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Sunday, September 15, 2019

Luczon: Hatching the innovation potential for Mindanao

IN WESTERN countries like the Silicon Valley in the United States, the innovations forged in the field of Science and Technology (S&T), including Information Communication Technology (ICT), already have reached new heights, probably it's already in its pinnacle or the Golden Age in technology innovation.

In a much "advanced" countries, technological breakthroughs became part in the social fabric in their communities to the point, that they have began taking attention to people who work to sustain these technologies and innovations, rather than those who are hailed as leaders of the industry who discovered these technological marvels.

Some are calling them as "Maintainers," which is starting to gain traction among interdisciplinary fields not only exclusive to S&T and ICT that started in as an online conversation in 2015 and eventually became an gathering of minds in 2016, but how other socio-economic spectrum are affecting the tech industry.

"Many groups and individuals today celebrate 'innovation.' The notion is influential not only in engineering and business, but also in the social sciences, arts, and humanities. For example, 'innovation' has become a staple of analysis in popular histories - such as Walter Isaacson's recent book, The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution." The organization said in its website, themaintainers.org.

It continued that "the Maintainers is a global, interdisciplinary research network that takes a different approach, one whose conceptual starting point was a playful proposal for a counter-volume to Isaacson's that could be titled The Maintainers: How a Group of Bureaucrats, Standards Engineers, and Introverts Made Technologies That Kind of Work Most of the Time."

In an April 2016 feature from City Lab, Lee Vinsel, an assistant professor of science and technology at the Stevens Institute of Technology, reportedly noticed that the word "innovation" is overused that it has become less meaningful, worse, that it can obfuscate the bleak realities of the status quo. "In a culture where we forget about things like crumbling infrastructure and wage inequality, those narratives about technological change can be really dangerous," Vinsel said in City Lab's feature.

"Look no further than the income disparities and gender inequalities in Silicon Valley, which is often seen as a hub or cathedral of innovation," says Andy Russell, also a historian of technology at Stevens Institute of Technology, as reported from the same source material.

But in the Philippines, especially in the beloved Mindanao, conversations about "Maintainers" are still far off from reality for now because the development of S&T and ICT through innovative projects and its fulfillment remains to be seen, for many decades have passed. Yes, there were movements but these movements have yet to leap mountainous trail for it to become ideal with what is happening now in Silicon Valley or better.

So when the University of Science and Technology of Southern Philippines (USTP) in Cagayan de Oro launched an Innovation Summit this March 8, more than a potential to showcase the innovative works of students and the faculty to the public and its possible viability in actual use in the society, it is also a first step for Mindanao to gain economically through S&T and ICT products.

The summit will also serve as the grand launching of the Technology Business Incubation (TBI). Together with the TBI, the Technopreneurship Hub and Power Institute will also be highlighted, which comprised of the three major fields: Innovation in the Power Industry and Challenges Facing the Energy Sector, Make, Create, Innovate: Building and Strengthening the StartUp Ecosystem in Mindanao, and the Innovations on Food Product Development: The Science and Technology Breakthrough.

The TBI aims to assist start-ups by providing groups that have innovations with the potential of being commercialized the opportunity to receive support.

USTP-CDO Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation said that prior to the launching of TBI, each areas have been the researched and developed dating back to the early 2000s.

Many times I would lament that there were scientific researchers and technological innovations that are potentially groundbreaking not only in the premises of USTP but also in other schools that are worth the spotlight for the public to see, and for policymakers and government leaders to discern its usefulness in governance and economic use for the public. However, these were shrugged off the shelves and left forgotten until these student authors graduate and end up working in menial jobs or be part of a traditional system as a worker or laborer.

Through this Innovation Summit, may it break a cycle of how we perceive schooling or studying in the universities, more than just a stepping stone to work, but an avenue for investing in S&T and ICT products, and of course, create a meaningful co-existence with the "Maintainers."

The students have many promising inventions and we want to assist them by giving them a venue where they can talk with possible investors on how they can develop further the project," said lawyer Dionel Albina, USTP's director for Innovations and Technology Solutions, in a SunStar Cagayan de Oro report, March 4.

We are already in 2018, colleges and universities already produced so many graduates since World War II, and if you think of it, had our government been supportive in extracting and appreciating the researches and innovative works from the halls of academia and other industries, we could be seen as equal to other technologically progressive countries.

(nefluczon@gmail.com)
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