Wednesday, June 7

Where is Nigeria in science and technology?

When I see what science and technology have turned the world into, I marvel. What has moved man from the state of nature, the primitiveness and crude way of life are simply innovations brought about by science. Each time I’m travelling by air, I request a window seat at the check-in counter. The reason being that it enables me to watch happening outside the plane even as we’re air-bound. I have never ceased to wonder how the human mind can conceive and produce such a contraption that can fly despite the heavy weight of the aircraft. When I stand up to go to the restroom on the plane, it seems like I am walking in the air.

It’s not only aircraft that amazes me. Everything that science and technology have made possible does. When I pass through the body scanner at airport or hotels; when I sit in my home and watch television or put on my air conditioner or radio using remote control; when I’m in a television studio and a button-like microphone is put on me and my voice is amplified; when I see the wonders I can do with my mobile phone—from using it to do voice and video call, send SMS, use it for live streaming on social media, use it as a camera for taking photograph, as a television, to send e-mail, as a radio, as internet browser and many more, I am very fascinated.

Today, information and communication technology has made the world a global hamlet, not even a village any longer. ICT has made it possible to have virtual meetings using different platforms such as zoom, skype, google meet, Vmix, etcetera. When COVID-19 forced the world into lockdown in 2020, science and technology came to the rescue. Today there are about a dozen vaccines rapidly concocted to tackle the global pandemic thereby saving humanity from perdition. This feat was made possible by medical research. There is so much advancement in the medical field that diseases that are previously called killer diseases are now treatable and could be managed even if there is no cure. Such diseases include HIV/AIDS, Lassa fever, cancer, tumours, Ebola, meningitis and many more. Telemedicine now affords doctors the opportunity to communicate across borders in the treatment of patients. Caesarean section which many women dread is now being asked for because it is now carried out seamlessly with patients ready to go home within three days of the procedure.

Many years ago, e-commerce seems strange and unattainable. Today, ICT has made online marketing reality and a necessity. People now shop online for all manner of things including the purchase of cooked food, buying cars, renting apartments, selling property and many more. Many decades ago, people do correspondent studies via post offices. Nowadays, there’s online studying. For many months when there was COVID-19 global lockdown, many private schools started online classes. Workers were asked to work from home and they did it perfectly because of information and communication technology which enabled workers to receive and complete their tasks virtually.

Science and technology have made tackling crimes and insecurity simple. There are now armoured vehicles, body scanners, drones, closed circuit television cameras, jammers, bomb detectors, metal detectors, trackers, forensic laboratories, bulletproof vests and many hi-tech weapons that can be used in crime fighting. In banking and financial services, science and technology have enhanced financial inclusion. Some 20 years ago, banking transactions are only done in banking halls. That was the era of picking tally numbers. Bank customers are given numbers and are called in one after the other to be attended to. Today, there are online cum internet banking solutions. People no longer need chequebooks and withdrawal slips. Customers can send and receive money beyond the official banking hours, indeed, round the clock; they can source bank loans on their android or smartphones even without filling any forms in their banks. Customers can even open bank accounts online and with zero open deposits. All these are made possible by science and technology.

In the field of housing, there are now pre-fabricated homes that can be coupled together on any plot of land. There are now many types of roofing sheets, paints, and building materials. Unlike in the 70s, when a room and parlour was most common, now there are self-contains and multiple bedroom flats, there are now duplexes and many other building techniques. In the engineering field, scientific breakthroughs are very glaring. There is aeronautic and robotic engineering. Space shuttle is now commonplace with plans to make life on Mars feasible in the nearest future. Automobile engineering has been able to produce wonders-on-wheels to the extent that there are now electric cars as well as unmanned cars, trains and even aircraft.

The entertainment industry has been turned around by science and technology. With the breakthrough already recorded in information communication technology, it is now possible to make films that are very innovative, ingenious and fantastic. What is popularly known as film tricks are made possible by ICT which is a product of many years of intensive research. The music industry has not profited less. Today, science and technology have made the production of hi-tech musical instruments possible. There is electric guitar, keyboard that can give you a thousand and one tunes, mixers, wireless microphones and many more gadgets that now aid music composition, production, sales and marketing. That is why contemporary musicians are more financially successful than the pioneers and those who started some three or four decades ago. Stand-up comedians and skit makers are making a living out of a vocation that people thought was made for loafers and wastrels because of ICT.

What about football and other sports? Technology now plays a critical role.  There is electronic scoreboard, video assistant referee which is electronic, hi-tech sports training gadget and amazing stadia with state-of-the-art facilities. Even in the field of agriculture, apart from agro-allied industries which now add value to agricultural raw materials, even fertilisers, pesticides, genetically modified crops and silos are all products of science and technology.  In elections, technology now plays a pivotal role in the enhancement of electoral integrity and credibility. The zeal of young people to participate in elections has been boosted by the legal backing that Electoral Act 2022 now give to Independent National Electoral Commission to use biometric voters’ registration and accreditation, electronic balloting as well as virtual transmission of election results. The point here to note is that there is no field of human endeavour that has not been impacted positively by science and technology. The big question is: how much involved is my dear country in the creation of science and technology innovations?

Ironically, Nigeria is more of consumer than producer of ICT and innovations. We have all manner of hi-tech gadgets on sale here but they are ninety per cent imported from abroad. Yet we have the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology, Ministry of Education that claims to promote Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics popularly called STEM education. We also have the Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy as well as hundreds of poorly funded research institutes.  Nigeria cannot overcome economic and developmental challenges without the requisite investment in research in science and technology. Where are Nigeria’s industrial parks? Where is Nigeria’s equivalent of America’s Silicon Valley? Why have we jettisoned mass production of many of the patented research breakthroughs? Truth be told, without giant strides in technological innovations, we won’t be able to shed the toga of being a backward third-world country!

Twitter: @jideojong

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