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Why the US & Why Africa?
African Scientist

Founded in the fall of 2006 in Chicago Illinois and since its inception, ISTG has been striving to promote STEM (Science Technology Engineering & Math) in traditionally and historically US science underrepresented groups (namely African-Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians or other Pacific Islanders, and women) and in Africa (principally economically disadvantaged populations, rural populations, girls and women). Like many, ISTG has observed glaring similarities and unique parallels

(at various levels) between STEM underrepresented groups in the US and their counterparts in Africa, in terms of the challenges they face and possible solutions. It is to that effect that ISTG has decided to focus its efforts and resources both in the US and in Africa, in addressing these similar and common issues of STEM underrepresentation and lack of infrastructure amongst these aforementioned groups, in the hope of providing comparable, tangible and long lasting solutions.

Why the US?

Firstly, in the US, African-Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians or other Pacific Islanders constitute approximately around 30 percent of the population and this number is expected to reach 40 percent by 2050, yet in 2011 as a group they earned only roughly around 12.5 percent of all Engineering bachelor degrees granted. In addition, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, African Americans accounted for only 2% of PhDs granted in STEM fields, this compiled from data taken toward the end of the 2,000-decade. These, in effect, are staggering numbers considering African Americans accounts for approximately 12% of the U.S. population.

Additionally, while nationally the chronic science underrepresentation of the aforementioned group persists, internationally US students in general lag behind their international counterparts in math, science and reading, evident by the result of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)’s PISA 2012 (Program for International Student Assessment), administered to 15 & 16 year olds, in which 29 countries scored higher than the US in math, 22 had higher test scores in science and finally 19 countries performed better than US student in reading.

Concomitantly, the 2012 report entitled “Transformation and opportunity: the future of the U.S. research enterprise” by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) clearly stipulates and recommends that: (1) a greater emphasis and focus should be given to the American scientific and technological innovation; and (2) more government funding should be allotted to research and development (R&D) as a greater share of gross domestic product (GDP). Finally, outlined in the February 2012 PCAST report “Engage to Excel” are recommendations to improve undergraduate STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education as a mean to increase overall STEM participation. This report also states that by 2018 the demand for new STEM jobs in the US will reach 1million (92% of those jobs will require some type of training and level of college education STEM fields).

As such, as a national imperative, it is important to increase the quality of STEM education for all Americans, but it is crucial that vastly underrepresented in STEM segments of population (African-Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians or other Pacific Islanders, and women) by able to participate more actively in science and technology at every levels from studies, academia, professions, policymaking and industry.

Many policymakers, academics, industry members and non-profit executives believe that STEM underrepresentation of these aforementioned groups and the lack of diversity in studies, academia, professions, businesses and policymaking have implications that go beyond the economic realm and that diversity also plays an important role culturally and socially. Fortunately, most agree that research, innovation and entrepreneurship are key drivers in the economic development engine and that STEM underrepresentation and lack of participation of certain groups have to drastically improve as a concerted national imperative.

It is in this objective, that ISTG via its many initiatives and programs has joined the effort of closing the digital gap and increasing the participation in studies, academia, professions and businesses of these abovementioned US science underrepresented groups.

Why Africa?

Secondly, in terms of Africa, as the cradle of civilization and birthplace of humanity, Africa has earned a unique place in history. However, Africa's complex history has contributed to its disproportionally low participation in modern science and technology development. Therefore, the challenge remains for Africa to fully participate in the advancement of technologies that will define the 21st century.

As is the case with the United States and the rest of the industrialized world, scientific and technological development helps fuel economic growth. This in turn aids infrastructure development. Therefore, for Africa to truly become a fully developed continent, it must invest in developing its scientific and technological base.

Many countries such as Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa are leading the charge in science and technology development in Africa. Technology and innovation hubs have sprouted throughout Africa and have become common places and nexuses where technologists, innovators, entrepreneurs, investors and communities at large converge and work in unison solving joint local, and often national and international challenges. In doing so collaboratively, they are often in essence are behind the driving force spearheading the next generation of technological advances and infrastructure which contributes to the socio-economic welfare and development of Africa.

Indeed, technological advancement such hardware and software solutions: mobile transactions, mobile healthcare, coding and the creation of apps are providing real time solutions to real time challenges including improved communication, greater access to the internet, more efficient financial transactions for individuals and businesses, improved health care, and cyber security to mention of few, are becoming part of the day to day life and reality of many Africans nowadays.

In addition, today, more traditionally underrepresented science African groups such as girls, women, rural populations and economically disadvantaged populations are gradually becoming greater participants in STEM, thanks in part to remote technologies, and the concerted efforts of individuals, community leaders and organizations on the grounds, policymakers, corporations and international organizations (non-profits) such as ISTG who work together diligently in promoting science literacy and access for all.

It is well known that Africa's rich natural resources including gold, diamonds, and platinum have made it very attractive to foreign investors. It leads the world in production of gold and platinum, which aside from their worldwide ornamental appeal, are critical elements in many areas including material science, space exploration and electronics. This means that Africa is essential to the world's continued scientific and technological development. Furthermore, improving both scientific and technological education and infrastructure development in Africa increases humanity's potential to improve the world. That is, by helping to enable just a few percent of the roughly 1 billion minds inhabiting the continent to fully participate in the development of the next great technological and scientific breakthroughs, cures for virulent diseases and the production of renewable energy sources could become realizable within our lifetime. This translates to millions of new minds with fresh perspectives contributing to tackling the world's problems through science and technology. Thus, tapping into the enormous potential energy Africa holds not only benefits the countries that comprises it, but promises to improve the lives of the rest of humanity ... scientifically enabling Africa improves the world!

2011 The Innovative Science & Technology Group (ISTGTM)