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Science challenged to do more to address poverty

by BuaNews Online
on 25 Oct 2010
BuaNews Online
BuaNews Online

Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor has encouraged delegates at the 22nd International Committee on Data for Science and Technology (CODATA) conference to use science as a means to address the challenges that stand in the way of development.

The conference started on Sunday and will end on Wednesday.

On Sunday, Pandor said governments and the scientific fraternity must invest in the latest, cutting edge information and communications infrastructure necessary for easier storage, management and dissemination of scientific data.

She said limited access to scientific knowledge deprived communities access to a broad range of information that might provide solutions for the improvement of their lives.

According to the minister, scientists and policy makers should use scientific data to make better decisions.

"A number of studies have revealed that in many parts of the developing world, poverty is exacerbated by information poverty. In poor or deprived communities, access to information is limited or non-existent. This clearly impairs the ability of those living in poor communities to make informed decisions," she said.

However, Pandor said the South African government was pioneering targeted initiatives to respond to the challenge.

The Innovation for Poverty Alleviation programme will pilot and establish rural broadband connectivity, using wireless mesh network technology.

The wireless mesh network project is one of the government's key strategic priorities of rural development.

It will focus on health research, including programmes for tuberculosis and malaria and, as well as telemedicine initiatives.

With the conference theme being 'Scientific data and sustainable development', Pandor said science must move beyond its confines to find novel ways of improving people's lives.

She said in communities with rich indigenous knowledge and low literacy levels, there was room for intellectual exploitation.

The minister cited an example of the San community, which had access to an indigenous plant called kanna (sceletium tortuosum). The plant is known to reduce stress, hunger and elevates the mood. It has no side effects and is not addictive.

Careful steps were being taken to put the plant on the market without exploiting the community.

"Earlier this month, South African researchers obtained the first license to study and market the plant," said Pandor.

She added that setting up of international knowledge networks along interdisciplinary lines is crucial, both to enhance the quality of research and its applications, and also to address relevant socio-economic issues. - BuaNews


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