Bringing science and development together through news and analysis

  • Developing nations 'increase share of tech exports'


Developing countries' shares in technology exports are continuing to grow but the digital divide remains, says a UN report released yesterday (6 February).

The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) report, 'Science and technology for development: the new paradigm of ICT', explores the role of information communication technology (ICT) in enhancing innovation in developing countries and confirms its influence on development.

The report finds that developing countries' shares in ICT exports increased from four per cent to 28 per cent between 1995 and 2005, and is continuing to grow.

"South–South trade in ICTs is overtaking trade between developed and developing, and between developed and developed, countries," Susan Teltscher, chief of the ICT Policy and Analysis Unit at UNCTAD, said at the launch.

UNCTAD used data from the International Telecommunication Union's World Telecommunication/ICT indicators to estimate ICT penetration rates for the developing world in 2008.

Their estimates, based on 2005–2006 growth rates, show that mobile phone penetration rates will have reached almost 50 per cent. This is consistent with the target that was set out by the World Summit on the Information Society in 2003.

But penetration rates for Internet and broadband in developing countries remain at very low levels — 25 per cent and three per cent respectively — and the digital divide persists.

"In a global economy in which technology is a major anchor of growth, most developing countries will not be able to fully benefit from globalisation unless they harness innovations and the knowledge that makes them possible," Teltscher told SciDev.Net.

UNCTAD outlines a number of policy recommendations for more effective transfer of knowledge and technology to developing countries. These include: improving flexibility in intellectual property rights, promoting use of open access models, establishing international partnerships for research and development, and supporting capacity building.

The report will be presented at a roundtable discussion at an UNCTAD conference in Ghana in April.

Teltscher told SciDev.Net, "We are taking [this report] up to ministerial level… This is the highest level where we can talk to our constituencies, and hopefully then it will be taken on when they go back at their national level — to put in place the respective policy recommendations that come out of this."

Link to full report

We encourage you to republish this article online and in print, it’s free under our creative commons attribution license, but please follow some simple guidelines:
  1. You have to credit our authors.
  2. You have to credit SciDev.Net — where possible include our logo with a link back to the original article.
  3. You can simply run the first few lines of the article and then add: “Read the full article on SciDev.Net” containing a link back to the original article.
  4. If you want to also take images published in this story you will need to confirm with the original source if you're licensed to use them.
  5. The easiest way to get the article on your site is to embed the code below.
For more information view our media page and republishing guidelines.