Book News: August 17th, 2006

By Melissa Leach and Ian ScoonesMoves to combat poverty through innovations in science and technology are being hampered by a reliance on top down imposition. The authors argue that innovation should be citizen led, with development and use of technology designed around specific local needs. The science races are on. After decades of relative neglect, science and technology are again seen as vital tools for international development. Governments, companies and philanthropists are racing to help poor people benefit from research and development in rich countries. But the two races that generate most excitement – the race to global economic success and the race to find a universal fix for the problems of developing countries – raise some difficult questions. Where will they take people? How will they maintain their momentum? Who will win the prizes and who will be left behind?

This pamphlet explores the pros and cons of these two races and argues that there is a need for a third, or slow race to make investment in science and technology work for the poor. Citizens should be seen as contributors to the success of technology and it is important to ensure that their voices our heard. This means innovation along trajectories that respond to local needs. It means regulation that is attuned to local concerns. And it means putting citizens at the heart of development. There is a clear need to start a slow race to citizens’ solutions.

The pamphlet is published by Demos and is available at: