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Embracing ICT: Simple Solutions On How Liberia Can Eclipse Disadvantages in the 21st Century

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Emmanuel Johnson, is a Fulbright scholar and current National Science Foundation fellow who is a candidate for PHD in computer science with a focus in artificial intelligence at the University of Southern Califorina. He holds a masters in Robotics from the University of Birmingham and graduate suma cumma laude with a degree in Computer Engineering from North Carolina A&T State University

Liberia lacks many of the core infrastructures and services offered in the developed world. As we look to improve and enhance the living conditions of our citizens, we must provide students with the skills and necessary abilities which allows them to compete on the international job market. One of the critical work forces that all countries need, especially in the digital age is a strong group of professionals in the science and technology field.

This is even more important due to the latest success in artificial intelligence and automated system. A recent report from Oxford University shows that automation will replace many jobs on an international scale.

As such, countries like Liberia cannot take approaches similar to China and India where  you outsource menial jobs to developing countries in hopes that those low paying task will offer companies abroad a cheap work force and provide a source of income for the locals.

The reason this will not work in the future is due to the advent of automation doing away with the need of low skill labors. Liberia’s approach must be to create a workforce that can compete on the global market.

This requires quality education and training in the most in-demand and progressive areas. As the country lacks skilled professions in progressive fields such as robotics, artificial intelligence and other 21 century skills, we will need to utilize online learning platforms and teleconferences to help bridge the gap. Virtual reality and online learning platform like MOOCs, provide a scalable and low cost solution.

By leveraging these technologies, we can create virtual labs which allow students to engage with new ideas without the need and high cost of building physical labs spaces and buying expenses equipment.

What I am proposing is a research program as well as a center which allows us to bring the newest learning technology to Liberia in order to speed up the development of the country’s science and technology workforce. The benefits of these systems is that they allow us to circumvent the lack of skilled teachers without leaving them jobless.

We can utilize teachers who may not be well verse in these spaces to simply monitor student learning and make sure they are on track with the online program. Through the research component, we will continuously gather data and reiterate on the design and delivery of our programs as we see fit. This will allow us to address the limitations of the students as well as the needs of the Liberian economy:

 

  • Provide access to research databases and scientific magazines as well as train students and professors on how to use these resources. This would involve providing a hub with reliable internet  connection in order to access resources, as well as purchasing various licenses to different scientific publications which are not freely available online.

 

  • Develop a virtual training program which allows scientists and researchers globally to connect and teach students at Liberian institution. This could be in the form of video conferencing, telephone calls or some other means of communicating. The goal is to provide a convenient way to bring in key industry contributors and experts to train Liberian scientists and provide an avenue for them to discuss and review new research and other ideas explored in research database. This program will  utilize opencourseware, video tutorials, and teleconferencing to teach students about emerging fields such as data science, artificial intelligence, blockchain technology etc., and how these technologies can be used to support Liberia’s scientists.

 

  • Provide support and resources for students looking to study abroad. There are institutes such as the African Institute for Mathematical Science which provide workshops and other programs students can utilize. With the appropriate financial support, students can better build their capacity in emerging fields

 

  • Develop a pipeline of international researchers for students to gain internships and other exposures to the cutting edge science and technology advances going on throughout the world.

 

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