INNOVATION-FROM STONE AGE TO DIGITAL AGE IN 30 YEARS


FROM STONEAGE TO DIGITAL AGE IN 30 YEARS LEAD:
After the military takeover of 1971, Uganda was like a car raving backwards in reverse gear on four burst tyres towards the stone age through sticky mud with a drunken driver.
The country lost the capacity to manufacture the simplest of implements and most domestic consumables had to be imported. It has been three decades of rebuilding the country’s technological capabilities and the results can now be seen.
The neo-colonial military government and subsequent fascist regimes together spent 15 years trying to push Uganda back into the stone age until the people’s National Resistance Army drove them out of power in 1986.
Many things that had gone wrong had to be corrected and resurrecting the country from its technological grave was one of them. For example many Ugandans had learnt to chew sugar cane as they took their ‘dry’ tea. Sugar refinery had to be revived.
Even basic undertakings like the construction of decent houses were no longer possible and decent senior civil servants considered themselves lucky if they could locate a garage to rent and raise their family in it.
The private housing sector had to revived through the production of building materials
The metallurgy industry has been growing, starting with the melting of scrap metal, onto modern steel rolling and finally to the resumption of iron ore processing.
The manufacturing of plastic products has taken off in the past thirty years saving the country the indignity of having to import very basic requirements, and also strengthening the construction industry.
But development must come with the responsibility and the government has enforced the ban on plastic shopping bags that were threatening the environment and sanitation.
Transport is key and the country has made strides in boosting the motor industry. Already, Uganda has been manufacturing car batteries for several years now.
The country is also working urgently to develop its vehicle design and manufacturing capabilities. Kiira Motors, born out of the presidential initiatives at Makerere university, has already developed an electric car concept that has been tested. Among the people who have already driven in the Kiira Electric Vehicle are Yoweri Museveni and the Inspector General of Police, General Kale Kayihura. Kiira Motors is soon launching it Kayoola solar bus which is supposed to help solve the congestion in Uganda’s urban areas.
Technological advancement does not come here by osmosis just because it has taken place elsewhere, but is attracted by clearheaded leadership and favourable government policies that attract innovations.
Uganda has been able to tap into the advancement of digital technologies through linking Makerere University to top research institutions of the world through innovations like ilabs.
Ilabs enables students to conduct research using facilities in developed countries without leaving Makerere, and they have since been able to develop amazing digital applications some of which are already in use.
The presidential initiatives at Makerere have also enabled Ugandan brains to innovate and developing solutions to the country’s technological challenges. Notable among these is the work of Dr Moses Musaazi, who has made innovations ranging from biodegradable sanitary pads for girls to light concrete building materials for storied buildings.
In this year’s graduation, Makerere University awarded 64 doctorates in engineering fields. Ugandan researchers continue with their groundbreaking innovations. At the end of January 2016, a Ugandan researcher Dr Annette Nakimuli presented her phenomenal discovery – a hitherto unknown gene only found in African women which is responsible blood pressure complications during pregnancy that causes most maternal deaths in Africa.

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