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Ministry of Science and Technology’s grandiose task

Florence Kahimbi Mpemba, the Astria Learning regional manager, believes the Ministry of Science and Technology will promote scientific innovation in the country.

She says the Ministry will have a warranted responsibility to create more linkages between innovators and the industry.

“We believe great minds are born everywhere and the Ministry therefore will be a platform that will bring both players at the table to see a great boost in the Tech World and see Zambia compete globally. It is our pledge to work closely with the Ministry. We wish to further appreciate the committed pledge by the government to improve the relationship with the private sector to foster great service and productivity for the nation – mother Zambia,” says Mpemba. “The Ministry is cardinal at a time when the entire globe has been challenged with technological demands that have birthed great innovation and smart working. We are of the belief that the Ministry will play a crucial role in determining the socio-economic fabric of the country in order to levitate the much-needed embrace of the digital age and for the nation to be one of the torchbearers of a future world that will have science and technology boosted both in terms of excellence and reach.”

There’s no doubt technology is dominating the 21stCentury beyond what we experienced in the third and fourth industrial revolutions. The 5thRevolution is upon us and we have to adapt swiftly. Without doubt, the task ahead of the science and technology ministry is grandiose and we hope they are able to fulfill their mandate.

As Fidel Castro stated after meeting first graduates of Cuba’s University of Information Sciences, “Whoever has a computer has all published knowledge at their disposal and the privileged memory of the machine belongs to them too. Ideas are born of knowledge and ethical values. An important part of the problem would be technologically solved, another must be cultivated restlessly. Otherwise, the most basic instincts shall prevail.” To appreciate what is at stake, let’s sample what RegInsights says.

RegInsights describes industrial revolutions this way, “The first revolution mechanised the textile industry. The second industrial revolution gave us the assembly line, high volume industrial production and high mass consumption. The third allowed information to be captured in digital format and to be cost-effectively transformed, manipulated and transmitted. The fourth industrial revolution has provided us with robotics, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and virtual reality. There were nearly two centuries between the first and second industrial revolutions… Along the way, we picked up globalisation, climate change, environmental degradation and multinational conglomerates with annual revenues larger than the GDP of many countries. More efficient production has meant increased pollution, reckless consumption of non-renewable resources, and ever-improving quarterly profit statements. The Fifth Industrial Revolution (5IR) can be summarised as the combination of humans and machines in the workplace. But this is vastly oversimplified and does not even begin to explain the magnitude and complexity of the change… The third and fourth revolutions were hard on humans and hard on the environment. Previous generations had to adapt their lifestyle to what the machines could do. The Fifth Industrial Revolution is different. Human beings are now front and centre in the production process. Many more people will regularly work remotely. Menial administration will be performed by machines. Implantable technologies for health and other purposes will become widespread, leading to a healthier, longer-living population. 3D printing will become more and more prevalent. Chatbots will become a routine part of the customer experience. […] Questions that have still to be fully answered include: How will white-collar jobs change? Will they disappear completely, how will workers have to reconfigure their roles as routine work becomes automated? How will we, as a society, respond to this? Values, institutions, a sense of identity. Which countries will be affected the most? North/South. What will happen in countries with low internet adoption? Southern Africa. What will happen to the costs of goods and services? How will organisations build new trust relationships and psychological work contracts? How will all of us unlearn old habits and gear up for this new milieu? A negative way of looking at this is to complain that we are rendered obsolete by the very machines we create. Robots will ultimately become smarter than humans and then there’s no stopping them. They will take over the world, and we will be left to do nothing – we will become redundant. The positive way of looking at this is to appreciate how AI and robotics significantly alter how we work, play and live by replacing repetitive and highly complex tasks and assisting us with decision-making. Less drudgery at work and more time to spend on important things. If we look at the previous revolutions, they have each brought some dislocation, but they have improved the quality of life for all. We have no reason to suspect that the Fifth Industrial Revolution will be different.”

How do we measure up to the above given the years of little or no investment in scientific research and technological developments? We simply do not have anything that can act as springboards, the nurseries for science and technology. Simple things like toothpicks, razor blades, screwdrivers, matches, light bulbs are all imported, mainly from China. However, it is a good start to have a ministry to drive the scientific and technological agenda. This means the country will have to invest massively in training and development of the required human resource, fund scientific and technological research, equip all schools with computer laboratories, provide electricity or solar energy to all learning institutions. Otherwise it will be groping in the dark. The government would have to come up with a deliberate policy to encourage increased investments in technology. It will have to zero rate some machinery to advance this agenda.

This is a mammoth task of grandiose status. But one we cannot escape. It’s other we invest and reap the benefits or remain in stone age status!

Where there is a will there is always a way.

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