When I see what science and technology have transformed the world, I marvel. What has taken man away from the state of nature, from primitiveness and from the rudimentary way of life, are simply innovations brought about by science. Whenever I travel by plane, I ask for a window seat at the check-in counter. The reason is that it allows me to watch what’s happening outside the plane even though we’re in the air. I have never ceased to wonder how the human mind can design and produce such a device capable of flight despite the heavy weight of the aircraft. When I get up to go to the bathroom on the plane, I feel like I’m walking on air.
It’s not just the planes that surprise me. Everything that science and technology has made possible works. When I go through the body scanner at the airport or in hotels; when I’m sitting at home watching TV or turning on my air conditioner or radio using the remote control; when I’m in a television studio and a button-shaped microphone is placed over me and my voice is amplified; when I see the wonders I can do with my cell phone – from using it to make voice and video calls, to texting, to using it for social media live streaming, to using it as a camera to taking pictures, as television, to send e-mail, as radio, as internet browser and many others, I am very fascinated.
Today, information and communication technologies have made the world a global hamlet, or even more of a village. ICTs have made it possible to have virtual meetings using different platforms such as zoom, skype, google meet, Vmix, etc. When COVID-19 forced the world into lockdown in 2020, science and technology came to the rescue. Today, there are a dozen vaccines quickly concocted to fight the global pandemic, saving humanity from perdition. This feat was made possible by medical research. There are so many advancements in the medical field that diseases that used to be called life threatening diseases are now treatable and could be managed even though there is no cure. These diseases include HIV/AIDS, Lassa fever, cancer, tumors, Ebola, meningitis and many more. Telemedicine now offers physicians the ability to communicate across borders when treating patients. Caesarean section, which many women dread, is now in demand as it is now performed seamlessly with patients ready to go home within three days of the procedure.
Many years ago, e-commerce seemed strange and inaccessible. Today, ICT has made online marketing a reality and a necessity. People are now shopping online for all sorts of things including buying ready meals, buying cars, renting apartments, selling goods and many more. Several decades ago, people did pen pal studies through post offices. Nowadays, there are online studies. For many months when there was a global COVID-19 lockdown, many private schools started online classes. Workers were encouraged to work from home and they did so perfectly thanks to information and communication technologies that allowed workers to receive and complete their tasks virtually.
Science and technology have simplified the fight against crime and insecurity. There are now armored vehicles, body scanners, drones, CCTV cameras, jammers, bomb detectors, metal detectors, trackers, forensic labs, bulletproof vests and many high-tech weapons that can be used in the fight against crime. In banking and financial services, science and technology have enhanced financial inclusion. Twenty years ago, banking transactions were only done in banking halls. It was the era of picking tally numbers. Bank customers are given numbers and called one after another to be picked up. Today, there are online and Internet banking solutions. People no longer need checkbooks and withdrawal slips. Customers can send and receive money beyond official bank opening hours, even 24 hours a day; they can get bank loans on their android or smartphones even without filling any forms in their banks. Customers can even open bank accounts online and without any open deposits. All of this is made possible by science and technology.
In the field of housing, there are now prefabricated houses that can be coupled on any land. There are now many types of roofing sheets, paints and building materials. Unlike in the 70s when a bedroom and living room were most common, there are now self-contained and multi-bedroom apartments, there are now duplexes and many other building techniques. In the field of engineering, the scientific breakthroughs are very obvious. There is aeronautical and robotic engineering. The space shuttle is now commonplace with plans to make life on Mars possible in the near future. Automotive engineering has been able to produce wonders on wheels as there are now electric cars as well as unmanned cars, trains and even planes.
The entertainment industry has been turned upside down by science and technology. With the breakthrough already recorded in information and communication technologies, it is now possible to make very innovative, ingenious and fantastic films. What are commonly called cinematic sleight of hand are made possible by ICT, the fruit of many years of intensive research. The music industry has benefited nonetheless. Today, science and technology have made possible the production of high-tech musical instruments. There’s an electric guitar, a keyboard that can give you a thousand and one melodies, mixers, wireless microphones and many more gadgets that now make music composition, production, sales and marketing easier. This is why contemporary musicians are more successful financially than pioneers and those who started three or four decades ago. The comedians and the makers of sketches live from a vocation that people thought was made for the lazy and the wasteful because of ICT.
What about football and other sports? Technology now plays a vital role. There is an electronic scoreboard, electronic video assistant referee, high-tech sports training gadget and amazing stadiums with state-of-the-art facilities. Even in agriculture, apart from agro-industries which now add value to agricultural raw materials, even fertilizers, pesticides, genetically modified crops and silos are all products of science and technology. In elections, technology now plays a central role in enhancing electoral integrity and credibility. The zeal of young people to participate in elections has been reinforced by the legal support that the Electoral Law of 2022 now gives to the Independent National Electoral Commission to use biometric voter registration and accreditation, electronic voting as well as virtual transmission. election results. The point here to note is that there is no area of human activity that has not been positively impacted by science and technology. The big question is: how involved is my dear country in the creation of scientific and technological innovations?
Ironically, Nigeria is more of a consumer than a producer of ICTs and innovations. We have all kinds of high-tech gadgets for sale here, but ninety percent of them are imported from overseas. Yet we have the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology, the Ministry of Education which claims to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics commonly referred to as STEM education. We also have the Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy as well as hundreds of poorly funded research institutes. Nigeria cannot overcome economic and development challenges without the required investment in science and technology research. Where are Nigeria’s industrial parks? Where is the Nigerian equivalent of America’s Silicon Valley? Why have we abandoned the mass production of many patented scientific discoveries? Indeed, without leaps and bounds in technological innovation, we will not be able to shed the toga of being a backward Third World country!