Technological development, inequality and accountability: Science for change in a globalizing world?



Rob Hagendijk




‘Globalization’ and ‘knowledge economy’ are popular catchwords in contemporary political and academic discussions. Not just in the US, the EU and upcoming knowledge-intensive economies as China, India, Brasil, but also in countries like South Africa, Mozambique, and even poorer countries. This should not amaze us as these words are also a part of the discourses of major transnational organizations like the World Bank, the WTO, and the UN. While some scholars call for a speeding up of investments in scientific and technological change in order to cope with the big problems of unequal development in the world, others like Melissa Leach and DEMOS take a more cautionary approach and argue that we need a slow race and citizens’ engagement if we want technological change to address the needs of poor people.


In my talk, I will present the EU funded ResIST project and the ways it seeks to clarify some of the issues empirically as well as through conceptual work and policy debate. ResIST stands for Resisting Inequality through Science and Technology. It is a complex project in which participants from various countries, disciplines, and stakeholder institutions are doing research on how science and technology may contribute to promoting equity and reducing structural, distributional, and representational inequalities. In my view, to understand how accountability is organized in development policies and projects as well as in mundane everyday practices is essential for grasping the successes and failures of STI policies for development. Such mundane practices range from everyday life in a poor village or region, to work in laboratories and how their results are translated to transnational networks and organizations involved in social, economic, and political change. To clarify how accountability is framed in such varied mundane contexts and how these contexts are interconnected is very promising academically as well as politically.