Science, technology and innovation (STI) are key means of implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In a major expansion of the Monterrey Consensus, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda stresses the importance of science, technology and innovation for economic growth and sustainable development and highlights the need for capacity building. Expectations about the contribution of STI have increased in recent years as fast-evolving technologies are rapidly changing the development landscape. They open new possibilities to address long-standing development challenges across the SDGs—from poverty and hunger, access to health care and education, to low-carbon energy, combatting climate change, and financial inclusion. They are also changing the development finance landscape, creating opportunities across the action areas of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda. Advances in information and communication technologies (ICTs) have vastly increased digital interconnectedness, digital data storage and analytics capabilities at declining cost. Artificial intelligence (AI), in particular, has allowed machines and computers to learn to solve problems on their own, could have transformative effects across many sectors of the economy, making it essential that innovations are in the public interest and guided by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Addis Agenda.
However, the Addis Agenda noted with concern the uneven innovative capacity, connectivity and access to technology that exists within and between countries. Indeed, the transformative power of technology raises complex ethical, socioeconomic and human rights challenges and risks. The rapid pace of technological change puts great adaptive pressure on economies and societies, while our understanding of their socioeconomic implications tends to develop more slowly than technology itself. Both access to and the capacity to adapt and take advantage of technological developments are very unevenly distributed within and between countries. Skills requirements are changing rapidly, which may further increase the digital skills divide. Women and girls, people with disabilities, older persons, indigenous peoples and people living in rural areas may face additional barriers in accessing and using technology.
Commitments contained in this action area aim to address these inequities, incentivize research and innovation for sustainable development and promote greater access to technologies through domestic policy and international cooperation.