The meeting focused on government actions to encourage this process and on how governments, businesses, universities, international agencies and donors can work as teams to expand practical application of technology and use it in ways that lead to economic growth and higher living standards.
At the heart of the discussions was the accelerating rate of scientific and technological progress, a major concern of developing countries. Evidence indicates that such countries will have more and more trouble meeting increasingly demanding global competition if they do not share in the spread of science and technology. Currently many lack the money, knowledge, and infrastructure to do so.
Developing countries need not only to keep up, but to catch up. Participants concluded that this topic needs high priority from the international community and should continue to receive extensive attention and research from UNCTAD. That is one reason a sub-theme of UNCTAD XII refers to "harnessing knowledge for development."
Information and communication technology is a key illustration of this challenge. The Internet, e-commerce, and e-banking are fast, highly efficient ways of conducting business, and the vast majority of firms in industrialized countries use them. For business-to-business transactions, for example, about 93% of firms in the United States used e-commerce in 2004. But broadband Internet service is necessary for these activities, and availability of broadband is still scarce in the developing world. In 2006, only 110 nations surveyed could provide statistics on the subject, and for more than a third of these (36 countries), broadband penetration rates were under 1%.