Click to enlarge. By StiK, especially for the OECD Observer

©Technology Agency of the Czech Republic

Innovation and creativity have long been hallmarks of the Czech Republic. After all, this is the country that invented the term “robot”, when Czech writer, Karel Čapek, coined the word back in 1921. Some 70 years later, one of the characters in the Oscar-nominated film, “The Elementary School”, by Jan and Zdeněk Svěrák, further defined Czech creativity: a handyman who manages a small electrical outlet, who is said to be able to make and repair “everything”.

José Mariano Gago and OECD Secretary-General Donald J. Johnston, at the 1999 OECD/CSTP Ministerial Meeting , chaired by José Mariano Gago.

With José Mariano Gago, the world has lost a brilliant scientist and an outstanding policymaker. He did not just decisively shape the policy landscape in Portugal; his intellectual rigour, charisma and generosity profoundly influenced the search for better policies in many countries. That is why we were so saddened when we learned that Mariano Gago had passed away on 17 April 2015.

Not much good has come from the Ebola crisis, save this: It has raised awareness of the fact that we already have a weapon in our hands that could help fight such epidemics – our mobile phones.

Click to enlarge

Case studies of specific products, particularly in the electronics industry, show that value creation along a global value chain tends to be unevenly distributed among activities. 

In a recent article in the OECD Observer, Vézina and Melin describe how online platforms lower trade barriers and enable micro to small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) to build multinational operations. The contrast with traditional trade is stark, where exporting is normally confined to the largest corporations. Technology is reshaping the international trading landscape, and the changes are real and quantifiable. This is sharpening the role international trade can play in promoting sustainable development.

Carlos Ghosn, Nissan boss ©Reuters

Non-nationals are starting to make an impact in top Japanese firms. But will other firms take notice? Changes in education would help.

©Ralph Freso/Reuters

One of the earliest citations of the phrase “print is dead” comes from the 1984 movie Ghostbusters, but almost 30 years later, print is certainly not dead. Print publishing still drives on average 80% of revenues and close to 100% of the profits for general trade publishers. But among reference and science, technical and medical (STM) publishers, digital publishing was embraced quickly and openly at the expense of print. 

©Dave Amit/Reuters

Bus tickets save lives. Here’s why. 

As China’s economic importance on the world’s stage is growing, so is its space programme. Ten years after becoming the third country in the world to launch human beings into orbit, China successively undertook its fifth manned space mission in June, its longest yet. Three “taikonauts” (Chinese astronauts) spent two weeks in orbit in the Tiangong 1 space module.

The world's largest solar-powered boat, Turanor PlanetSolar, arrives in Paris, France, docking along the river Seine, 10 September 2013. The catamaran powered exclusively by solar energy, completed the first solar-powered trip around the world on 4 May 2012, after travelling over 60,000 km (37,282 miles) in 584 days.

Small international businesses are flourishing on the back of new technology, and becoming more multinational than much larger international corporations.  

©REUTERS/Amr Dalsh

The Arab Spring and the rise of new social and democratic movements throughout large parts of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) may not have changed the world quite as much as millions had hoped, but at least they gave a new impetus to the use of information and communications technology and the potential of “e-government” to foster participation and engagement, increase transparency and restore public trust. 

©Mario Beauregard/

A recent OECD Recommendation on the Governance of Clinical Trials issued in December 2012 could improve the outlook for fighting deadly diseases around the world. Here is how.


Knowledge is growth

The growing awareness that knowledge-based capital (KBC) is driving economic growth is prevalent in today’s global marketplace. KBC includes a broad range of intangible assets, like research, data, software and design skills, which capture or express human ingenuity. The creation and application of knowledge is especially critical to the ability of firms and organisations to develop in a competitive global economy and to create high-wage employment.


The explosion of the information world has been a benefit for our organisation, but has raised its own set of new problems.

Science and technology play a central role in our society. They are part of everybody’s life, they help to tackle the grand challenges of humankind and they create innovation and jobs and improve quality of life. Science and technology are part of our culture, and in essence define us as a species that “wants to know”–hence why we are called Homo sapiens. But do we really give science its proper value when it comes to taking political decisions?

The rise of IT and the Internet have been boons to Asia, but not everyone has benefited. There are challenges to overcome, not least in the area of governance.


In 2002 Henry Copeland, chief of Blogads and, wrote about how blogs, largely unknown at the time, would change web writing and publishing forever. He was right. Then in 2008 in these pages, he told us to bet on Twitter several months before it took off (the OECD opened its first accounts in April 2009). So where is the information world taking us now? Henry provides some fresh thoughts.

©REUTERS/Valentin Flauraud

Did you know that the organisation that brought you the Higgs Boson (“god particle”) also brought you the world wide web? Robert Cailliau, one of its founders, and James Gillies, a first-hand witness, retrace the story.

©Tim Wimborne/Reuters

People create policy, but underpinning their work, and in some ways hidden from view, is a well-developed, smart information and communications infrastructure. It is a fundamental driver of progress.

©REUTERS/Felipe Caicedo

Taking as many long-haul flights as possible could hold the answer to your knowledge management problems.

Did you know that, according to the UN Global Pulse, more data was created in 2011 than in the whole of human history, or at least, since the invention of the alphabet?

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Making strides in scientific innovation is no longer an initiative of just a few select high-income countries. Research and innovation have become increasingly democratised; indeed, Asia’s emerging economies are now gaining prominence as world hubs of scientific research. While the United States remains at the top in terms of the volume of scientific publications produced and collaborations made, these countries are eager to develop their own innovation capabilities, and strengthen their research and academic partnerships.

©Larry Downing/Reuters

The OECD Observer is celebrating its 50th anniversary: no better time than to turn our focus to the currency of information itself.

Though mobile technology is making waves in Africa, airwaves still count.

Assets you cannot touch lie behind successful innovations. What are they and how can policy make a difference?

Innovation is a major driver of productivity, economic growth and development. Many OECD countries today are looking to boost productivity through investments in science, technology and R&D. What experience can Israel, new OECD member and the “start-up nation” feted in a recent book by Dan Senor and Saul Singer, bring to the table?

©REUTERS/Chris Wattie

Canada is home to some well-known technology companies, but is the country innovative enough? The picture is mixed, with resisting complacency being among the challenges to face.

© ACJA-Fonds Curie & Joliot-Curie

It is a century since Marie Curie won two Nobel prizes, one for physics and the other for chemistry. How can more women be encouraged to work in science?

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