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Attitudes to Science and Technology: Global South vs. Global North

Here’s an interesting piece of research on attitudes to science and technology in different countries from the Relevance of Science Education project that surveyed 14-16 year olds in 25 countries.  Countries covered were (roughly) low-income African (e.g. Uganda); low/mid-income Asian (e.g. India); high-income European (e.g. England).

There are three main findings:

– There is a significant inverse relationship between level of development (human development index score) and the rated importance and benefits of science and technology to society; though the decline from global South to global North is relatively small.

– There is a significant inverse relationship between level of development and desire to work with technology.  The differences are quite large: African and Asian youth are on average positively inclined; European youth negatively so.

– The gender gap in attitudes to science and technology is greater in industrialised countries than in developing countries; very significantly so in relation to getting a technology-related job.

There’s a generic conclusion.  Given the importance of S&T to economic growth, the global North is in big trouble unless it can keep importing science and technology graduates from the global South.

There’s specific conclusion no.1.  If you’re working on ICTs, focusing on ICT4D is a good bet: you’ll find a more receptive and faster-growing audience for research in developing countries; a more receptive and faster-growing training audience; and those might (er, ignoring the odd structural factor!) be more gender-balanced audiences.

There’s specific conclusion no.2.  Developing country audiences may be more techno-centric and less receptive to information systems-type approaches to ICT4D, which place less emphasis on the technology and which tend to be less optimistic about technology.

And there’s a question.  Why?  Why should it be that the poorer your country, the more positive you feel about and the more you want to work with technology?

Because you’ve been less exposed to technology?  Because you can see that technology makes a real, positive difference to your country’s problems?  Because . . . [fill in your answer here]

(My thanks to Roger Boyle for pointing out this survey.)

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