Published : 05 November 2019
Last updated : 05 November 2019
Ministry of Communication, Science and Technology
Ladies and gentlemen
Let me at the outset express my sincere appreciation to the Government of India for inviting me to the India International Science Festival and the city of Kolkata for the warm and friendly welcome and hospitality.
National science festivals are indeed an expression of the cultural importance of science and technology of a nation. All around us today we witness this. The vibrance and energy here at this festival is a testament to the importance of science and technology in the Indian culture. It is clear evidence of the strategic positioning of science and technology in the development agenda of Prime Minister Modi for India.
India, the civilization that introduced the mathematical digit ‘zero’, one of the most important inventions of all time, is now a space faring nation. Rifath Sharook, the 18-year-old from Tamil Nadu and his team of youngsters is a perfect example of this. They made history with Kalam SAT, a 3D-printed Femto Satellite, with eight indigenous built-in sensors, designed to demonstrate the performance of 3D-printed carbon fibre. A true memorial to the spirit and life of the former Indian president Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam.
Today we face the shared challenges of climate change and sustainable development. Global warming and subsequent changes in climate not only mean sea level rise but also changes in patterns of winds that bring monsoon in Asia. They are changing the patterns of rain and snow across the globe, making drought and unpredictable weather the new norm.
Since ancient times, the Maldivian people have organized their lives around a calendar of Nakaiy, comprising a series of thirteen or fourteen day intervals, each with a predictable weather pattern. Every year brings two monsoons, Iruvai, the north-east monsoon and Hulhangu, the south-west monsoon. This calendar used to determine the best times to fish, travel or cultivate crops. But today, climate change and extreme weather is disrupting this.
This is the new reality of life. This is the context in which we have to deliver development and prosperity to our people. The key to ensuring sustainable development in the face of climate change lies in energizing, mobilizing and empowering youth with Science, Technology and Innovation (STI). We need to harness the youth dividend and empower them with STI today.
In the Maldives, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s government has set targets to increase renewable energy in the national energy mix by 20% by 2023 as compare to 2018. Reduce fuel usage for electricity generation by 40 million liters and increase renewable energy storage capacity to 30 megawatt hours.
The government’s policy is that by 2023 all new public infrastructure projects shall have provision to install renewable energy and energy data is up to date and reliable and utilized for policy making.
India has shown us that solar power need not be expensive.
The costs of building large-scale solar installations in India fell by 27% in 2018, year-on-year, thanks to a combination of low-priced foreign and indigenous technology, abundant land and cheap labor. And average solar prices from these large-scale installations in India were less than a third of Canada’s, according to the World Economic Forum.
Under the new government’s development agenda, we shall establish the Maldives’ National Science Foundation (NSF) to foster the culture of research and development. It will set the national research agenda and provide grants for research and development.
Enabling higher education institutions and the private sector towards research and development and drive the society from being consumers to creators is central to our policy in enabling the youth dividend in the Maldives. To this end, our Ministry will play a pivotal role in mainstreaming science, technology, engineering, and mathematics into our formal and informal education systems.
In particular, we shall be establishing a national level working group on Women in Science and Technology. To ensure equitable and accelerated national development, we need to make sure that girls and women are empowered and take part in national development. Gender parity in science and technology is not only vital for sustainable development. It is also a critical element for creating a flourishing culture of innovation.
The world of work is changing. With the onset of the fourth industrial revolution, the skills required for tomorrows economy is not the skills which drove us to success in the 20th century. Work requiring manual dexterity, endurance and precision, or requiring memory, verbal, auditory and spatial abilities, are already on the decline. While analytical thinking, innovation and active learning skills are increasingly becoming more sought after.
Tomorrows leaders will need creativity, originality and initiative. We need to move away from technology installation, maintenance, technology use, monitoring and control. We need to steer our young towards the local and global value chains with technology design and programming skills, critical thinking and analysis and complex problem-solving skills.
India has demonstrated time and again that doing science and utilizing technology and innovation for development can be done even in the developing world context. That youth can be inspired and empowered with STI to seek out a future of prosperity. Rifath Sharook, the 18-year-old, satellite developer and many other youth creators from India and other parts of Asia attest to this. This festival is one of the best platforms towards creating a culture of STI and enable the youth dividend with 21st century skills. Engaging public with science and celebrating the joy of science. And demonstrate how science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) can provide us with the solutions to improve our lives.
At a time when half of South Asia’s youth are projected to leave school without the necessary skills for the 21st Century, according to the latest UNESCO data, this initiative by India is timely and critical. We plan to emulate these good practices in the Maldives and look forward to working with India and regional partners in the coming years to ensure that our youth are ready for the changing world.
Given the huge opportunity of our increasing youth population, we in South Asia, should rise as the STEM capital of the world. In this endeavor we should be partners headed to the same destiny.
We are delighted to note that we have signed an MOU with the Government of India on Science and Technology collaboration. We look forward to activating this platform towards achieving such common goals of mobilizing youth dividend by preparing them with the skills for the 21st century.
In addition, we would also like highlight the ITEC programme by the Indian Government. This is another avenue which can be further enhanced towards skilling our youth and connect them across South Asia.
With the right policy frameworks, enabling environment and regional partnerships, we believe, even a small island developing national like the Maldives can effectively empower the youth dividend to create new possibilities.
Finally, let me take a moment to thank the Government and People of India and Prime Minister Modi, for their friendship and assistance to the Maldives. India has, for many years, been a keen and engaged partner in the Maldives’ national development. We look forward to further invigorate our friendship with India in developing science, technology and innovation towards empowering the Maldivian youth.
Let me end my remarks by inviting India to Maldives. I would like to invite Indian Tech companies to invest in the Maldives. A country with a GDP per capita of $12,000 and with a good economic growth.