Fineline | Jan 12,2019
Jan 18 , 2019
By Eden Sahle
From off-grid solar power to mobile money solutions for the unbanked, technology is allowing countries in Africa to solve critical development challenges. Unfortunately, it is a handful of countries on the continent that are using technology to understand the needs of their communities to innovate, address problems and drive sustainable growth. These nations are adopting modern tools that have been implemented in the developed world, such as online payment systems and practical tech skill development that ease transaction and make it possible to buy items across borders.
The contributions of science and technology to foster sustainable development cannot be overemphasised. Through evolution and revolution of science and technology, the world has achieved advancement in infrastructure, energy, manufacturing, health, education, communication, finance, entertainment, transport, agriculture and environmental protection.
The importance and relevance of technology in fostering development has never been debated in Ethiopia, but the efforts on the ground are too lacking, making the nation an outcast in the global leap in technology.
While the growth of science and technology is visible in developed and developing countries, Ethiopia imports almost all of the know-how it puts to use in every sector of the economy. The reasons for these are regulations that are antagonistic to new technology, uninventive educational practices and systems and the lack of proper infrastructure.
Advanced training, poor internet infrastructure and lack of online payment systems prevented students and graduates from testing their projects. The latter element prevents start-ups from access to genuine software to upload their work, check functionality and monetise it.
Last week I had a chance to interview over 20 computer and software engineering students and graduates from Addis Abeba University with great distinctions. The interview was conducted in collaboration with high-level tech experts from Germany and the United Kingdom. These experts were able to test the technical skills of these students and graduates and the result has been unexpected.
None of them has the technical skills that the experts consider basic and practical. Although these students and graduates were able to score high grades, they lack basic skills when it comes to practical applications. Forced to use software that is not genuine, the practical element is missing, leaving graduates unable to use their skills. It was an indication that the rhetoric by officials on the importance of technology for the past years is hollow.
The policies and the political will to implement strategies that are prudent have only succeeded in living this country to become disconnected with the rest of the world. This has to do with a telecom industry that is unable to provide sufficient access to communication technology, a public sector that is adversarial to technology and financial policies unable to provide capital to innovators and link Ethiopia with the global financial system.
Ethiopia is lacking out of the practical implementation of technology that has improved and simplified the existing paradigms under which society operates. The world has climbed from analogue to a digital system where any information can be computerised and easily diffuses into society. This has served to broaden the range of human activities. Computerised programming has increased the versatility of machines to perform many functions, improving the efficiency and effectiveness of production.
Technology has also greatly contributed to identifying diseases and new diagnostic methods. It also expedited drug discovery, helping pharmaceutical industries grow. Health care delivery system has been improved, taking available diagnosis and treatment to the society to a whole new level. Infrastructural development transformed transport systems of roads and railway as well as GPS technology, reducing traffic congestions.
In Africa, few are applying technology to foster development to a sufficient degree. Ethiopia and most African countries are stuck exporting raw materials and miss out on the revenue from value addition because they lack the necessary technology.
To acquire development through science and technology, the government must be willing and ready to lift factors that restrain the progress of technology. While infrastructure is crucial, without a pro-technology policy and a stronger regulatory capacity, it will mean little. The education system should reflect this and investments which can promote scientific and technological projects should be welcome. Blocking foreign investment in technology sectors without having the necessary skills locally does more damage to Ethiopia than good.
Science and technological educations are practically oriented, and there should be linkages between learning institutions and industries for them to be effectively thought. This will not just allow Ethiopia to improve on knowledge and technique but also transform the socioeconomic and sustainable developmental status of the country.
PUBLISHED ON Jan 18,2019 [ VOL 19 , NO 977]
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