Science and Technology

Science and Technology

The rationale for including S & T as a sector in this document is that some governments are now subsuming a significant part of their informatics policies in this area. Furthermore S & T activities also incorporate R & D in informatics and the development of technological capability in this area. Several countries deal with informatics as a subsector under S & T. For example, in Ethiopia informatics policies and a good deal of its activities come under the S & T commission. The same applies to a limited extent, to Zimbabwe where aspects of informatics come under the Research Council of Zimbabwe and its institution. Research and development in microelectronics comes under the Scientific and Industrial Research and Development Centre. Microelectronics is deemed to be one of the priority areas in the quest to industrialise Zimbabwe.

The use of microelectronics products and process technologies has definite impact not only at the development stage of an economy but also can influence the direction of that development at later stages. A country's domestic environment and international involvement determine how far and in what way it can exploit potentials of those new technologies. Experiences in other countries, for example, Korea, suggest complimentarity between technology (including hardware) import and local R & D programmes. Probably the learningbyusing effect of imported technologies and hardware is much more important in microelectronicsbased industries than elsewhere, because of its implications for local software development.

Countries such as Korea, Singapore and Taiwan which have benefited from microelectronics have had science and technology policy programmes for some time. These programmes included vigorous development of human resources. Furthermore, and more importantly, issues relating to technology transfer usually come under the purview of the national science and technology organisation. In Nigeria S & T comes under the Ministry of Science and Technology which has the responsibility of establishing and maintaining an S & T data bank and information system. The Ministry is responsible for the collection, processing, storage and dissemination of data and statistics on S & T. Significantly it is also responsible for access to foreign R & D information. The National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure established by Decree No. 33 of 1992 has functions which include carrying out basic and applied research and development work in a number of areas such as microelectronics, computer technology and new materials.

In addition the Centre for Informatics Research and Training was established at Ogun State University with the following objectives:

To facilitate active and meaningful research for development using computers
To provide short training programmes in IT in the African Commonwealth region
To assist researchers in universities and research institutes as well R & D units of industry to use the centre's resources to solve problems
To act as a catalyst to initiate research and training in IT

In Zimbabwe science and technology comes under the Research Council of Zimbabwe which body has an advisory role in areas of S & T and coordinate and monitors R & D in the country. The Research Council can establish sectoral Research Councils and Boards. It can also establish, with Government approval, R & D Centres. This mandate has enabled the RCZ to establish the Scientific and Industrial Research and Development Centre (SIRDC). This body is being established with some eight R & D sectoral institutes, one of which is microelectronics. Currently SIRDC activities in informatics extend to the acquisition, processing and dissemination of remote sensing data. This data is invaluable for monitoring environmental degradation, crop forecasting, search for minerals, establishment of road networks and other large projects.

In Kenya the National Council for Science and Technology (NCST) was established by the Science and Technology Act (Chapter 250) of the Laws of Kenya on 1 July 1977. It is a statutory institution of the Government of Kenya. The functions of the NCST include "to consider and advise generally on all scientific activities, including:

(i)The application of the results of research
(ii)The transfer of technology into agriculture and industry
(iii) Scientific and technical manpower
(iv)Scientific research and technology
(v)Science education
(vi)Scientific documentation, statistics, surveys and general information".

The Council is therefore the national focal point for science and technology policies and is expected to advise the Government on all aspects of science and technology and especially their application for national development. The Act empowers the Council to appoint standing committees, one of which deals with Documentation and Information. Furthermore the Secretariat operates through specialised sections, one of which deals with Information Sciences. To quote from the NCST document "Information Science is a relatively new discipline which has evolved mainly as a result of developments in informatics, information technology and the increasing problems of access to vast quantities of literature being published in the world. The section is therefore involved in development of national strategies for coordinating the flow of scientific and technological information, development of manpower and the assessment of the applicability of the new technologies in facilitating dissemination of research findings in Kenya. The section overseas the development of the National Scientific Information and Documentation Centre at NCST." The National Scientific Information and Documentation Centre is one of the special development projects of the NCST.

From the foregoing it is evident that the Kenya National Council for Science and Technology is directly involved in formulating and implementing subsectoral policies in informatics, albeit in areas of interest to them.

In Tanzania S & T comes under the National Commission for Science and Technology. Membership is from the science and technology system, the productive sector, public sector, technical ministries etc. It is charged with the coordination of S & T planning as well as policy implementation. Its main function is to act as a stimulant and catalyst for the development of indigenous technologies.

In addition to the establishment of the Commission for Science and Technology, a National Centre for the Transfer, Adaptation and Development of Technology was also to be set up. Such a centre was to serve as a mechanism for the assessment and choice of imported technologies on a systematic basis. Among the core functions of the Centre are:

Acquire and analyze information on alternative sources of technology and its delivery to users
Act as a registry for imported technology and to keep register of the domestic technological resources and manpower.

Scientific information systems are a sectoral objective of the National Centre. The policy document states that "the provision of uptodate and efficient scientific information systems including libraries, documentation centres, computer systems, etc. shall be recognized as vital tools and components in strengthening the nation's scientific and technological capability". These are powerful statements. In contrast, however, the S & T policy statement is weak on the provision of resources, and implementation, given its central position in the sectoral objectives.


(i)Some of the countries surveyed have explicit policies on science and technology. Others are developing their informatics features in these policies.

(ii)The integration of informatics in the science and technology sector is relatively new in the countries surveyed. Policy initiatives in this area are tentative. Science and technology permeate every sector of socioeconomic activity. The same is true of information technology. Therefore, the integration of these two sectors from a policy perspective may have a lot of merit.

(iii)Research and development work in microelectronics is, by world standards, practically insignificant in the countries surveyed. Some tertiary and a few research institutions are carrying out limited research and development. There is, however, no serious national attempt to be a serious player in this field.

(iv)The complete absence of R & D in microelectronics impacts on the development of software and firmware. Consequently African informatics professionals tend to be users rather than the generators of technology.

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Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D
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