Engr Titi Omo-Ettu is a telecommunications engineer who cut his teeth in the old NITEL era. Yet, he is still very active in Nigeria’s current Information and Communications Technology, ICT development. He has at several times consulted for the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, giving insights on how engineering can enhance regulations.
Until recently, Omo-Ettu was the Board Chairman of the Digital Bridge Institute, DBI and only had to resign a few months ago allegedly for irreconcilable differences between his belief and the way and manner government appointees are driving ICT development.
As COVID 19 pandemic broke out and the world economy is worse for it, Omo-Ettu and his constituency, the Nigerian Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, NIEE, gathered online, via Zoom platform, to see how engineering can help salvage lost grounds after the locust period. They called it, COVID-19 and the Nigerian economy: The Engineers’ perspective.
But, before the meeting, we walked into Omo-Ettu’s mind and extracted his perspectives.
Why do Engineers have to meet in a purely health issue?
For me the responsibility of the Engineer is to solve human problems using the knowledge, laws, and resources of science and technology.
COVID-19 is one problem that caught the whole world unawares and unprepared. Engineers across the world were not also left out.
That is not to say whatever solutions that are required are impossible. If an engineer tells you any solution is impossible, please tell him that he is a liar. He is facing either one or all of three problems: It is either he does not know what to do, or he cannot afford the solution he knows, or he does not want to solve the problem
So, is this a damage control mission?
Since the pandemic waded into our lives it has taken away lives, diminished inter-persons’ relationships and took all economies of the world downwards.
In places like ours where the economy has never been strong it has brought the economy to its knees, not yet totally but ultimately so.
In Nigeria, many engineers and engineering schools have engaged in designing solutions to problems that came directly on the heels of COVID-19
As we speak, the four most common solutions that have been presented are hand washing and sanitizer dispensers, face shields, IR thermometers and ventilators. I say this with authority, and as a strong player in the Nigerian Academy of engineering which is now mobilising such efforts across the country for rapid production.
While those efforts are relevant to address immediate problems, my real concern is the need to prescribe solutions to problems that will arise after the pandemic might have hopefully subsided or contained to safe levels.
In other words, I want to do a forecast of the imminent condition and status of the economy at the end of the pandemic and what solutions engineers will need to provide to keep the economy relevant and sustainable.
Would your prescription be exclusive to Nigeria or global in nature?
For analysis, let us take the global economy for about a GDP of $140 trillion and consider that Nigeria has a GDP of $420 billion and that is already being bastardised by global oil consumption and price plummeting.
My take is that engineers should put their minds to designing solutions for post-pandemic Nigeria while the ongoing efforts to solve immediate problems are not ignored.
What are the interest areas for these solutions?
Respiratory Equipment, Personal Protection Equipment, Early detection Technologies, Environmental Infection Control and Personal Hygiene Engineering
On the balance,, I would suggest that Engineers are guided by prevention, detection and protection solution bases to make their solutions relevant and sustainable.
Why do you think your prescriptions are sustainable?
With what we’ve seen already, from the pandemic experience, there are reasonable grounds to forecast that Nigerians consumption pattern will shift to needs rather than wants.
Again, jobs are bound to be lost and there may be a rise in tendency to rob. So, solution users are going to be conscious of value for money and not just paying any amount for anything.
Regrettably, I cannot vouch for the improved public power supply but I hasten to say this is a problem of poor management rather than lack of technical capacity.
So, in a nutshell, regions in Nigeria should put engineering in priority of their choice of who governs them.
I bet, the South West region will see a considerable improvement in infrastructure build for the reasons that they have voted largely for Engineering to lead its governance.