Rethink Technology investment, governments told

22 Jan 2016 | by
Rethink Technology investment, governments told

Governments must radically rethink their technology investments, which are feeding wasteful consumption, driving inequality and worsening the global warming that is pushing our planet to crisis point, a charity said on Thursday.

Contrary to popular thinking, it is governments, not businesses, that often invest in high-risk, cutting-edge research - only to let the private sector scoop up the profits from the resulting products, Practical Action says.

A relatively small number of people benefit from the vast majority of innovations, which rarely address basic needs like health and access to food, water and energy, Practical Action's senior policy adviser, Amber Meikle, said in a statement.

"Take the iPhone - it is almost entirely dependent on technologies developed through government-funded programmes including the Internet, GPS, touch-screens and Siri (a voice activated personal assistant)," she said.

"The state should recoup more of this investment and reinvest in further innovation for social and environmental good, instead of providing the high-risk investments for huge corporations without fully profiting from it."

Innovations to provide people with clean energy for cooking and clean water and toilets would save five million lives a year, the charity said in a report.

"We need to see more public funding being used to stimulate R&D (research and development) into problems that are critical but currently lack market drivers," the report said.

There is minimal spending on agricultural technologies such as improved seeds and irrigation systems that could cut poverty among African farmers and boost global food supplies, it said.

Africa spent $4 billion on agricultural research in 2000 compared with $574 billion spent by the United States, it said.

Similarly, the lion's share of medical research focuses on health problems affecting the richest 10 percent, it said.

The unsustainable use of some technologies is damaging the environment and creating problems for future generations, it said, pointing to the overuse of antibiotics, which is creating resistant superbugs.

Some 80 percent of antibiotic consumption in the United States is by animals, often to promote growth rather than treat diseases, public health advocacy groups say.

Fossil fuels, whose use is the main contributor to global warming, receive $5 trillion in subsidies each year, International Monetary Fund data shows.

"It is time to disinvest from these technologies and to invest instead in the accelerated development of sustainable alternatives, and in innovation that delivers on needs that are difficult to commercialise," the report said.

Share this Post :