Nigeria has no culture of R&D and broad innovation enablers, and without those elements, it would be hard to develop an indigenous technology capability
We cannot have the capacity to evolve our technology ecosystem if we do not invest in the fundamental elements that make technology happen
In Data Science Nigeria today, Emeka Okoye, one of the panelists clarified an earlier comment he made. He had noted in the past that Nigeria does not have any technology ecosystem. Part of his thesis was that Nigeria was simply building applications, instead of instituting technology pillars. He made a case that Nigeria has no culture of R&D and broad innovation enablers, and without those elements, it would be hard for us to develop an indigenous technology capability.
He had listed the following as part of the components:
Tech Ecosystem comprises of:
– tech businesses
– research institute's
— Emeka Azuka Okoye (@EmekaOkoye) May 10, 2016
Someone in the audience challenged Emeka, pointing out that Nigeria may not necessarily need to invest in R&D for us to advance in our technology sector. The person did note that Nigeria can just cut and paste, relying on the works of others, as we develop our technology capabilities. Emeka replied that building on top of other technology platforms will not necessarily help the nation. His point was largely that we cannot have the capacity to evolve our technology ecosystem if we do not invest in the fundamental elements that make technology happen.
In other words, any limitation imposed by Silicon Valley owing to how it sees global problems will bound our abilities to create solutions that address our needs. That we have Android to make apps does not mean that we are technically advancing the nexus of technology creation. In his opinion, we are only accelerating the vision of Google at consumerism phase.
Emeka, the founder of Cymantics, a startup working in the domains of semantic web, AI, and analytics, later explained to me today in a private conversation that he would expect Nigeria to go beyond computer science to work on the development of mathematics, physics and broad technical education. In his view, we cannot sacrifice all these fundamental elements of technology with fixation on coding. He wants our universities to lead the charge for that redesign into a future where Nigeria will have real technology ecosystems, over ones structured to accelerate mere technology consumerism.
In some ways, I do agree with Emeka. There are many technology elements besides our fixation with IT and computer science. Yet, I do not really think we need to build everything from scratch. That may not be necessary. I have made similar points in a different way in the past.
Ndubuisi Ekekwe, a professor of engineering at Babcock University in Nigeria, speaking at the Tech4Africa conference in South Africa, said the continent has the ability to climb the technology pyramid, and be the creators of technology, not just the consumers. “Africa has to have a strategy whereby we do not just consume technology. We have to figure out a way to create technology.
We can get there by re-designing our educational model and then providing an intellectual property framework so that people can actually make investment risks in Africa, but knowing that their investment is well protected by the law,” said Ekekwe. Ekekwe discussed different technology sectors in Africa, and urged researchers to look beyond information and communications technology.
Nanotechnology, he said, can create systems that are very energy efficient, as well as provide another engine for Africans to build upon, innovate, and invent a new future. But, he added, “Africa has a very marginal participation in Nano technology. It’s not just Nano technology – our agricultural technology is dead, our mining technology is dead and our geo-physical technology is dead.
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