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Scientists Advocate Technology's Role in Achieving Millennium Goals

A wide view of the opening of the Millennium Development Goals Summit, as Kasit Piroma (on screens), Minister for Foreign Affairs of Thailand, delivers remarks, in New York, 20 Sep 2010

Scientists from more than a dozen West African countries discuss how technology can help meet Millennium Development Goals.

World Leaders are gathering in New York this week to discuss the United Nations Millennium Development Goals - a set of objectives that range from cutting child and maternal mortality to halving the number of people who go hungry by 2015.

But at a recent gathering in Nigeria of journalists and scientists from more than a dozen African countries, participants lamented the lack of importance that technology and science have played in achieving these goals.

Dr. Umar Bindir, the director general of Nigeria's National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion, spoke about the role science should play in development at the First Regional Workshop of the Science Journalism Cooperation.

"We must make sure our science is connected to technology, and our technology is connected to products, to processes to know-how," he said. "This is how we are going to take the future of this continent in our hands. This is how were going to solve problems. This is how we're going to insure jobs are available for our children and children's and colleagues.

Bindir stressed that of the eight MDGs that have been laid out, the most essential is to halve poverty. But he added that a lack of available statistics makes it extremely difficult.

"And for you to be able to do that, you must be able to know the poverty levels that you have first, quantitatively. It means that you have to conduct surveys; you have to document the elements of poverty. How many people are not drinking clean water, how many children cannot go to school? What is the capacity of the agricultural system? What is the strength of the institutions to actually get people educated, and so on and so forth," said Bindir.

In Nigeria, where the conference was held, more than $6 billion has been spent on MDGs in the past four years, but 70 percent of the population still lives in poverty.

UNICEF adviser for water, hygiene and sanitation in West and Central Africa, Chris Cormency, said Senegal is one country that has used technology to make some of these improvements.

"They have really done some innovative things in Senegal for water," he said. "Well I think one of the things they have done is they have sort of tied in some of the new I.T. initiatives, cell phones into their monitoring, so they are able to keep really high functioning rates of their water points. Because they have set up systems that at the village level can be used to transmit information on a broken pump for example."

Bindir said, despite advances such as those in Senegal, "the road from our laboratories to the industry remains too long."