Towards the tail end of High School, as part of the efforts in understanding Economics—one of the subjects we studied, colleagues and I visited a weekly market—Nyakabirizi, in Bushenyi, Western Uganda. We got answers for all the questions we asked except one—market revenue collections. The Market Master, despite relentless persuasion, told us that that was a ‘Council’s secret’ he was not about to divulge to the public just like that! As I put this piece together, I cannot help but reminisce that moment. And it will, in a great part, help me to tell the story of Uganda’s Science, Technology, and Innovations (STI).
Nations and organizations have strategic secrets around innovations, but just like a woman who conceives a baby, in just a matter of time, if she successfully sustains her pregnancy, other people beyond those in her confines might sooner than later know—whether by the big bulge of her stomach or when the baby is born. Uganda’s STI Revolution is here and it’s real; it’s laden with gigantic opportunities for individuals and organizations who will proactively seize them, and Uganda’s socio-economic transformation—and I hasten to add, political fortification from external aggression.
Science is ubiquitous—everywhere and in all things: in the clean and cherished; as in the filthy and trashed. This is the science secret—reality that many people are oblivious to. And for this, many abounding opportunities pass either unnoticed or remain latent and unexplored. Yet people continue to grapple with challenges that, with science, could be pragmatically solved with treasures under their feet and around them. The current Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation—Office of The President, The Republic of Uganda, Hon. Dr. Monica Musenero Masanza, is one unquestionably impassioned about her docket. She explains STI with such precision that everyone should ably make sense of it: Science as knowledge—the systematic study and collection of data about how nature works; Technology as the practical application of scientific knowledge to create tools and production of goods and services; and Innovation as the application of knowledge and technology to solve problems. She is ‘pregnant with science’ and with Uganda’s STI Champion, President Museveni’s unwavering support, soon she might birth septuplets in purposeful multiplicity!
Uganda’s President Yoweri T.K. Museveni is quoted to have posed the question, “Why Do Nations Need STI?” and answered it with, “To Solve their Problems of Poverty and Underdevelopment” in many instances. And therein lies the reason as to why many national scientific exploits may not be sounded in trumpets. For nations which have made breakthroughs in STI: America; Israel; Russia; China; Korea; Malaysia and Singapore; etc., how much of their innovation has the world known until inevitably necessary?
And with all this ‘secrecy’, highly expectant citizens are perhaps justified to ask, “Where are your Works?” For obvious reasons Revolutionaries never make their plans known until they are executed! This is what I called, ‘Strategic Secrets’ earlier.
Openness in scientific investigations and innovations is a desirable ethos, but for such fears as relate to protecting countries’ priorities, global competitiveness, protecting intellectual property, compromising national or international security, and suchlike, keeping specific innovations secret becomes a critically inevitable and prudent move. Yes, for accountability concerns where national resources have been spent, it’s ideal, but, for similar reasons as to why national Security and Defence budgets remain classified, some strategic secrets may be maintained about national scientific exploits. Also, akin to conception, pregnancy, and childbirth, STI, too, takes some time from Ideation to Commercialization.