We are highly honoured to bring to you another insightful, informative and intellectually intuitive interaction from The Readers Hub on our SOCIAL MEDIA MONK session.
On 6th June 2020, The Readers Hub hosted one of its members on our SOCIAL MEDIA MONK handle. It was adeptly moderated by Dr. ELIAS KUUSANA. The thematic concern of the discourse was dubbed: The Role of Technology and Technological Transfer in The Pursuit of Socio-economic Transformation of Ghana.
The global political and socio-economic space is undergoing speedy growth. Globalization is developing substantial unique and dynamic challenges and some opportunities as well. Its impact is considerably driven by a breakthrough in multiple development areas on national economies in science and technology including space research, biotechnology and energy development among many others.
Science and technology play an exceedingly prominent role in the world. These disciplines are dynamic and pervasive and influencing the cultural, economic, law, and political milieu. Science has proven to be a systematic venture that shapes and establishes knowledge in the form of verifiable predictions and explanations on the global developments.
Indeed, a compendium of reliable predictions and ideas that can be rationally and logically explained. In fact, research has shown that technology provides answers to some of the challenges that took place in the world. Science has become so ubiquitous that it affects human development in all facets of our life, including the economy, law and the political arena.
The above developments notwithstanding, most developing countries are lacking behind when it comes to research and investment in science and technology. This invariably affects our socio-economic output and the general life of the people, which eventually stifles development in the long run.
Tonight, THE READERS HUB is pleased to have one of its ardent Readers to take us through the role of technology and technological transfer in the pursuit of the socio-economic transformation of Ghana.
It is worthwhile mentioning that, our resource person for tonight over the years has worked in the area of Law and the economics of technology transfer within the context of Intellectual property rights. He has a rich academic career as a political scientist and is currently in an advanced stage of his studies for a PhD in Law.
Ladies and gentlemen, please help me welcome, Dr. HAKEEM TAHIRU (Dr. Tilapia)
Dr. Elias: my brother, you are most welcomed to THE READERS HUB Social Media Monk session tonight.
Dr Hakeem: Thank you, brother, Dr Elias Kuusaana. It is a huge privilege and honour to be given the opportunity to share a few ideas and participate in a discussion on technology and technological transfer. I must say we thank Allah and look forward to an exciting discussion with the power of technology (WhatsApp).
Dr. Elias: It is a pleasure! Our Readers are so eager to hear from you. So, to begin with, when we say technology, what does it really mean to a layman?
Dr Hakeem: Technology means many things to many people. Majority of the people see technology as machinery. Indeed, more engines and physical equipment. However, the term originated from two Greek lexicons. Thus, Teche andlogos. They were combined to form the word Technologia. The Teche means art, skills, craftwork etc. and the Logos means an expression of inner thought. So Technologia or technology in English version means the means by which our inner thoughts are expressed in craftwork, art and skills.
Economists see technology as any technical knowledge that augments the efficiency of labour and capital and improve the quality of total factor productivity. Engineers understand it to mean know-how. In law, technology is treated from the point of property rights which arise from intellectual labour.
However, for the purposes of our discussion today, we adopt the economic perspective of technology and treat it in the context of intellectual property rights/law. In fact; technology is mostly a combination of tangible and intangible components.it can also be exclusively intangible.
The tangible component is the physical machine or equipment we can see and feel. The intangible component is the know-how, the tacit knowledge, which underpins the production of the physical component. Be that as it may, our interest in this discussion is the intangible knowledge. So technically, the intangible knowledge or know-how is what we consider as technology.
Dr. Elias: That’s quite comprehensive! How is technology generated?
Dr Hakeem: Technology is generated either through a deliberate process of investment in scientific research and development (R&D) leading to discoveries and inventions or through accidental discoveries and inventions. It can also be generated through the accumulation of technical skills or knowledge over time. Technology can also be generated by private individuals and companies in response to social problems or in their quest to capture an existing technology market. Technology transfer in a general sense is when an investor or owner of a technology (transferor) exchanges his technological invention or know-how with transferee based on agreed terms.
However, in intellectual property law, technology transfer is the transfer of patent rights or technology rights from the licensor to a licensee based on agreed terms. This may involve payment of royalties to the licensor by the licensee. Technically, technology transfer is deemed to be completed when the transferee has the capacity to fully apply the technology without the help of the licensor. Thus, the licensee should be able to add-on or modify the technology or reproduce the technology without seeking further help from the licensor.
Dr. Elias: What is technology transfer, and why is it relevant to transfer technology?
Dr Hakeem: Technology, as indicated in your open remarks, permeates every facet of our lives and activities. It determines which country is in effective control of its sovereignty, its national security, its natural resources, and its currency and economy. It determines which countries take centre stage of global politics and market space. Indeed, technology determines which countries will do well in the attainment of the SDGs.
It also determines which countries will recover faster from the economic and social ramifications of COVID-19. It dictates the trading partners of countries. For instance, African countries are unable to trade among themselves because they produce primary and homogenous goods almost all the time.
