Many Universities in the developing world do not offer courses in Robotics.They usually have a futuristic view on this subject. For instance, last year after I blogged about the robotic age and its ethical problems, I received some great feedback from Prof Emanuele Micheli who works at the School of Robotics in Italy. He was interested in setting up a collaboration project on Roboethics with my University (Malawi). I told him that for a start, roboethics was just too advanced for a developing country like Malawi because robots are not common. I went on to say that, instead, we could concentrate on the application of robotics in a developing country scenario then focus on roboethics in the second phase.
After the email exchange with Prof Michelli, I contacted colleagues at the University of Malawi and a few other Universities in Southern Africa to seek their views and to map out the way forward.I did this because I knew that I was going to leave the country a few months later. Therefore, I felt that this initiative had to be broad based for sustainability purposes.The response was, however very bad, maybe, because most people still think that it is too early for developing countries to go into robotics research. I remember someone saying, “Robotics! Za chani zimenezo?” (Robotics! What for?)
My view is different.Developing countries have to embark on robotics and automation in full force now, not tomorrow, if they really want to transform their economies.Some intelligent students who are interested in robotics and automation are failing to achieve their dreams because of the absence of robotics related courses in the universities’ curriculum. Universities must be on the forefront of robotics initiatives by doing the following:
- Introducing courses in robotics and automation
- Creating links with Robotics research institutions from the developed world
- Participating in Robotics related conferences
- Carrying out consultancy in robotics applications
- Sensitizing the public on the potential of this technology
- Advising government on robotics and automation related issues
I work on Computational intelligence based tools for Communication Networks. But I am seeing myself getting connected with robotics researchers and industrialists more and more. My IEEE mentor is a Robotics/Computational intelligence researcher. Here, in Japan, where I am studying, people start building robots from a very young age. Japan is the Land of the Rising Sun. But it is also a Land Robotics. In our lab, a good number of students are applying computational intelligence techniques to robotics and as result I am somehow flirting with this kind of research. After my current research work, I might end up as a computational intelligence/robotics researcher.