High-qual­ity re­search holds the key to SA’s fu­ture

CityPress - - Business -

With­out the nec­es­sary re­search and sup­port, South Africa’s eco­nomic and aca­demic pros­per­ity are doomed to fail­ure.

Re­search through post­grad­u­ate study is likely one of the most im­por­tant com­po­nents that can make or break a coun­try’s econ­omy. South Africa will in­evitably have to do more to fur­ther its lev­els of ex­per­tise, par­tic­u­larly in spe­cialised fields such as en­gi­neer­ing, health sciences, nat­u­ral sciences and ac­count­ing.

With­out such ex­per­tise, a coun­try’s econ­omy can at best func­tion poorly. In essence, it is the role of re­searchers to come up with novel in­no­va­tions to even­tu­ally make our coun­try more com­pet­i­tive, de­velop new job op­por­tu­ni­ties and cre­ate wealth.

By do­ing re­search, we ex­pand the bound­aries of knowl­edge. If not, our coun­try will not progress and will re­main stag­nant.

Think about all the re­search that has been done to date and still has to be done in the field of in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy. It seems never-end­ing. Cut­ting edge in­for­ma­tion re­search speeds up com­mu­ni­ca­tion and in­creases the pro­duc­tiv­ity of busi­nesses and em­ploy­ees, which in turn re­sults in in­creased turnover and profit, and, con­se­quently, a pos­i­tive at­ti­tude.

If South Africa fails to de­velop its full re­search po­ten­tial, but other coun­tries do, we sim­ply will not be able to con­tinue trad­ing at a com­pet­i­tive level. The up­shot will be that more prod­ucts that can be pro­duced cheaper else­where will need to be im­ported, re­sult­ing in do­mes­tic job losses.

In a de­vel­op­ing coun­try such as ours, re­searchers are in­clined to fo­cus more on re­search in ap­pli­ca­tions aimed at find­ing in­stant so­lu­tions for mam­moth chal­lenges.

In many in­stances, we use the ba­sic re­search of First World coun­tries, make ad­just­ments and ap­ply such re­search to our unique sit­u­a­tion. In the con­text of a de­vel­op­ing coun­try, our re­searchers are there­fore on the right track – for now.

We still have an enor­mous con­tri­bu­tion to make in terms of solv­ing so­cioe­co­nomic and po­lit­i­cal is­sues, de­vel­op­ment is­sues, poverty and ca­pac­ity build­ing. But our re­search must con­cen­trate more on com­mu­nity re­search.

The im­ple­men­ta­tion of re­search, par­tic­u­larly where it con­cerns com­mu­nity prob­lems, means ac­tive in­volve­ment with the com­mu­nity, jointly reach­ing a con­clu­sion and find­ing a so­lu­tion to the prob­lem, and pos­si­bly mov­ing to a sec­ond phase of im­ple­men­ta­tion.

Re­search out­puts in our de­vel­op­ing coun­try are not yet in the same class as those of de­vel­oped coun­tries, for var­i­ous rea­sons.

I be­lieve we can do much more to in­crease qual­ity re­search out­puts. Schools, ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tions, gov­ern­ment and the pri­vate sec­tor are some of the role play­ers that can take our coun­try’s re­search to new lev­els.

Do­ing this is our duty if we want to es­tab­lish a bet­ter, more com­pet­i­tive, more suc­cess­ful South Africa. – Pro­fes­sor Her­man van Schalk­wyk is North-West Univer­sity’s rec­tor on its Potchef­stroom cam­pus

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