And even at the company level, technology also determines which firms can survive the market competition and expand their market/investment frontiers. It determines which companies will survive COVID-19, especially in hard-hit countries. For instance, through online sales and financial technologies, Amazon is not feeling the heat of COVID-19 compared to other smaller companies
Taking it a step further, at the individual level, technology determines whether the degrees and qualifications we have today will be relevant tomorrow and whether we need to go back to school to learn new programs to survive the demands of the job market. Technological products such as WhatsApp, Facebook, and other digital technologies have given so much power to individuals to hold governments accountable. We all saw the power of the camera in George Floyd incident. In fact; technology can be deployed to fight crime and enforcement of law. For instance, the use of CCTV by the security at some vantage points to detect lawbreakers.
For these reasons and more, the transfer of technology is very crucial for every country, every company and individual needs to improve our technical skills and capacities to stay relevant in the face of the eminent Digital Age Revolution.
Most countries apply their IP laws, local content laws, trade laws, immigration laws, employment laws and contract laws, among others to acquire technology from exogenous sources. Some also engage in spying and cyber-warfare in their quest to transfer technology. This is the extent to which technology transfer is relevant.
Dr. Elias: The discussion is getting more interesting and yet complicated. We can be more specific in Ghana now. Why have all the technological and industrial revolutions eluded Ghana and Africa for that matter?
Dr Hakeem: interesting question, my brother. As are sitting here to discuss today, the world is currently in the 4th technological/industrial revolution and transiting to the 5th revolution. The 4th revolution is called the Digital Technology Revolution, and the 5th is a little but significant improvement on the 4th – with the advent of AI and 5G technologies. The 3rd revolution was triggered by ICT and the internet. The 2nd was triggered by electricity and discovery of oil to replace firewood as source energy and the 1st was caused by the steam engine invention.
That was around the 1760s and 1770s. But the question remains, why have all these revolutions eluded Ghana and Africa? If we ask many Africans, many of us will blame it on colonialism and slave trade. This may be partly true because the slave trade was abolished at a time the world was going through the 2nd industrial revolution. Yet, the thousand-dollar question is; what prevented us from reforming our grammar-centric and Guggisberg educational system upon attaining independence?
The painful truth is that in Africa, we are not technology conscious. Almost all the countries in the world, blessed with bountiful natural resources are not doing well in technology development and transfer. We have cultivated an inventive culture. We are not intellectually curious enough
Dr. Elias: That brings as to the next question. Ghana is blessed with natural resources. Does it matter if we do not have technology?
Dr Hakeem: Brilliant! (Smiles)In fact, it matters a lot. We have two main kinds of resources in economic production, thus natural resources and human resources. Clearly, one is superior over the other. We are never in control of our natural resources if we are not enthused enough to develop the technical capacity to extract and process them. We are blessed with colossal amounts of natural resources, but we are still importing everything that we have in their raw form. We need technology to regain control over our natural resources
Dr. Elias: Do you really think Ghana can ever become a technologically advanced country?
Dr Hakeem: Hmmm! This is a very critical question. I will say yes, we can do it. But not with our current institutional structures and legal frameworks for technology transfer. Ghanaians are very talented and genius people. However, we have failed to tap our creative potentials because of systemic malfunctions embedded in our cultural, institution and legal settings. We keep looking left whilst our most gifted and skilful labour is lost though the right from brain drain
Dr. Elias: Exactly what have our institutional or legislative frameworks got to do with technology transfer?
Dr Hakeem: We have bits and pieces of technology provisions in some of our various laws in Ghana, but we do not have a substantive and comprehensive technology transfer legal framework. The GIPC Act embeds some provisions on technology transfer, but it is not detailed enough and not designed in a manner that can induce technology transfer.
Besides, we also have the local content law in the oil industry, but that is industry-specific legislation for technology transfer. Apparently, the current regimes in Ghana, as compared to what I have come across in other countries, are not suitable to induce technology generations and transfer. In my candid opinion, intellectual property and technology transfer are not well developed. For instance, the Indians have formulated and institutionalized several legal frameworks in pursuit of development and technology transfer.
They had the Technology Policy Statement since 1958; they promulgated the Research and Development Cess Act (1986) which prescribed incentives, awards, funding and infrastructural schemes to stimulate R&D and technological innovations in India
Dr. Elias: Can you highlight on the economics of technology development and technology transfer in Ghana in line with this Indian example?
Dr Hakeem: on the economics of technology transfer at the epicentre of economic growth theorization from the classical economic paradigm to the neoclassical economic paradigm. Economists have postulated several theories and models on technology progress. For want of time, let’s keep to the neoclassical paradigm.
An Economist, known as Robert, is noted to be the first to introduce technology into the production function. Before Robert Merton Solow, we produce as a function of capital and labour. Something like this: Y = F (K*L), where Y= output, K= capital and L = labour. Indeed, Robert Merton Solow, it was, who discovered that technology is one of the factors of production and so he introduced the production function as: Y = F (AK*L) where A= technology. However, he didn’t get the entire concept right because he treated technology as an exogenous variable which is subject to diminishing returns. The New Growth came to revolutionize the economics of technology and technology transfer, and that was Paul Romer and his contemporaries.
