The Minister for Communications, Innovation and Digital Economy, Dr. Bosun Tijani, has urged tertiary institutions in the country not to limit their programmes to the acquisition of university degrees but to emphasize the application of knowledge to create opportunities and innovations to solve societal problems.
He stated this while delivering the convocation lecture heralding the 33rd Convocation ceremony of the Federal University of Technology Akure, FUTA on the 16th of November 2023. Tijani said irrespective of lack of proper funding, academic institutions can look within and find the capacity to generate knowledge in ways that it can move the society forward. He added that for technology to thrive, “we cannot be consumers of technology alone we have to be builders of technology” which means academic institutions must as a matter of urgency embrace innovations and entrepreneurship.
He said, “We live at a time where our world is going through tremendous challenges like the pandemic in 2020 which changed the world significantly. Other challenges like food insecurity, poverty, climate change, public health issues are all problems that we have to deal with today. And the implications of this are that the world is demanding for those with access to knowledge and technology to help find solutions to solve these problems and generate new insights on how to tackle them. We all know that insights and new knowledge come from academic and research institutions. Most apps and social media platforms like Google, Yahoo and verbframe were research projects from doctoral dissertations of universities like Stanford University”. He urged Nigerian Universities to continue to guide their undergraduate and postgraduate students on the path of innovations and product development.
Dr. Tijani said, “For Nigeria to develop, it’s youths cannot afford to be white collar job seekers alone, they have to be creators of jobs and academic institutions must encourage students to do so. You cannot apply technology deeply without building a strong workforce”.
He stressed the need to raise the quality of life of Nigerians by the application of innovation and technology in the areas of crop production, forestry, livestock production and fishery to ensure that Nigeria can continue to grow as nations can only measure development through the GDP which is an aggregate of all the business activities in the society. “This means the more we engage in these activities the more the possibility of living a prosperous life”. He said.
The minister added that there are three key ways of calculating the Gross Domestic Product and that they are classified under three sectors namely agriculture, manufacturing and services. He said for Nigeria to grow, there must be ongoing activities in those sectors.
The lecturer harped on the importance of taking diversity seriously. He pointed out that “we’ve come to understand that any society that is led only by a particular gender or that doesn’t take into consideration those that may not have resources to participate fully or those who are disabled, will struggle to develop. It therefore behooves on academic institutions to maintain diversity which is why institutions like FUTA who have female Vice Chancellors are privileged.”
The minister recommended the setting up of research management facilities that will be responsible for commercializing research in institutions of higher learning. He said “applied research involves getting people to use your solutions. The best way to learn is through practical experience of people interacting with the solutions that we are putting out there. Developed nations spend so much money on innovation and that’s where their development comes from. The government is willing to support innovations that can contribute to the growth of the country.” Dr Tijani said while there are barriers, there are multiple opportunities to inspire the change that we want to see in the society especially through selfless service and value addition.
In his concluding remarks the minister said “we all desire that Nigeria must be prosperous. If we have a prosperous nation, there will be peace, security, good health and the vulnerable in the society will not suffer so much. We can’t have a society that’s prosperous without builders and this is why the challenge lies with beneficiaries of quality education and exposure to take up the responsibility to become the builders that Nigeria is asking for. We must find a way to contribute to the development of this nation.”
In her remarks, the Vice Chancellor, Professor Adenike Oladiji, said “the significance of the lecture cannot be over-emphasized as nations all over the world are preoccupied with economic prosperity; and the fundamental catalysts for socio-economic growth and national competitiveness are Research and Development.” She said the main aim of research is gaining knowledge which in turn aids in nation building.
According to her, “it is heartwarming to note that FUTA has been at the forefront of technological advancement and has maintained a leadership position as the Best University of Technology in Nigeria for almost two decades.”
Professor Oladiji expressed optimism that the occasion would translate into collaboration between FUTA and the Ministry for the good of the country and its technological advancement.