When communication scholars proffered solutions to science, technology, innovation

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It was a gathering of who’s who in the world of communications technology recently as they robbed mind on the way forward for effective communication. OKECHUKWU ONUEGBU reports.  

The world is currently driven by Science, Technology and Innovation (STI). From productions to consumptions, industries, arts, agriculture sectors and other economies, there are emerging new but creative ways of actions and inactions, among opportunities. STI have indeed become domineering powers for transformations and developments across all sectors and professions.

Developed and developing countries seemed to be tapping from these innovative opportunities either slowly or with speed with a view to change their fortunes economically and otherwise. Little wonder, the United Nations in 2013 viewed them as engaging opportunities to focus on as they are continuously evolved and influenced by structural shifts in the world economy, the steady globalization of innovative activity, the rise in new actors and new ways of innovation. 

However, communicating science, technology and innovation to the masses appeared to be difficult, underutilised, under-reoorted or unattended to by communication scholars, journalists, government institutions and general public. Many are still not utilising STI to positively change their industries, businesses, communities and others. 

Hence, scholars all over the world are worried and seriously engaging on several academic discourse to encourage better, positive and increased reportage of STI because it requires urgent attentions and collaborations.

Gathering of the ‘generals’

It was on this note that African Council for Communication Education (ACCE, Nigeria Chapter), tailored its 23rd Annual International Conference and Annual General Meeting (AIC/AGM) on ‘Communicating Science, Technology, and Innovation in Times of Economic Distress, Terror, and a Pandemic’. Nigeria is one country in the developing world where fake news, misinformation, disinformation and other vices seemed to be gaining more attentions on the new and mainstream media rather than solutions which STI came to solve.

The event hosted by the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra state between January 24 to 27th 2023, drew scholars in Mass Communications,  Journalism and Media Studies, and related courses across federal, states and private tertiary institutions nationwide.

Speakers dwelt on need for effective comminication 

Delivering an address, the immediate past national president of ACCE, Professor Nnamdi Tobechukwu Ekeanyanwu, explained that the theme of the conference was apt in the light of recent developments in the country and the world at large, adding that it would also enable the efforts of the government agencies, scholars, ACCE, town and gown (lecturers and media practitioners/journalists) on STI to yield positive results.

According to Ekeanyanwu, “Nigeria and many other African nations continue to struggle in their development march because science, technology and Innovation have not been adequately recognised as agents of any meaningful development agenda. Nigeria, in particular, is a nation of several paradoxes: resource rich but poor country; a country of talented, vibrant citizens but still grappling with teeming unemployed people; a population rich in Diaspora exploits but struggling at home.

“Conditions are worsened by bouts of terrorists attacks from bandits, separatist groups, dissident agitators and religious extremists. Add these to the distressed economic times spawned by years of political mismanagement and corruption as well as the debilitating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the troubling environmental/food/climate crises. It becomes apparent that solutions must be sought, urgently too. Some of the solutions lie in science, technology and Innovation.

“This conference is both apt and timely as it is purposed to interrogate the place of science, technology and Innovation including the emerging ones such as genomics, biotechnology, synthetic biology, artificial intelligence and robotics, Nano-science/technology; in the resolution of Nigeria’s security, food, health, environmental as well as economic crises. More specifically and importantly, this conference seeks to explore, examine and dilate in all relevant parameters, the dimensions in which journalism, broadcasting, new media, public relations, films , advertising, communication education/research interface with STIs to enact a remediation of the aforementioned development crises in Nigeria and other developing countries.”

Welcoming the scholars, the vice chancellor, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Professor Charles Esimone, represented by Professor Joseph Ikechebelu, described communication as the life-wire of every community, including human, animal and plants.

“Communication, as means of exchanging information by speaking, writing, electronics or other media is the life-wire of any community; human, animal or even plant communities. But let us leave aside the latter two. I believe that the purview of ACCE is Africa, and it is in that context that I see the theme of this conference. 

