Many people see technology as esoteric, as something beyond our understanding, shrouded in secrecy. In fact, when I was a secondary school student, I used to be one of those people. I dreaded it, yet I had to embrace it as a science student. I struggled with it not because it was difficult, but because I was being taught with highfalutin words that flew over my head! There was no application of it to my reality; it was just information! I thought I could escape from it by embracing humanity disciplines in the university, but the more I tried to run from it, the more I realized it was like my shadow – there was no escape route from it. If we want to remain relevant in this day and age, there is no running away from science and technology!
Science and technology have changed the way we do things all over the world. It has made assignments that were once seemingly impossible as simple as ABC! It has indeed unravelled many mysteries that our forefathers, particularly in Africa, had worshipped as gods due to a lack of clear-cut explanations rooted in empirical evidence! Some unthinkable activities, such as killing twins due to a lack of understanding of multiple births, have occurred on our shores! We have been shortchanged in terms of development due to a lack of proper knowledge of how science and technology work and their huge potential. Now that we have embraced it, has anything changed? How much of it do we understand? What is our story? Is our story being told to the right people who will use it to galvanize development? How is it being told? This column will unfold the happenings within Nigeria’s Science, Technology, and Innovation (STI) space every week, with a view to helping us understand them and maximize the advantages they offer.
Let me share the story of how my mind was disabused about science and technology being esoteric. I joined Nigeria’s Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation in 2007 through the National Centre for Technology Management (NACETEM), one of the 17 agencies of the ministry. It looked strange and surreal. This is one area I ran away from over two decades earlier, and now I have to deal with it again. “For how long will I run? “, I asked myself. At this point, I had to find the best way to understand this integral part of modern life called science and technology. Luckily for me, NACETEM is a knowledge support institution saddled with the responsibility of building middle-to-high-level manpower in STI management. I decided to enroll in its postgraduate diploma in technology management.
In one of the classes, a colleague with a Higher National Diploma, and looking for a way to bridge the gap created by the dichotomy between HND and Bsc, had asked about the esoteric nature of technology and how it seems beyond an average mind! The explanation provided by the lecturer was simple but quite revealing. He gave a simple illustration of two people working with their laptops and eating. While one was using a spoon to eat so as to use the other hand to work on his laptop, the other was using his bare hand to eat but still attempting to eat his food. The one using the spoon was able to juggle between working on his laptop and eating, while the other person found it difficult as he kept smearing the laptop. He said the spoon, which is the technology in use, is the differentiator. The spoon made life easy for one, while the other struggled. He concluded by saying technology is not beyond us or esoteric, and that it is within the reach of everyone. Technology simply makes life easy for man, and what makes life easy for one cannot be out of reach of the person! And with that, he welcomed us to an exciting journey of 12 months in Technology Management. This is one of the happenings within the country’s STI space – knowledge about science, technology and innovation.
NACETEM, for instance, is the software component of the Federal Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation, and it offers cutting-edge knowledge in STI management. The knowledge of how STI works is the starting point for sustainable development. If we don’t train them, we cannot blame them.
To this end, if people continue to see science and technology as beyond us, not what can be leveraged as a differentiator in Nigeria, it may be because they are not aware that within the STI landscape of Nigeria, customised knowledge that helps people take advantage of science and technology is available in Nigeria. It’s what you know that gives you an edge in life. In all thy knowing, know science and technology, as it is intricately woven with our lives and development. It may interest you to know that the guy with an HND background who asked the question about the esoteric nature of science and technology is today a PhD holder in engineering management. He has successfully used the available knowledge in Nigeria’s STI space to overcome the gap created by the HND and Bsc dichotomy. He is an invaluable asset to the STI space today. There are solutions to many of our problems here in Nigeria. All we need to do is look within. This is our story and it’s our pride.