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, women and persons with disabilities) 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.
Secondly, as the cradle of civilization and birthplace of humanity, Africa has earned a unique place in history. However, due to its complex and often tumultuous history, Africa has yet to live to its potential of becoming an active participant in modern science and technology development. It is without a doubt, that Africa possesses the human capital and natural resources to increase its contribution to technological and scientific advancement, nevertheless, challenges remain for Africa to fully participate in the advancement of technologies and scientific achievement that will define the 21st century.
As is the case with the United States and the rest of the industrialized world, scientific achievement, technological development and innovation are the engines that fuel economic growth. This economic growth bolsters capital investment, which in turn aids infrastructure development and promotes prosperity. Consequently, for Africa to truly become a fully developed continent and to enjoy both economic growth and genuine social welfare, it must invest in developing its scientific and technological base.
It is in this vein that many African countries such as Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa are nowadays leading the charge in science and technology development in Africa. As a result, technology and innovation hubs have recently 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, national and often international challenges. In doing so, they are often in essence 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 as hardware and software solutions: routers, modems, mobile transactions, coding and the creation of apps are providing real time solutions to real time challenges. The benefits from such technological innovations are palpable and ubiquitous: including greater communication with better access to the internet and cellular phone service, more efficient financial transactions for individuals and businesses, improved health care delivery, and the development of more stringent cyber security, just to mention of few. These are all currently becoming an integral part of the daily lives and reality of many Africans.
Finally, today, traditionally underrepresented science African groups such as girls, women, rural and economically disadvantaged populations are gradually becoming greater participants in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), thanks in part to remote technologies and the concerted effort of individuals, community leaders, policymakers, corporations and non-governmental organizations on the ground who work diligently together in promoting science literacy and technological access for all.