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Panama 2.0

SENACYT 2015-19

The National Strategic Plan for Science, Technology, and Innovation 2015-19, presented last November in conjunction with the Panamanian Chamber of Information Technology, Innovation, and Telecommunications (CAPATEC), is based on the […]

The National Strategic Plan for Science, Technology, and Innovation 2015-19, presented last November in conjunction with the Panamanian Chamber of Information Technology, Innovation, and Telecommunications (CAPATEC), is based on the use of science, research, technological development, and innovation to address the country’s key challenges, including a growing population, urbanization, environmental changes, new illnesses, food security concerns, and income inequality. The National Plan is based on the five key pillars of sustainable development; social inclusion, innovation and dynamic entrepreneurship, the development of science and science-related skills, the strengthening of governance regarding science, technology, and innovation.

It is SENACYT’s fourth such strategic plan and addresses the shortcomings of previous guidelines, the first of which was formulated in 1998. Unlike its precursors, which considered each of the country’s economic areas separately, the new plan lays out a more holistic and integrated approach to demonstrating how science and technology will be used to push forward the country’s development goals. “We have taken a completely different approach and our objective is to use science to support the sustainable development of equity, and central to this goal is health and education,“ explains Jorge Motta, National Secretary of Science, Technology, and Innovation.

In formulating the plan, SENACYT drew on global research linking scientific development with a reduction in poverty and an improvement in living standards. Vital to the success of the plan, and indeed one of its five key pillars, is the development of science skills and competencies across all levels of education, including professionals in the industry. “In order to promote the development of the science and technology sector, Panama needs to raise the level of human capital of its teachers,“ said Motta. The plan seeks to increase the number of projects and programs dedicated to research both within and outside of schools, as well as foster a culture of R&D in Panama.

Elaborating on the plan’s final pillar of improving the system of governance around science, technology, and innovation, Jorge Motta explained, “What we would eventually like to see is all of the government entities creating an office dedicated to science and technology within their organizational structure. We cannot think that by just giving money to SENACYT, science has already been taken care of.“ Ensuring that science and technology are embedded in all facets of government is a key part of the plan’s recommendations. In addition, Panama should by 2019 at least reach the region’s average spending on R&D of 0.7% of GDP, up from 0.1% in 2015.

Beyond just a five-year roadmap, the strategic plan also comprises a 25-year National Policy. To assess the success of the policy by 2040, the government will measure its impact not only on indicators directly related to its implementation, but also the degree to which it has influence over other social, economic, and cultural indicators, including the Global Innovation Index, GDP per capita, employment rate, the Gini coefficient, educational enrolment, and life expectancy.

Continuous revision and updating of the plan’s programs based on trial and error will ensure that it remains a relevant tool for decision-makers and allows SENACYT to monitor its progress. It is likely that an evaluation of the plan will take place in 2017. By 2019, the plan’s vision is to consolidate Panama’s competitive position within the region.

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