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Current global challenges – such as addressing global health inequities, promoting inclusive digital transformations, or creating a climate neutral world – demonstrate critical inter-dependencies with one another. In all these fields, science and technology has been instrumental in pioneering new technologies, promoting economic advantages, and enabling progress. But these technologies – if used wisely and inclusively, can do much more than cementing economic advantages for a few. They can help promote solutions that enable global development in judicious, sustainable and equitable ways.

A common reason cited for the disjunct between technological change and inclusive, public purpose is that private incentives for science and technology, while necessary elements of a regimes that promote investments into knowledge, create exclusive outcomes. In other words, they lead to funding of research and development in the direction of profitability thereby moving scientific progress away from public purpose goals. In reality, this is only a part of the story. Markets have their own politics, and over the few decades, markets have worked overtime to skew outcomes away from collective solutions in a widely, under-regulated, global economic environment. Not only have markets created incentives for pandering to profits, but have also promoted a form of technological solutionism that relies on existing capabilities and capacities worldwide, at the expense of decentralising change and promoting collective, inclusive solutions (see Woolgar and Pawluch, 1985). These politics not only do not automatically align with public purpose goals of providing solutions to the poorest, or working together to prioritise universal outcomes, but also promotes a concentration of capital and technology in the hands of a few, to the detriment of those that are already excluded. This, in a nutshell, accounts for why economic change today is not equitable. 

This Blog looks at a wide variety of issues inherent to making economic changes in three areas of the global economy purpose-driven and inclusive. 

References:

Woolgar, S. and Pawluch, D. (1985) “Ontological Gerrymandering: The Anatomy of Social Problems Explanations,” Social Problems (32:3), pp. 214-27. 

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