Africa, to establish such councils.

The Department of Science and Technology's Director-General Dr Phil Mjwara said that, while it was the role of governments to finance universities and knowledge-generation initiatives, and to establish science councils, many developing nations were not able to afford investment in science because of socio-economic challenges.

Participating in the opening panel discussion on Innovation for Inclusive and Sustainable Socio-economic Development, Dr Mjwara said that investment in STI was key to improving lives, and that innovation policies should be crafted in an inclusive manner so that no one was left behind.

The Director-General said that South Africa was still dealing with historical inequalities, but had to embrace innovation and develop a national system of innovation that took both the past and the future into account.

He said that the Department's innovation for inclusive development programme was designed to ensure that innovation benefitted previously disadvantaged communities by ensuring that they received basic services. The intention was for demonstrated technologies like the low-pour flush system to be used in rural communities in water-scarce areas, or for wireless technology to allow communities in remote areas to communicate. Mjwara said it was important to ensure an innovation ecosystem in these communities.

In South Korea, the country's aggressive STI policy implementation has led to rapid socio-economic development. Dr Sea Hong Oh, from the Korea Institute of Science and Technology Evaluation and Planning, told delegates that STI had played a huge impact in addressing societal challenges, but the country was still grappling with inclusivity.

He said increased investment in research and development led to significant economic growth and the country prioritised the commercialisation of research.

Prof. Abdul Matin Patwari, from the Bangladesh Academy of Sciences, said his country had a legacy of extreme poverty, but that the implementation of STI policies had benefitted Bangladesh immensely. He said the country had made strides in reducing abject poverty and towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. He said specific interventions were made to improve the socio-economic status of women.

Patwari the biggest challenge facing his country was the impact of climate change. He said Bangladesh had many rivers, and that 30 million people in Bangladesh were at risk from the disastrous consequences of climate change.

Prof. Howard Alper, the representative from Canada where the previous Global Forum took place, told delegates that while the country had succeeded in implementing sound STI policies, there were challenges of inclusivity pertaining to Indigenous Canadians.

The Global Forum enables advisory councils from different nations to share their experiences and create new opportunities to use STI to advance economic development, and enhance the quality of life and well-being of the citizens of all nations.

The event will conclude tomorrow.

Source: Department of Science and Technology

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