We have all admired the advanced technologies in movies, the hologram computers, the space satellites, the high-tech weapons and at one time we have all redirected our minds back home to reflect on our country’s position on the world’s technologically developed countries. The result of that always leaves a dulling effect in our minds. Well this is an attempt to assess what is really on the ground in terms of technology and whether or not Zimbabwe is centuries behind the developed world, like they say. Is the word “century” here an exaggeration or it’s really a substantiated fact? Nonetheless that still implies we are way behind in technology. If this is true, how then do we catch up with the rest of the world? Or we might as well content with the fact that we are behind till our Lord comes back.
As for what is on the ground, the developed world has really made some tremendous progress, from the gadget that you are using to read this post, to space exploring equipment, to the top secret stuff in the military, to the stuff they are only now still showing in the movies. We know that some of what appears in the movies will eventually come out into reality.
One simple factor that determines where our technology is in relation to others is how much we budget for Research and Development (hereafter referred to as R&D). The countries that we often compare ourselves to are world leaders in budgeting for R&D. The table below shows percentages of the world’s money that will be spent on R&D in 2013
Share of Total
|Rest of World|
|Source: Battelle, R&D Magazine|
Just 3 continents’ budgets, America, Asia and Europe add-up to 94.3% of all the world money targeted for R&D. The rest only adds up to 5.7%. In other words these three continents are putting 94.3% focus into developing new technology while the rest of us, added together are putting 5.7% focus.
European Commission’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), a framework aiming to improve and encourage technological advancement in Europe through R&D budgeted € 50 billion for the period 2007 to 2013. The following 2014 to 2020 framework, Horizon 2020, has budgeted £60 billion, a 23% increase over FP7. Meanwhile the US maintaining its first position in financing R&D work is budgeting US$69.6 billion for non-defence 2014’s R&D which is a 9.2% increase over that of 2012. So in short the developed world is allocating more and more money towards R&D, and so should we if we want to keep up in technology.
In 2012 Zimbabwe allocated an annual share of $US1.5 million for R&D which we must admit will not take us very far in catching up with the 1st world in developing cutting edge technology. And as the gap between the money allocations for R&D for 1st world’s and for the 3rd world gets bigger and bigger that is how far the 3rd world is being left. So if R&D budget was directly proportional to technological advancement the statement, “Zimbabwe’s technology is centuries behind …” will be an understatement instead this statement would be truer, “Zimbabwe is infinitely behind.”
One fact in all this is that 3rd world countries are struggling with poverty and as such cannot really afford to make new gadgets, operating systems, video games etc. when people are dying of hunger and diseases that can be cured. Hence our budgets are targeted more towards poverty alleviation than on any major scientific development.
Well at least one consoling factor in all this is that after all the economic hardships and subsequent brain drain Zimbabwe has gone through it still comes out number 10 on African countries list of the technologically developed. This is according to a study conducted by the Africa Business Panel. Our southern neighbour though, South Africa comes first in that list, while Nigeria, comes second. Below is the top-ten list:
- South Africa
It should be said that for a country with the highest literacy rate in Africa there is gigantic potential for technological growth.