Wednesday, 29 October 2014

BarCamp Ho and the Quest for Scientific and Entrepreneurial Thinking in Ghana #bcho

Mentoring session ongoing at BarCamp Ho 2014
Last Saturday, 25th October, I joined other change makers at the University of Health and Allied Sciences for the fourth BarCamp Ho. This was my first barcamp in over a year, so I was really excited to have been part of the event. Here are Storify highlights of what transpired. 

After an initial hesitation, I accepted to 'mentor' some attendees (many of them university or senior high school students) on "education and research", drawing on experiences in science education and postgraduate studies. Upon reflection, since many of the attendees asked the same questions, perhaps, a breakout session on the topic would have been more appropriate. Also, it would have been nice to pick everyone's brain on what can be done to improve the quality of research in Ghana, and to increase its role in policy making. This is very important since science provides tools to fix our day-to-day challenges. A more robust research regime in West Africa would see regional challenges such as ebola, small arms, and energy shortage, handled with greater efficiency than is currently done.

The above submission ties in well with the overall theme of this year's BarCamp Ho: "re-educating ourselves for the new entrepreneurial world", although not immediately apparent. Most of the day's discussions centred on creating business ventures and new instructional/coaching models to raise entrepreneurial champions. While these propositions are rightly in place, it is equally important to extend our conception of entrepreneurial thought to disrupting education and advancing scientific research. Innovation on these frontiers do not only require increased scientific knowledge but also technical aptitude to analyse society's problems and to design and implement solutions to tackle them. Clearly, there is an urgent need to liaise with government, businesses, and the larger society to adopt research as a critical tool for development. The achievement of this feat requires entrepreneurial acumen on a scale similar to what pertains in the business context. Our long-term challenge, therefore, is to create educational opportunities that would enhance the inculcation of critical skills among learners at various educational levels. In the short-term, government must invest more in science education and research. The current situation where less than 0.5% of GDP is allocated to science and technology in Ghana is not only shocking but shameful.
Re-educating ourselves for the new entrepreneurial world requires raising leaders in politics, business and communication, to create revenue-generating projects and to position our country in a favourable light in the global milieu. Just as important is the task to increase the quality of science education and the level of scientific thinking in the general population. We need to build the right environment for scientific research that would lead to inventions and innovations. Also, we need to encourage a maker culture through collaborations between our universities, research institutes and informal makers. I am sure someone said this at the barcamp: "what are we going to market when we do not produce much?"

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