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President, National Academy of Engineering

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President, National Academy of Engineering

This morning we heard a set of very wonderful presentations and there were a lot of common themes running through those presentations. This afternoon we are going to talk principally about what we see as science and technology opportunities in a more specific way than we heard this morning. The title is Social and Economic Integration: Building Capacity in Emerging Markets. It might be better if we had retitled it Building Markets by Building Capacity, because that is really what the subject of this afternoon is.

I was thumbing through a document the other day and trying to see what the ratio is of scientists to the population in various countries. Peter Raven gave us some statistics this morning. In developed countries the number of scientists and engineers runs anywhere from two to four per thousand population. In developing countries it is an order of magnitude less, from about .1 to about .5 per thousand population. That is a very, very telling number and raises what I think is perhaps the most fundamental question about science and technology, and the opportunities for the use of science and technology to build emerging markets.

The central issue is harnessing science and technology for economic growth, and the key to building that kind of economic growth is, in large part, indigenous science and technology capacity. We have lots of examples of successful building of emerging markets, largely in the Far East Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan but in other parts of the world, too. These countries have learned over the years that harnessing science and technology is key to economic growth. All of the remarks this morning were centered around what we could do for them. The other half of the question was not addressed this morning. What can they do for themselves?

First, many of these countries have taken the essential first step of educating their people in science and technology. In the United States we are hosts to hundreds of thousands of students from developing countries, both at the graduate and undergraduate levels, in various fields of science and technology. About half of these students remain in the United States and become productive members of our science and technology enterprises, industries, government and universities. Half of them return abroad and strengthen the science and technology capacities there, assisting in the economic growth of their countries.

These countries have learned that if they can provide incentives for private investment, they can attract the kinds of industrial activities which are important to their economic growth. Some of the features of their incentives have been troubling for us, like very low wages, protection of home markets, and protection of infant industries. However they have done it, they have taken actions on their own part. I really want to leave the thought that there is a lot to do on both sides, both by ourselves in the developed world and by the developing world.

The problem in emerging markets is enormously complex, as we all know. It involves questions of economic policy, trade policy, and education policy. We are deeply concerned about intellectual property policies. Education has to be at the root of building this capacity in emerging markets. The next session will address the educational dimensions, so we are not going to focus on the educational dimensions of building capacity in this session. However, we want to indicate that we do recognize the central role of education in building that capacity.

Economic growth by itself can get you into deep trouble. One of the things we heard this morning was that nurturing economic growth without also maintaining a sustainable environment is something that gets you into very, very deep troubles it the end. The thing we want to do is to have both economic growth and environmental sustainability. In my mind, that is not an impossible twin set of objectives, and we will hear more about it this afternoon.

If one wants to look at where opportunities exist for science and technology to build a capacity in developing countries, you have to start with infrastructural problems. A large part of the problems that developing countries face deal with their infrastructure, including their water resources infrastructure, their transportation infrastructure, their food production infrastructure, their communications and energy infrastructures, and their industrial infrastructure. If one thinks about economic growth and emerging markets one also has to think about jobs. Economic growth in large part depends upon industrial development; we are going to be able to build capacity in these emerging markets by building industrial activities there. You heard this morning that water resource infrastructures in developing countries are a potential source of widespread disease. Nobody as yet has mentioned the environmental consequences of transportation such as urban air pollution.

We are seeing a tremendous acceleration in the growth of mega-cities over 10 million people. Estimates indicate that within the next 10 to 15 years we will see mega-cities grow from a total of 13, which we have today, to about 25. The environmental problems of mega-cities, largely (but not solely) related to transportation, represent opportunities for science and technology to help with these problems. The food supply system problems of these countries, whether they deal with soil erosion or the applications of genetic engineering to develop new crop strains, represent magnificent opportunities for science and technology.

There is no mystery about the science and technology applications to these areas. The technology problems are largely problems of diffusion.

Economic growth, which is largely based upon industrial development, carries with it problems of environmental sustainability. Jim Baker, one of our speakers in this session, will talk about the use of space technology and other technologies for monitoring environmental conditions. We in the developed world now have begun to recognize the need for a gradual transformation of our industrial systems in ways that minimize pollution. We seek industrial systems that can in some sense mimic natural ecosystems, where the waste streams from one part of industry can be used by other parts of industry. We are beginning to see corporations throughout the developed world take these kinds of concepts to heart.

As industrialization in developing countries takes place, they need to avoid the kinds of problems developing countries encountered over the past decades. This means technological leapfrogging . We need to think about the diffusion of technologies that can increase productivity, build industrial capacity, and also protect the environment. We will hear more about these topics as our speakers for the afternoon present their ideas to you.

Our first speaker is Esther Dyson, who has just returned from Moscow. She is president of EDventure Holdings, a small, diversified company focused on emerging information technology worldwide and on the emerging computer markets of Central and Eastern Europe. She is active in industry affairs as a member of the U.S. National Information Infrastructure Advisory Council and vice chair of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. EDventure manages a venture capital fund dedicated to active investment in software and information start-ups in Eastern Europe, including Russia. The fund's goal is to foster companies that service local markets and add local value. EDventure also publishes Release 1.0, a monthly newsletter, and sponsors two annual conferences, PC Forum and East-West High Tech Forum. Let us welcome Esther Dyson.

Esther Dyson
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