“Many decades after the demise of colonialism in Africa, many African countries, including our country Nigeria, are still lagging painfully behind in all indices of development, in spite of being endowed with abundant natural resources, giving rise to the so-called resource curse. Even in the best of times we have been unable to keep pace with the latest developments in science, technology and Innovation.

“This unfortunate, but self inflicted predicament is exacerbated by the extant economic distress, terrorism and pandemic, sweeping across many African countries, Nigeria not exempted. 

“I therefore see this conference as an appropriate forum to come up with recommendations that could redress this regrettable situation. For this, the ACCE has the unenviable herculiar task of inducing in the political leaderships the disposition and the will to carry out recommendations made for the good of society vis-a-vis the theme of this conference,” he added.

The lead paper presenter, Associate Professor of Science, Technology and Media reporting, University of Uyo, Dr Herbert Batta, who discussed the conference theme, opined that the recent unbundling of Mass Communications into eight courses was in order but argued that addition of Mass Communications to it (which currently makes it nine) needed to be revisited to better achieve the general objectives of the unbundling.”

Batta further recommended more research, workshops, brainstorming and training of media practitioners and communication scholars on STI and other emerging opportunities in order to assist the National Universities Commission (NUC) develop world acceptable or impactful courses in the various departments of the newly introduced Faculty of Communication and thereon, effectively produce wealth creators from among their potential students.

The chairman of the occasion and Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academics), Paul’s University, Awka, Professor Stella Okunna, thanked the ACCE for the theme of the event, which she said would help to scholars proffer solutions to the myriads of challenges facing Nigeria, including insecurity, collapsed economy, terrorism and COVID-19 pandemic.

She urged scholars to maximize the inherent opportunities that abound in STI to advance their career and scholarships, while proffering possible solutions to save Nigeria and the world at large.

In an address of welcome, the Head, Department of Mass Communication, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Dr Cornelius Ukwueze observed that communication scholars and media practitioners hold the key to Nigeria socio-economic development through effective and professional communicating of science, technology, innovation and other societal issues.

Also speaking, the UNICEF represented Dr Ijeoma Onuoha, expressed optimism that the unbundling will contribute immensely in increase reportage of child rights related issues, which accordingly to her, was undereported in Nigeria and other parts of the world.

Other distinguished scholars also charged universities and polytechnics ready for implementing the unbundled communication disciplines to kickstart the process immediately without waiting for the deadline or other institutions to take lead, even as they insisted that specialised courses should be developed in accordance with relevant environmental, cultural and developmental issues facing the institutions host states/communities.

On his part, the former President of ACCE, Professor Danjuma Gambo, urged unity and more sacrifices among their members to confront those he described as the enemies of the country that disseminate fake and malicious reports, through increase scholarly works and attendance to events for overall wellbeing and promotion of peace and unity of Nigeria.

The three day-events which also enabled the delegates to peer-reviewed several research articles that centered on the theme of the event, including COVID-19 related, social media, robotics, artificial intelligence information dissemination, new media, and photojournalism; equally witnessed inductions of one Associate Member, 161 Scholars and 32 fellows among whom were Professor Ekeanyanwu, Professor Okunna, Professor Ifeyinwa Nsude, Professor Abdalla Uba Adamu, Professor Jonathan Aliede, Professor Ike Ndolo, Professor Aniefiok Udoudo, Professor Rotimi Williams Olatunji, Professor Musatpha N. Mallam, Professor Daniel Omatsola, and Professor Umaru Pate.

It also witnessed elections of Professor Abdullahi Bashir Saleh as the new ACCE president. Abdullahi is the deputy director Centre for Distance Learning, Modibo Adama University (MAU) Yola. Other elected officers of the Council were Professor Ezekiel Asemah, Vice President; Dr Ibituru Pepple, Secretary; Dr Santas Tsegyu, Deputy Secretary; Dr Comfort Okwella, National Treasurer; and Dr Obiorah Edogor, Director of Public Affairs.

Speaking on behalf of the new executive, Professor Bashir thanked the council for the opportunity accorded them to serve, even as he  sought the support of all to transform the council beyond what was handed over to him. 

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