Speech: African Leadership in ICT (ALICT) Programme Certification & Award ceremony

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African_Union_Gesci_Finland

 

SALUTATIONS

Mary Hooker, Elearning Specialist, GESCI.

Graduans of the 2014 ALICT programme

Members of the press present here

Ladies and Gentlemen

 

I feel greatly honoured this afternoon to preside over the graduation Ceremony of the African Leadership in ICT programme (ALICT), which I understand is a bespoke 7 months professional blended learning course designed and delivered by the Global e-Schools and Communities’ Initiative (GESCI) with the objective of building and enhancing the capacity of current and future leaders in the Knowledge Societies in Africa.

At the outset, let me say that I feel privileged to be here, and I am absolutely delighted to share this occasion with you. The reason for that is because for those of you who are graduating today marks the end of a long journey that you made and it is the beginning of the new journey that you are going to make in order for the country to shift to a knowledge based economy from a resource based economy.
Am told this is the ALICT Phase 2 Graduation Ceremony. There were 248 participants in the course from 13 countries in Africa. 21 participants were from Malawi and supposed to graduate with a Professional Development Certificate. Are you 21 in here, did we lose anybody?

I understand that the course is tailored specifically to the professional development needs of Africa’s future architects of the Knowledge Society in the fields of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation (STI), and ICT policy making and planning. At this point, you have been groomed to become the change agents within your ministries, agencies, cultures and norms and also we expect you to turn economic growth and the potential of our communities into innovation, social and economic progress.
It is in this regard that my speech today will highlight on the role that these three pillars play in relation to the knowledge society in the country.
Ladies and Gentlemen as Director General for NCST I realize the importance that Science, Technology and Innovation plays in the economic development of a country.
A majority of African economies are still predominantly agricultural based. To transition into knowledge based economies will require our countries to leapfrog industrial and information economies. While technological leapfrogging or catch up is possible as has been demonstrated by late-industrializing economies of East Asia, and even China and Brazil7, leap-frogging is more complicated than initially thought. In the case of Africa, the gap between it and the rest of the World is still widening. This makes technological leapfrogging both an urgent necessity but also a much harder task in Africa.
Africa’s long term productivity gains will come not from „finite natural resources, but from advances in and applications of science, technology and innovation. There is increasing consensus among economists that at least half, if not more, of the economic growth in advanced countries is directly attributable to science and technology. Many of today’s developed countries are increasingly knowledge based economies. It is now also widely acknowledged that knowledge or technology-intensive sectors are growing faster than other sectors.
For African countries interested in raising their long term rate of growth, this requires a structural shift from a focus on low technology or knowledge intensive sectors to high technology or knowledge intensive sectors.

It is based on this realization that the Malawi Government has embraced Science, Technology and Innovation as one of its nine development priorities. It is also on the same premise that Government established the National Commission for Science and Technology, and the Malawi University for Science and Technology, among other initiatives to facilitate a “national innovation system that will enhance competitiveness.

Furthermore, I also acknowledge how the Knowledge economy recognizes Education as the pillar that represents opportunities for empowering people with knowledge, skills and confidence they need to shape a better future.
A comprehensive and high-quality education system is a crucial resource for building a knowledge economy.
A knowledge economy is characterized by among others: a high and growing intensity of information and communication (ICT) usage by a highly skilled and well educated work force. One of the pillars of a knowledge economy human capital: Educated, creative and skilled people. Africa’s development in the 21st century hinges on opportunities and challenges posed by emerging technologies and innovations associated with knowledge economies. That is, if Africa is to seize the 21st Century for its economic and structural transformation, it is going to have to develop policies, institutions, organizations and technologies to effectively transition the region into economies.
As noted by the European Commission, the central learning paradigm is thus characterized by lifelong and life-wide learning and shaped by the ubiquity of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) .
I therefore would like to urge you all to continue on your journey of Lifelong and life wide learning which enables one to flexibly respond to change and indeed pro-actively develop competences and thrive in collaborative learning and working environments. This is very vital because even UNESCO has recognized that today, “a first degree is above all a social qualification”, and the culture of innovation will require even these degrees to carry a “Sell By Date”, in order to combat the inertia of cognitive skills and to meet a never-ending demand for new capabilities.

Additionally, as we are all aware, ICT which is the third pillar in the KS; is also performing a major role in economic development and growth and it is up to you the KS leaders to assist in realizing the full potential of ICT whether as a sector or an enabler of other sectors. Much as the ICT sector in Malawi is faced with challenges such as lack of access to electricity, high costs, lack of skills in ICT and operations skills, resistance to technological change; considerable progress has been made through the formulation and liberalization of the telecommunication industry.

It is in relation to this that NCST is in the process of developing the national ICT Research agenda and we rely on you for contributions and prioritization of the thematic areas that will provide direction of ICT research in Malawi for evidence based policies that suit Malawi.

On the other hand, although the role of Governments in shaping an online environment is now well accepted, I feel there is need to reexamine the government’s role in developing a Knowledge Society. We need to check if the high level Vision of the Country is linked to the development of policies that support the ICT sector. In this way you will assist Government in providing an enabling environment for the development of the Knowledge Society.

All the above three pillars are key to the creation of the knowledge society whose socioeconomic development is more dependent on and determined by knowledge rather than traditional factors of production such as capital, labour and land. This shift is not only visible through the number of publications, patents and Kwacha values attached to knowledge, but also in our social interactions and daily activities. For instance just three weeks ago Malawi was on the map as a Chancellor College student innovation, the “Padoko” Bicycle charger, won the first position at the Global Young Scientists and Innovators Award competition organized by the American Department of State through the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). The event took place in Marrakesh, Morocco.
Both the generation of invention and its translation into practical solutions requires a suitable environment and proper policies and I would like to encourage you as leaders in the knowledge society to continue strengthening linkages with researchers , scientists and the industry in order to enhance innovation by among others formulate relevant strategies, regulations and policies that will contribute to the social economic development and also provide a level playing field in the global economy.
The policies and strategies that we put in place today will assist in preparing the country for the Knowledge society and the country will rely on you to help in developing such policies. I believe that the course has adequately equipped you with the 21st century leadership skills to analyze, solve problems, think creatively and strategically, team building, collaborate, adapt, foresighting and forecasting among others.

Ladies and gentlemen, even though from now on, there are no more sleepless nights, no more assignments and no more apprehension. Still, I hope you will not stop being students since you are the key actors in the Malawian knowledge economy who should keep on learning new things.
You must continue to commune with your fellow classmates, just as you have been in groups among yourselves and with your hard working and inspiring lecturers.

Lastly but not least let me also express my sincere thanks to
• GESCI, an African Union initiative contributing to the development of sustainable Knowledge Societies in Africa.
• The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Finland for funding the programme
• The Dublin City University, Ireland
It is indeed through your collective efforts that African countries will be guided to develop policy coherence for the Knowledge society, leadership and future thinking on the STI, Education and ICT pillars.
Finally, as we are celebrating your hard work and your achievements let us also remember all those who have provided invaluable support and guidance. It is therefore an equally fitting opportunity to pay tribute to all of those who have brought you to this point today‐ the ones who rooted for you, believed in you, prayed for you ‐ I know spouses, parents, kids, employers and colleagues have prayed a big role to your success, let us be grateful to them.

I Thank You listening – God bless

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