Contact Lenses for Africa’s Tech Myopia!

Contact Lenses for Africa’s Tech Myopia!

This is a contributing post from Chimdi Joseph. He had posted in the Forum. We are sharing in the mainboard.


Technology is the crucial capital that has distinguished Nations from each other; marking a clear distinction of the first world Nations and the third world. Africa’s transition from the third world to the first world is made possible as we deepen our capabilities in the technological layers that support a thriving Society! The Africa’s Rise Vision, as it pertains to technology, is one that currently suffers from a myopic condition where excessive focus is on ICT. This one technology layer has been confused as the Sum. Prof. Ndubuisi Ekekwe paints an accurate picture of the situation:

ICT is a consumptive technology that requires other, more traditional technologies to function and flourish. For example, it cannot progress without advances in microelectronics, which supply microprocessor pipelines that help improve the performance of computing devices.

ICT is unique in being an enabler or enhancer, improving the speed and efficiency of operations. It does this so well that it overshadows the operations it is expected to facilitate — mobile apps or SMS systems that power eHealth in African villages, for example, taking attention away from medical practice. Besides, ICT is the platform for promoting its own benefits.

Some African countries have created federal ministries solely for ICT. Kenya and Nigeria, for example, now have ICT-focused ministries as well as commissions and agencies. The lens of technology is now seen from ICT

And from Kenya to Ghana, the governments of many African nations have redesigned school curricula to position ICT as the gateway to a tech career — a trend not likely to change any time soon.

There is nothing wrong with teaching ICT. The problem is that no other emerging technology — alternative energy, biotechnology, or nanotechnology — has received the same attention. This risks introducing school children to a ‘narrow’ view of technology at the expense of the technological diversity nations need for economic growth.

As more and more Software solution proliferate our technological space, we ask the big question: Why haven’t we replicated the enthusiasm and innovative streak of our young people in this layer (ICT) to other layers of technology?

THE WHY

Two things:

Technology speaks a common language, Numbers. In Africa, Numero-phobia is very real among the populace – a consequence of failure in the teaching of mathematics; we are taught the many constructs of X and Y variables with very little real life application. For millennials, that are more interested in results, ICT holds better appeal; it’s simpler to put in some lines of code and develop a product that “solves” a problem.

The theory of the “Adjacent Possible” (a term coined by the Biologist, Stuart Kauffman and expanded to touch on human creativity and innovation by the Author, Steven Johnson) argues that innovation is very much a systematic process than a flash-in-the-pan moment of ingenuity. In this process, those whose capabilities are at the cutting edge of their craft are most likely to step into the next adjacent of possible knowledge which results to innovations that changes the basis of competition. This submission defines the challenge that our Intellectuals (those who mastered the numbers) face as the transition from the theory of abstracts to the cutting edge of practice where innovation happens. Practice (not theories of Abstracts) they say makes perfect! It is the quest for perfection (making things better) that births innovations.

WHAT WORKS?

The impact that reality TV shows like Shark Tank, The Profit (Entrepreneurship) and American Treasures (Archeology) has made, especially, in educating the populace on Entrepreneurship and Archeology is a very practical concept that shouldn’t be overlooked. The media, as chief fabricators of the ‘In-thing’ for the rest of the society, has a huge role to play. I think it would be a huge boost and a very educating experience for a young aspiring Civil Engineer to see a reality series on how Julius Berger strategizes and executes on different projects and how the constructs of X and Y variables that is being taught in school comes into play.

Making the leap from the theory of Abstracts to the cutting edge of Practice where innovation happens, require a shift from the culture of Certificate to that of “Sabificate” (where one is judged by their capabilities in doing rather than just passing exams). To do this will require funding for Research, and other bureaucratic process that takes more time. My proposition will be to utilize a more customized EIR (Entrepreneur in Residence) concept to tackle this challenge. Enough said, Prof, here is my Proposition to You; can we design a portal where higher institutions across Africa can indicate their interest for an Entrepreneur/ Scholar with a specialized domain expertise and Entrepreneurs/ Scholars with such expertise can accept the offer from anywhere in the World? My thinking is that this would be a very practical way for the Diaspora community to contribute to Africa’s development. Prof, I believe you are well placed to make this happen. This can unlock new vistas of opportunities for our knowledge community in Africa!

Altogether, this piece may not have pointed out all that is wrong with our Technology evolution in Africa, but it represents my two pence on what I believe is the way forward. I want to truly appreciate my Mentor, Prof. Ndubuisi Ekekwe, writing this has made me realize the commitment of Research and deep thinking you put into every piece I have read freely, am truly grateful; thank you Sir. I hope to take after you and write more in the future, cheers!

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