UN Technology Bank: An opportunity for NREN growth in least developed countries

The United Nations has agreed to a proposal from a high level panel of experts to establish a Technology Bank that will be supporting science and technology in the world’s Least Developed Countries (LDCs).

The Bank, which is expected to start its operations in 2016, will be headquartered in Turkey.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon accepted the proposal during the United Nations meeting in New York in September 2015 and hailed the idea of establishing such a bank which the experts described as not only feasible but also desirable.

The team of experts that conducted and presented the study to the UN included Europe’s Research and Education Network GÉANT Board of Directors member Dorte Olesen while Cathrin Stöver, GÉANT’s Chief International Relations and Communications Officer, also made a substantive contribution to the feasibility study and participated in the high-level panel’s final meeting held in Istanbul in which the document was approved.

“The study makes a strong case for NRENs all over the world, seeing research and education networks as building blocks for the Technology Bank, and recognising the vital role that they play in the development of science, technology and innovation. Indeed, the study recommends that the new Technology Bank, as a first step, supports the formation of NRENs in all LDCs,” says Olesen.

According to Cathrin Stöver, GÉANT’s Chief International Relations and Communications Officer, The Technology “Bank” is not a bank as such, in the sense that it will not be distributing funding. She says it is rather a Bank for resources which aims at establishing a Patents Bank as well as access to research publications through Research4Life in the 48 least developed countries recognised by the UN..

Stover adds that NRENs in these countries are expected to be the official vehicles for the digital access both to the Patents Bank as well as the research publications but she said more work needs to be done since only 16 out of the 48 countries have established NRENs, with 25 of the LDCs having an internet penetration of less than 10 percent.

She however said the establishment of the Bank should be taken as an opportunity for regions to discuss with governments possibilities of establishing NRENs in countries that have not been able to establish NRENs as well as strengthening NRENs that are dormant due to lack of support.

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