Expert Forecasts for 2020

Improving public health is often another leading goal. Because people in many of these countries frequently lack clean water and good sanitation, waterborne diseases are common and generally spread easily. The largely rural populations usually have little access to health care. In nations where cities are growing and people are traveling more frequently both domes-tically and abroad, the threat of epidemics can increase. In South Africa, for example, AIDS Contagious diseases can spread easily, making epidemics a significant threat. Infant mortality rates can exceed international standards, and life expectancies can be lower than desirable. Yet at the same time, many countries with this level of S&T capacity are approaching the point on the development ladder where they can begin to aspire to improve individual health as well. As the global technology revolution proceeds, market forces will moderate and vector its course, its technology applications, and their implementation. Predicting the net effect of these forces is predicting the future—wrought with all the difficulties of such predictions. But current technology trends have substantial momentum behind them and will certainly be the focus of continued R&D, consideration, and debate over the next 15 years. By 2020, countries will be applying many of these technologies in some guise or other and the effects will be significant, changing lives across the globe. What Drivers and Barriers Affect These Countries’ Ability to Implement the Technology Applications They Could Acquire? The S&T capacity that enables a country to acquire a technology application is only one of several factors determining whether that country will be able to implement it. The drivers facilitating innovation and the barriers hindering it also have a decisive influence on the ability to implement technology applications (i.e., to put the applications in place and get significant gains from them across the country). These assessments involve such things as whom an application will benefit and whether a country can sustain its use over time. Drivers and barriers involve the same dimensions: A dimension that is a driver in one context may be a barrier in another. For example, financing, when available, would be a driver, but financing, when lacking, is a barrier. A high level of literacy among a nation’s citizens would be a driver, but if literacy were low, it would form a barrier. And in certain cases, a dimension that is a barrier can simultaneously be a driver when only partial progress in that dimension has been made or when conflicting issues in the dimension are present. For example, education in the United States is a driver, but there are also concerns about problems in math and science education in the United States. Also, environmental concerns may dampen some S&T applications in China while promoting environmentally friendly applications, such as green manufacturing and hybrid vehicles. • Education and literacy: Levels of general education and literacy adequate to make a population comfortable with technology and able to interface with it, and the availability of sufficiently high-quality postsecondary education and training in the sciences to stock a workforce comfortable with developing, using, and maintaining technology applications.