Equality as an Issue in Designing Science, Technology, and Innovation Policies and Programs
Inequality is an important global challenge. Inequalities between countries are growing. While some poor countries are rapidly expanding their economies, others are stuck at a low level and the gap is therefore widening between countries. Inequality is also growing within many countries, including affluent ones. Inequalities in basic needs such as food and water violate human rights as identified by the international community. An inequality is a barrier – a steep differential that someone must scale to achieve his or her full potential. Human progress as a whole is therefore hampered by inequalities, which keep our efforts from adding up to all they could. This happens through vertical inequalities, differences between individuals and households generated by the structure of the economy, and through horizontal inequalities, differences by culturally-defined categories like gender, ethnicity, and religion. Why talk about inequalities in the context of science, technology, and innovation (STI) policies? On the one hand, STI policies link directly to basic needs, when they deal with food, health, and the environment – all topics that are virtually universal on national STI policy agendas. On the other hand, STI policies link indirectly to inequalities in income when they affect the dynamics of economic growth. STI policy practitioners think of their work as providing a public benefit, but any public intervention can contribute to cumulative advantage if it is more accessible to the members of society who have greater resources. Public interventions, including STI policies and programs, need to be specifically designed to reach disadvantaged groups if they want to be redistributive. My colleagues and I distinguish three types of redistributive policies: (1) Pro-poor policies aim to reduce poverty or alleviate its conditions. (2) Fairness policies work on eliminating horizontal inequalities, e.g. by gender or race. (3) Egalitarian policies attempt to reduce vertical inequalities, through economic activities that increase income for people in the middle of the distribution. I illustrate each type here, drawing on a mix of research, human resource, and innovation policies from the STI realm.