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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Science and tech park: Lessons from Taiwan

Remmy Nweke

PResident, Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Dr. Emmanuel Ekuwem, has said, Nigeria has lessons to learn from the evolution of Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) in Taiwan, mostly the economic growth through science and technology parks.

Speaking at the monthly meeting of the Institute of Directors (IoD) in Lagos on “IT and Telecomms: Veritable tools for Economic Growth” Ekuwem, who was represented by his vice president, Mr. Bayo Banjo, noted that industrial development in Taiwan came in sustainable stages with every decade having a different but related focus, which began in 1950s with the development of the consumer goods industry.

He also said, this was followed in 1960s by the rapid growth of the light industry, which included the export and industrial zones respectively.

By 1970s, Dr. Ekuwem who also is the Group Chief Executive, Teledom International Group, pointed out that the Taiwanese commenced by developing the capital and technology, coupled with intensive industrialization processes rooted in research organizations.

Development of hi-tech industries in Taiwan, he said, began with the emergence of science and technology parks.

For instance, he said, Hsinchu Science Park was established in 1980 with 650 hectares of land and focus was on semiconductors, Personal Computers (PCs), telecom, opto-electronics, biotechnology and precision machineries.

According to him, the science park has the mission to upgrade Taiwan’s industrial structure and accelerate economic development.

He further outlined the essentials in setting up science and technology parks to include encouraging innovations, supporting start-ups, spin-offs and small and medium enterprises schemes (SMEs), business incubators and eventually attracting what he called the ‘brain power’ home.

He explained that brain power involves those experts who have been trading their skills in advanced countries also known as brain grain, but accounts for brain drain for developing countries.

He emphasized that as at 2004, the Hsinchu Science Park has employed 101,832 cutting across all gender with 66.7 per cent of these employees’ college graduates or above, while over 20,000 hold Ph.D or Master degrees in their chosen fields and 4,340 returned expatriates established companies.

He, therefore, called for emulation of the Taiwan strategies in bridging her own digital divide through sustainable development in the ICT sector.

That way, he said, Nigeria would soon emerge as truly the giant of Africa technologically in no distance future.

Stressing that there is potentials for return on investment through building the park for sale or lease as well as through tenancy, even as equity participation in start up businesses like in SMEs, while offering avalanche of services across the ICT community, such as electricity, schools, recreation and social amenities, would all contribute to national development.

“Telecommunications is a means and not an end,” he said.

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