Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Technocreate

I wrote this article for KNUST's TECHNOCRAT magazine a couple of years ago at the request of one of my Odadee mates there. I don't know if it was ever published but the contents of the article are still relevant a few years on. I hardly write articles for magazines/newspapers because I find it hard to write technical pieces without my usual sarcasm, question asking and flexibility. I tried with this one :-)

Science, technology and entrepreneurship in Ghana

It was a breath of fresh Ghanaian air to lay my hands on my first issue of KNUST’s Technocrat. I saw it a conscious effort to promote the ability and the potential of our Ghanaian intellectuals, mind and hand. People close to Ghanaian inventors know their capabilities but the word never reaches the masses and many a time the investor. It is about time it did. I spent a few minutes thinking what ‘bridging the gap between industry and academia’ meant. This was my conclusion – applying innovation and inventiveness in academia into creating value for society through business. That is not the case.

Many sectors of the Ghanaian society and industry suffer from the ‘AIDS’ mentality. This is a different kind of revelation. We will save the promiscuity and casual sex discussion for later but for now let’s talk about Acquired Import Deficiency Syndrome. Monetary gains, foreign dependence and ignorance are impeding our development as a country. We continue to suffer from a game of playing catch-up where we trust foreign judgment and foreign goods and services as better than our own. The business and technology industry stalls our own ingenuity and innovation under the premise of what I can’t seem to figure out. We are not willing to invest in our societies and communities, it’s the selfish ‘how much cut do I get’ phenomenon that reigns supreme.

A sad case of AIDS was the recent saga surrounding the Indelible Ink produced by the KNUST department of chemistry. For political and other reasons I cannot seem to fathom, efforts to use Ghanaian ingenuity to solve a simple but important problem fell on rocks. It is difficult enough for entrepreneurs and researchers to take risks, and even more difficult for investors and producers not to implement them because they think doing so are risks as well. “M’aton me colour TV akoto black and white”. If we don’t support our own goods and services, who would?

If these are the challenges our educators and professionals face, you may wonder what roadblocks and speed ramps meet the young and entrepreneurial students in our communities. In an educational system which does not invite creativity and works on retentive memory, innovation and invention is not welcome. There are cases when student initiatives like TRATECH are looked down upon. We must find encouragement, enthusiasm and hope in our workmanship and production.

We have unique problems. We also have unique solutions no one can find but ourselves. We know how things work in our country and as customers are the best to unravel and repair the crevices and cracks in the system. We have to allow ourselves to seize opportunity and present ourselves as credible solvers. Opportunities can be found in repairing the bureaucracies and inefficiencies that exist in our civil service. It is about time we changed with time. The global village is evolving and we must evolve in our best possible judgment to stay with them.

Innovation and taking initiative is absent in the secondary school institution, through the tertiary and this replicates itself in the workplace. There is general apathy towards change and innovation in many public institutions. Let me try to dissect and discuss this problem. Our education teaches us to balance the books, get A’s and B’s, chew and pour. Any additional material aside the conventional is unneeded and too-known. Some university curriculums use notes from decades ago. Should we begin to question first class placement in this country when we are passing through education and education is not passing through us? “This is the way our fathers did it and so what are you trying to say?”

The destiny of any nation depends on the opinions of its young men and women. Opinions pertaining to the nation’s future, its citizens, potential and priorities come into play here. When our young professionals go to play second class citizen doing janitorial work abroad, it tells you something about our opinions. Isn’t it funny how we complain about paying ‘expensive tuition’ when we all wield mobile phones? The best way to predict the future is to create it. We, as students need to be entrepreneurial. We are the future, and if the present gives us nothing to write home about, let’s create our future for the better. Let us make the elderly find cause sit down at our table and listen. We are hip, hop and young. But we can also be wise, dynamic and patriotic.

We need to start talking about Ghana, our future and our Ghanaian system. The talk about politics is enough. When two elephants wrestle, the grass under their feet will suffer. We have to refocus our priorities for the good of our nation. Let’s move the educative noise from the political arena to issues that affect Ghana. The more we know, the more we will change.
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