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SETDEV capacity building workshop: African Science and Technology, for Africans, by Africans in Africa

ATPS, with support from InterMedia NCG, hosted a four day workshop from July 14 – 17th in Mombasa, Kenya. This workshop covered certain themes including Science in Society, Science Mediation and Practice, Science Communication and Evaluation, and Innovation and Governance. The three year Science, Ethics and Technological Responsibility in Developing and Emerging Countries (SETDEV) project began in March 2008 and aims at supporting the research systems in two countries, India, an emerging country and Kenya, a developing country with funding from the European Commission. The project will involve a series of activities between SET DEV partners including coordination, experimentation, and awareness raising initiatives to meet its objectives.

Dr. Alfonsi Alfonso, Laboratory of Citizen Science, Dr. Nyokabi Musila, Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, National Health Service (NHS) UK, Joshua Wanyama, Co-founder and CEO of Pamoja Media/TED Fellow 2009, Serah Nderitu, ACTS were amongst the several speakers that competently ushered the participants into various sittings throughout the day one of the workshop.

Day one of the workshop was opened by Dr. Sheila Ochugboju, Senior Communication & Outreach Officer at ATPS. "We have adapted Appreciative Inquiry. In every organization and communication, some things work. If we can build on these things, we can go much further in this journey," said Dr. Ochugboju. Dr. Kevin Urama, Executive Director ATPS and Dr. Alfonso conveyed Keynote Addresses during the morning session. Dr. Alfonso hopes that the African manifesto will grow more and be consistent enough to influence many others. "New discoveries shape the society and are shaped by society. At the end of the day, we would like to contribute in a process leading to Indian and Kenyan partnerships. African societies need to take full control of their own research & technological development while being open to an international scientific dialogue. And we think that in this process, Europe can better understand its own knowledge society and rethink its own approaches and models "remarked Dr. Alfonso. Dr. Urama concluded his Keynote Address by saying, "the person that can cause change is you. It starts from within."

Numerous success stories were shared in a very interesting, informative and interactive manner, with the participants rotating from one group to another, to share their views. With a vast background in training in virology and immunology, Joseph Mwangi, a participant, has crossed borders towards taking a profound interest in social issues. His passion lies in community programs hence he is one of the change agents that successfully coined a program that make it possible for doctors to determine the HIV status from the first two years of a child’s life. This program has been able to annually test and administer appropriate treatment to about 40,000 infants countrywide. PCR Technology is used and Dr. Mwangi is able to network with several hospitals for testing and treatment services. Challenges exist though, and one notable one is ensuring the diagnosis process is carried out successfully.

Another remarkable success story is that of one of the speakers, Mr. Joshua Wanyama, CEO and Co-founder of Pamoja Media/TED Fellow 2009. Pamoja Media is Africa’s first online advertising network selling banner and rich media advertising to marketers seeking to reach Africans worldwide. "Innovation does not come from the mainstream, "predicated Mr. Wanyama. On the other hand, an extraordinary gentleman named Alun Davies, KEMRI coined a science communication outreach programme in secondary schools in Kilifi. Consequently, this enhanced a two way interaction between scientists and schools, science competitions and it increases understanding.

Carthy Atieno Agallo and Jose’ Njuki-Imwe, Executive Team leads of Kimathi Information Centre, decided to acquire computers in 2006 to set-up a platform of launching a greater vision of aligning the need of information and opportunity to their vision of providing convenience. Basically, KIC is an incubation centre to nurture opportunity, provide information convenience to the neighborhood and to the startup businesses. This dynamic duo celebrates the partnerships that they have managed to form with Strathmore university-Kenyan Based and The University Of British Columbia-Canadian based.

Otula Owuor, Science Editor for Science Africa mentioned that media is a watchdog of the society. It has made milestones compared to inputs for instance in science and technology. "The media has picked up issues of utilization of science and technology and issues of packaging," added Mr. Owuor. Is the media capable of holding scientists to account in Kenya? Furthermore, Mr. Owuor cited an illustration of the case of agriculture in Malawi. Will it still be a success story even after donors pull out and farmers become productive thereafter? Dr. Ochugboju of ATPS went on to pose questions to the participants. "Who is telling the stories that need to be told? Is science training correct? Can the scientists work with farmers?" These are some of the many issues that participants were encouraged to reflect upon in daily life.

The afternoon sessions ushered in another round of productive talks. Dr. Nyokabi Musila talked on Science in Society. She enlightened the group on ways in which science can be taken to the next generation. Science needs to be taken to the school and students should have full rights to apply their own terms in practicing it as opposed to using scientific jargon. As a result, this helps students make informed choices such as wise career placement, hence it is anecdotal. Serah Nderitu, ACTS, spoke on The Role of Science and Technology in Kenya’s vision 2030. This is the new long-term blue print for Kenya. It aims to transform Kenya, provide high quality of life, address health and gender issues in MDGs. Many participants unanimously decided that we urgently needed to change the higher education system. "African nations need to honor their promises and increase their investment is science", concluded Ms. Nderitu.

The final talk of the day was delivered by Mr. Joshua Wanyama, Pamoja Media/TED Fellow 2009. It mainly focused on Technology Interface with the Market in Kenya. "There lies immense potential in what Kenya can be able to produce. If we continue relying on what the government can give us, we will never be able to realize the power that our minds have," asserted Mr. Wanyama. He went on to share that we need to network, link up with other organizations and individuals in order to produce results. In Africa, we don’t use formal education to make things happen in life. The importances of making use of the web beyond social aspects as well as entrepreneurship were strongly highlighted. "Stop asking the government for handouts. Instead, think using the technical way and connect with the world around you," remarked Joshua. Mr. Wanyama came to a conclusion by proclaiming, "The most vital product you have in your life is your mind. Use it! Let us realize many ways in which we can dream big and real."

Dr. Ochugboju closed the first day workshop by encouraging celebration of achievements and milestones. Lastly, she appreciated all the participants who actively and amazingly outdid themselves throughout the day.

Posted on Tuesday 14th July, 2009




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