19.05.2005 General News

Public Services Commission Lectures

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Africa must leapfrog its devt through science and technology Accra, May 19, GNA - Mr Ato Wright, immediate past president of the Ghana Institute of Engineers on Wednesday observed that, Africa has to leapfrog it development agenda and move at the speed of thought in order to bridge the gap between her and the more developed nations. This, he said was because, development in the advanced countries has not come to a halt, waiting for developing nations to catch up, but rather taking place at the speed of light, using sophisticated science and technology systems, which Africa must adopt.

Mr Wright was delivering a paper on the topic: "The Effective Deployment of Science, Engineering and Technology for Sustainable Development in Ghana", at the annual Public Services Commission (PSC) lecture in Accra

The annual lecture, instituted by the PSC in 1998, is to create a public service platform where topical and strategic issues, bearing on national development could be freely and frankly discussed. This year's theme was: "Science, Technology and Public Policy-making in Ghana. The Friedrich Ebert Foundation sponsored it. Mr Wright said that to further Ghana's development goals, science, engineering and technology should be fully integrated into the country's development plans, as the foundation stone upon which economic strength would be built.

"If we are to achieve sustainable development in our country, then the effective deployment of science, engineering and technology will be indispensable right from the onset of the planning stage before damage sets in."

He said for Ghana to achieve this, it must apply universally accepted principles to address its local problems, adding that, the practice of science and technology could only be successful if carried out in an integrated form.

He recommended the establishment of an explicit science, engineering and technology policy that could translate government's socio-economic policies into technological lines of actions.

Among other recommendations were the establishment of a national information centre for science, engineering and technology to collect, collate and disseminate information, the popularisation of science and technology to create national awareness and the inclusion of scientist, technologist and engineers on boards of public organizations to enable national economic plans to be translated into actions. He called fore the revision of the curricula of technology in institutions to infuse entrepreneurial and management training in order for institutions to produce employment creating graduates rather than employment seeking ones.

Prof Daniel Adzei-Bekoe, Chairman of the Council of State noted that it was the belief of the scientific community that the management of public affairs could be improved if political leaders, particularly those responsible for policy making, dealt with the technical content of their decisions with greater knowledge and insight.

This, he said, was because politicians in private, freely admitted that they felt ill-equipped to take positions on complex technical matters, noting that, at any particular time, there would be the need for quality advice to the executive arm of government, to parliament and to the judiciary on science and technology issues. Citing an example, Prof. Adzei-Bekoe said the composition of Parliament, in terms of the mix of expertise could not be predicted because members are not elected on the basis of their expertise in science and technology.

He said there was no guarantee that there would be enough members with science or technology backgrounds or up-to-date expertise to provide high- level advice to Parliament.

"Only a few of them have the time and inclination to become experts on any such issues. And yet they are expected to, and they do make decisions, or at least take responsibility for those decisions on all such issues."

He stressed the need for establishment of relevant organizational structures by government, parliament and the judiciary to utilize available knowledge, most effectively and to evaluate and to respond to the diversity of opinions, and self-interest in the ever-changing world. To achieve this, Prof Adzei-Bekoe emphasized the need for interpersonal linkages between science and technology policy researchers and policy makers as well as institutional linkages. These he said were relevant, in that they lead to increasing policy-maker awareness of best technical practices, early advances in knowledge and the promotion of the utilization of that knowledge.

Prof Edward Ayensu, Chairman of the centre for Scientific and Industrial Research, noted that, during the past five decades, science and technology had contributed dramatically to meet the health, agriculture, industrial, educational, social, economic and recreational needs of the world's population.

He observed that although it was generally recognized that the application of appropriate science and technology could provide considerable relief, relatively, few well informed citizens have given thought to how best this could be done.

Prof Ayensu noted that, the economic growth of the East Asian countries was the result of pragmatically designed, and thematically organized national science and technology policies based on comprehensive evaluation of manpower training, appropriation of designated funds in national budgets for effective research and development and the promotion of industrial sector-specific strategies of national importance.

He said that the reason why rapidly developing countries were doing well was because they recognized the close relationship between scientific and technology activities and national economic and social development

Prof. Ayensu noted that the relationship between science and technology and economics was not fully appreciated in the country, because the nation had not gotten its science and technology fundamentals right.

He said for Ghana attain the levels of development of its East Asian counterparts like Malaysia, it had to develop realistic special policies for foreign and domestic private investment, trading in technology and ensure a high level of governmental responsibility and transparent governance.

Prof Ayensu applauded government for formulating a policy that would support socio-economic development goals with the view of lifting the country to a middle-income status by 2015.

He, however, observed that to achieve the eventual goals of this policy, Ghana must make sure that it arrived at a speedy attainment of a universal basic education for all Ghanaian children, adding that, apart from general academic skills, post secondary education should include training in technologically sophisticated disciplines needed to support national development.

Prof. Ayensu stressed the need for the country to establish a presidential Commission on Science and Technology to help raise the political profile of the instruments for economic and social growth in the country.

He called on the private sector to do more to encourage the transfer of appropriate technology into the country to help increase the production capacity for both domestic and export markets. Prof. Ayensu called on government to establish a national science foundation to support research work in the basic and applied sciences. 19 May 05

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