|Chapter 2:||Poverty and the Knowledge Economy|
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Science Report notes, “It is now customary to affirm that knowledge, education, science, technology and innovation have become the prime drivers of progress that is itself targeting that most cherished of goals, the knowledge society” (UNESCO 2005, 2–3). Although 1.7 percent of world GDP was devoted to research and development in 2002, this global statistic conceals the vast discrepancy between developed and developing countries. The divide is highlighted by the fact that the majority of the world (80.6 percent of the population) lives in developing and less-developed countries, where only 22.2 percent of the gross expenditure on research and development (GERD) is spent (see table 2.1).
The report reveals similar discrepancies in scientific publications, patents, and high-tech imports (including pharmaceuticals) and therefore calls for developing and developed countries alike to seek a clear vision for improving the various components of a strong science and technology system—primarily through universities. However, many university systems (among other public services) in developing countries have yet to recover from the negative effects of the structural adjustment programs imposed by the IMF and the World Bank (Peters and Besley 2006).
Numerous developing countries have universities that are in a state of crisis (TFHES 2000). These universities suffer from a lack of both physical infrastructure and human resources. A report by the Commission for Africa highlights the fact that university research capacity has declined. The commission wrote the following: