Science and Technology in the Service of Stability

Second African Forum for Dialogue 'Peace and Security for Sustainable Development in Africa'

Geneva, May 25, 2010

Francis Gurry

Ladies and Gentlemen –

A very good afternoon to you all. Let me start by recording my thanks to the African Union and, in particular, to H.E. Ambassador Masri. It is really a privilege to be here with you on this day of Africa and to demonstrate the solidarity of the World Intellectual Property Organization with the African continent. I shall be very brief in view of the remaining time.

Let me start with the question: what has science and technology got to do with peace and stability? What has innovation got to do with it?

I think the answer is that it is one little piece in an overall jigsaw puzzle that goes to making up peace and stability. Innovation is the largest component responsible for economic growth and it is a major generator of employment. These are preconditions, of course, to peace and stability. Innovation is also the means that humanity uses to overcome challenges. Let me use the example in this respect of an African innovation, USHAHIDI, which is an information technology platform coming out of Kenya. It relies on signals from mobile telephones to create a digitized image, or a map, of particular areas. It has been very successfully deployed in Chile and Haiti in the disasters that occurred in those areas.

When one looks at the African continent more generally and the question of innovation, the statistics are not very favorable. It is clear that there is a need for support and capacity-building. Whereas Africa has 14.3% of the world’s population, it only has 2.3% of the world’s researchers. Of course, there are so many other urgent priorities that the amount of spending on research and development is less than 1% of the total amount that is spent throughout the world.

What are we trying to do about this situation WIPO? I am going to be extremely concise here and I ask you to forgive me for that concision. Essentially, in this area we are trying to focus on the question of access to information and access to knowledge. How? First of all, through infrastructure. In relation to infrastructure, we are trying to construct global public databases of science and technology. These databases encompass two major aspects. First, there are the technological disclosures that are generated by the patent system (PATENTSCOPE). Secondly, we are collaborating with major publishers of the world, to make available a free database of periodicals of science and technology (aRDi).

A second component of the plan is an automation program with respect to industrial property offices, but also other elements of the ‘knowledge infrastructure’; in particular through digitization programs. The objective is to increase the capacity of all countries to be able to participate in the global knowledge networks. A notable trend is that science and technology is increasingly internationalized. Last year, about 2,000 papers, or approximately 22% of all scientific peer-reviewed articles, were published with international co-authorship. This number is three times higher than in 1985. To participate in global networks, of course, you need to have capacity, both the technical capacity and also the human capacity. There are opportunities in this, and our automation program is directed at realizing those opportunities.

The final program I will refer to is the establishment, in countries, of Technology and Innovation Support Centers (TISCs), which are directed at being central repositories of science and technology information and expertise. TISCs contribute towards another phenomenon that we are seeing more and more as the 21st century gets underway, and that is emergence of open or collaborative innovation across countries. Having the capacity to participate in these collaborative platforms, of which USHAHIDI is one example, is very important. Madam Chair, in the interests of time I shall finish at that point. Thank you very much.