Clash of the intellects

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

University of Botswana on 11th June 2019 invited experts to deliberate on an academic debate aptly titled ‘Research and Data for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): Are we doing enough’.

Among the four panelists invited were Statistician General Dr Burton Mguni, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology (MoTE) Dr Kekgonne Baipoledi, University of Botswana (UB) Acting Vice Chancellor Professor Happy Siphambe and Botswana Institute for Development Policy Analysis (BIDPA), Associate Researcher Ms Lilian Mookodi.

Delivering his argument Dr Mguni posited that there is a huge opportunity in big data, he submitted that daily data is available citing an example of data at the disposal of many that is accessed through mobile devices. He however decried the infringement of confidentiality as a possible hindrance to the usage of the same carte blanche.

Dr Mguni propounded that of the 158 Global Indicator Framework that are relevant to Botswana, Statistics Botswana has concise and comprehensive data on a staggering 55 making 34.8% which although admirable he admitted more still needs to be done.

When fielding questions from the audience he described as near impossible to have real time data available all the time but said automated process make life a lot easier and Statistics Botswana has embraced modern technology in its projects.

For his part, the Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tertiary Education Research Science and Technology, Dr Kekgonne Baipoledi said as a ministry they have pulled all researchers to network and come with a research agenda.

Dr Baipoledi disparaged the tendency to work in silos and called for a more synergized effort that will turn Botswana in to a research giant. UB Acting Vice Chancellor Professor Happy Siphambe buttressed the point and said the gap between researchers and policy makers should be closed.

Prof suggested that the University should not primarily be involved with teaching but also invest resources in research. BIDPA Associate Researcher Ms Mookodi said research should be tailor made to make impact in society. She expressed her worry at the limited number of women in decision making.

The University of Botswana said that they will announce the next round of discussions and would like to make the exercise a more regular activity.