GHANA 2018: How will science address the challenges of the future? In collaboration with Ghanaians Engineering students here in china, we’re asking how each science discipline will contribute to Ghana now and in the future.
Engineers like to claim their supremacy in all areas of academic discipline as problem solvers. But while this ability will always be critical for engineers, there is more to engineering than just solving problems.
Engineering careers has become highly diverse over the past 20 years. They are now tackling complex social issues such as poverty, inequality, disaster recovery or climate change and also infrastructure development. Their developmental work is mostly found in mega cities and small towns, remote communities and in both high and low-income countries.
Our universities still need to catch up with this new reality. A mission to improve the living conditions of the least privileged citizens of the world – in Ghana and overseas – seems to be almost entirely absent from engineering education in Ghana.
Ghanaian industries need the flexibility, insight and foresight that comes from thinking creatively, asking critical questions, forming and testing hypotheses and reasoning quantitatively – and engineers have the technical knowledge and the problem solving skills to respond to constant change.
As they have a holistic understanding of the practical needs of businesses communities, and the environment they are well positioned to work with other disciplines, including scientists and designers, to provide a stream of new ideas and technical responses essential for sustainable competitive industries.
But future knowledge-based industries won’t just spring up because Ghana’s engineering degrees and professional associations are of high quality.
The ability of engineers to build Ghana into the future – to literally build our modern infrastructure and to foster invention and innovation to support internationally competitive industries – will depend largely on changes that must occur over the next decade or so.
Ghana’s next generation of engineers, our school students, poorly understand the role of engineering and the importance of the sciences and the mathematics that underpin the ubiquitous technology that determines the way we live.
We have too few students studying science, technology, engineering, and mathematics subjects at higher levels at high school, too few going onto engineering at university, and a shortage of engineering skills across the economy as a consequence.
With all these knowledge and creativity that most Ghanaians students possess, I think that there should be a collaborative effort between the government and other stakeholder agencies to encourage more students to take on engineering programs. This will however go a long way in improving the development of the nation. Tullow, an oil and gas company has scholarships for needy but brilliant students who are willing to take on challenging courses and programs like engineering to uplift the image and architectural designs of Ghana. This program, I believe is a step in the right direction in bringing Ghana out of the dark with respect to the study of engineering.
To create niche solutions that are smarter and more efficient requires both human and intellectual resources working within a vibrant culture of innovation. The key concept here is “high-value output” which is not necessarily an “end product”.
With consumer consumption driving the mass proliferation of high-tech products, we can be certain that these products will have some aspects in common such as various electronic components, which will in turn drive demand for the niche materials we need to make them.
Businesses might identify opportunities for diversification by making chips for various electronic products used in entertainment and health industries. Those car parts manufacturers could switch to making steel parts for complex equipment or for the beds used in hospitals, as the health-related industries expand with ageing populations.
What is critical here is expertise in making sophisticated steel parts and the ability to recognize and take advantage of commercially viable opportunities to continue to use those skills as economies evolve (such as within the burgeoning health care sector).
Interestingly, this growing demand for health care services and related infrastructure and equipment and the explosion in electronics – that require high-value, niche inputs such as metal alloys – is converging as the health care sector depends increasingly on complex information technology and as more and more health services are deployed in the homes via sophisticated self-managed equipment and the remote monitoring of, and communication with, patients.
Likewise, when we think about the value chain we need to think more creatively about how to incorporate the masses of potentially valuable materials we currently throw away as waste.
Not only are natural resources being depleted at an unsustainable pace, and carbon emissions rising, but industries recognize the cost-effectiveness of reusing materials. It will largely be engineers that can deliver previously unimaginable solutions.
Working in partnerships with other disciplines and with industries, engineers will create new knowledge, generate groundbreaking technologies, and participate in research collaborations and training exchanges. This will ensure a rapid translation of knowledge into value for Ghanaian industries.
This will create a culture of learning driven by innovative thinking, grounded in collaboration and built on the recognition that the dynamic changes in our world are inevitable.
If we are prepared to see change as a continuous cycle of new opportunities, not new problems, we will realize our aspirations. Future generations of engineers have much to contribute to ensuring new ideas and solutions lead to continuous improvement in quality of life, in Ghana, and internationally.
In all, I think that engineers are the backbone in building a nation through the use of the most advanced technologies. It is however impossible for students to pursue this course with its high cost - both internationally and locally. I therefore call on the government and other stakeholder institutions to provide support in terms of scholarships, grants, aids to enable students pursue their dream and to change the infrastructure development of our beloved country, Ghana.
Mr. Moses Antwi
(Telecom Engineering Student-China)