By T’soloane Mohlomi

Lesotho will need to gear itself up more robustly with advanced research and innovation tools should it be able to withstand modern challenges posed by global socio economic factors. This was concluded over a three day Southern African Development Community (SADC) research and innovation symposium held last week in Maseru. The event dubbed Strengthening Research and Innovation Management (SRIM) II, with the first instalment (SRIM I) having being held in Pretoria, South Africa last year, was itself on and under the auspices of bridging the collaboration divide in research and innovation management.

This event was attended by dignitaries from SADC countries including Directors of Science and Technology from South Africa, Malawi and Lesotho respectively. Leading Universities namely; the Limkokwing University of Creative Technology (LUCT) Lesotho, the National University of Lesotho (NUL) and Botho University (BU) were the main stakeholders. Within the symposium experts articulated that Lesotho was still way behind and efforts needed to be taken to ensure the country reaches a commendable position with regards to its research and innovation methodologies. This was said to be essential in mitigating the impacts posed by unplanned pandemics like Covid-19.

Commencing on the scheduled date, the main workshop was held by the Commonwealth Secretariat led by Mr Joshua Setipa. Mr Setipa in opening emphasized the importance of the Kingdom of Lesotho and its SADC ccounterparts in finding relevant solutions to their own problems rather than adopting a previous style of implementing alien solutions which would not in turn yield positive results.

Within the symposium experts articulated that they should indeed when seeking to find answers to their sometimes complex African solutions, try by all means to find solutions which are relevant to their own ecosystems. It is essential to start with that in the Ministry of Science and Technology they need a unit of energy transfer, as even in the past countries like Taiwan, Turkey, China and others which were big players in the manufacturing industry were cognizant of not undermining environmental standards and issues important for the wellbeing of all citizens. Setipa added that Institutions of higher learning like the LUCT and NUL had a paramount role to play in ensuring this happened.

 “Innovative orientated universities in our country like LUCT are therefore very instrumental and can be key drivers in assisting to provide researched industry solutions which are relevant to our issues,” he said.

Highlighting the importance of research and innovation for countries’ readiness when tackling atrocities which can sometimes cripple the economic wellbeing of any state; an avalanche of technological advancements which are potential solution providers and instruments were introduced to workshop participants with experts detailing their importance with analysis of how they have fared in the past.

Among the science and technologies discussed, were modern advancements such as augmented realities, artificial intelligence, block chains and other new technological advancements like software’s such as Chat GBT which is a computer application that can among other things using a question and answer format engage in conversations with its user for a more specific result. With agriculture being a huge contributor to most economies or a proposed alternative for other states in order to combat famines and so forth, an instrument known as the agricultural data infrastructure was discussed and most importantly to combat the effects of drought, drought monitoring tools, like the SPEI Global Drought Monitor were recommended, to enhance modified responses when faced with the probability of drought.

Data science was also discussed and said to be important and essential for African countries to be better prepared when monitoring the weather. Open data or content which is data available for everyone to use, reuse and distribute it subject to measures that regulate it were also encouraged and played a huge part in the dialogue.

Most importantly, innovation in government was highlighted on with the host in the European city of Vienna Austria, ways of altering procurement like Electronic Government Procurement (EGP). Within EGP enhanced national public tender platforms are available. The use of procurement app, operational e-tolls and the uses of digital auctions and e-catalogs were also encouraged. Within innovation in government, the system applied are meant to identify a problem, find a solution, find out what is needed and use artificial intelligence to regulate government procurement processes.