Romer and others discovered that technology is mainly generated by a private individual but has the character of the public good. Romer further argued that technology is an endogenous production variable, not exogenous variable as Robert Merton Solow posited. His research underpins how modern technology transfer laws are designed.
Dr. Elias: Now that we know there is a whole paradigm and discourse on the economics of technology, let’s be practical in Ghana again. What kind of technology does Ghana need, and how can we model our legal system to transfer such technologies?
Dr Hakeem: The technologies we need to engender a robust economic growth are not those that are freely available in the public domain. Most of the technologies we need are those that are generated through systematic research and development. Technologies that give the capacities to improve on our service delivery, to improve public education in terms of techniques needed for effective teaching and learning and technologies for processing our raw materials
Bassing A. M. A. Kamal
1. In what way(s) do you think Ghana can be revolutionized with the Digital Age, especially in the educational and economic sector?
Dr Hakeem: Thank you brother Kamal for your brilliant question. We need to treat ICT as a priority in our educational curriculum in the first place. We also need to improve infrastructure for training IT experts and engineers, to be able to develop our own digital technologies e.g. apps and software, to process our national data. We rely on external too much, and this can compromise our strategic and sensitive national data.
For the sake of national security, we need to build our own capacity on technology. Isn’t it funny and yet worrisome that we are importing external digital devices to conduct our national elections but without any solid idea on how they were designed? It is also usual to build a strategic partnership with countries like India, which are more specialized in IT.
We are now moving into an era where we attend lectures through virtual digital platforms like zoom; MS collaborate etc. We need to train both students and lecturers on digital technologies. It all requires investment and the political will to sacrifice for the future generation of this country.
Dr. Elias: There is a perception that the acquisition of technology can exacerbate the youth unemployment situation since technology often displaces/replaces human labour. To what extent is this perception true?
Dr Hakeem: It is true to some extent. But the adoption of new technologies brings about the need for training without which some workers will be rendered redundant. The developed countries are more concerned about job losses because of the emergence of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and 5G internet technology. AI is coming to replace human labour because AI technologies cannot be affected by COVID-19; AI will not go on leave or go on industrial strike or demand for the increment of wages, etc. Clearly, the transition to 5th technological revolution threatens jobs.
Interestingly, in our side of the world, we are not thinking about AI yet (smiles). For instance, the adoption of the computer technology rendered the typist and the typewriter obsolete but created jobs for IT technicians, and lecturers as well as IT products vendors. It always requires retraining of labour to meet the skills demanded in the job market after adopting new technologies.
Dr. Elias: What happens to the future of Ghana’s economy if we remain technologically dependent on foreign countries and Foreign Direct Investors?
Dr Hakeem: Great! Remaining dependent on Foreign Direct Investors (FDI) is what we are doing now. The need to begin developing our own technological capacities cannot be delayed any further. Indeed, it will be suicidal because our population is increasing; the youth unemployment rate is escalating, and we are getting poorer and poorer day by day, our vast natural resources, notwithstanding. It only requires a consistent, systematic and deliberate process of human capital accumulation of technical skills and knowledge over a decade or two. Our dreams of Ghana Beyond Aid and industrializing Ghana can never be materialized without technology.
Dr. Elias: What do you recommend Ghana should be doing now to unlock its technology transfer potentials beyond these?
Dr Hakeem: Fantastic! We need to build a robust technology and IP institutions. We need to value talents and skills by taking measures to avert brain drain. We also need to establish a research and development fund to finance talents and research in our academic institutions. We need to reform our education system to priority funding and investment for the study of science and technology programs. Again, we need to foster collaboration between the industry and academia on technology research, development and transfer. Finally, we need to start thinking of how to develop a comprehensive National Innovation System
Dr. Elias: It has been a long journey, yet very revealing and educative conversation on technology and technological transfer and its socio-economic transformation in Ghana with you sir. Can you share with us your last words, please?
Dr Hakeem: Ghana, our beloved country, as a matter of urgency, needs to move away from the culture of material wealth accumulation to a culture of knowledge and skills accumulation. We have not been able to delve in matters of intellectual property rights. Hopefully, in future, I should be glad to discuss the IP aspects.
Dr. Elias: Thank you, Brother Hakeem, for keeping us on this learning track throughout the night. As a country, I am certain that we still have a lot to do when it comes to leveraging on technology as a tool for our transformation. Even though some progress has been made, we have a long way to go. On behalf of THE READERS HUB, we are very grateful for your time.
Dr. Elias: To our audience, this is where we draw the curtains down to today’s SOCIAL MEDIA MONK. I hope you did enjoy the interaction and have taken some useful lessons. Until we meet next week, I wish you all a good night.
NB: NB: Please don’t forget to share after reading for others to also benefit.
HUB EDITOR: Bassing. A.M.A.Kamal