Posts Tagged ‘developing world’

Where are all the engineers? The developing world needs YOU!

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

Are you an engineer looking for your calling? If so, you don’t have to wait much longer. The Science and Development Network recently broadcast some very somber news based on the first ever international report on engineering. There are simply not enough engineers in the developing world, and this appears to be stifling growth. The UN Millenium Development Goals require an increase in standards of living in the developing world, and this is not achievable without innovative engineering feats.

What the heck are UN Millenium Development Goals?

The UN Millenium Development Goals are a set of eight lofty goals adopted by the UN to eliminate poverty and alleviate life in developing nations across the globe. These include the following:

1. End poverty and hunger
2. Universal Education
3. Gender Equality
4. Child Health
5. Maternal Health
6. Combatting HIV/AIDS
7. Environment Sustainability
8. Global Partnership

As an engineer, you can readily see how you could potentially influence every goal stated above. These goals have a deadline of 2015, and progress has been slow. Additionally, the lack of engineers who are really influencing things on the ground is appalling.

How bad is it?

Well, the report uses developed nations as a benchmark. In these nations, there are about 20 – 50 engineers per 10,000 people. Now compare this to 5 per 10,000 in most developing nations, and less than 1 in certain African nations!

What can engineers do? Well, the three basic necessities of life are typically fulfilled through large scale engineering – we are talking about food, shelter and sanitation.

Several innovations through engineering are required to solve the problems faced by over 1.1 billion people on a routine basis.

Why are we missing so many engineers?

The shortage appears to be a consequence of a simple lack of interest and a lack of engineering academies. Of course, it is also simply possible that people are not aware of the feats that can be achieved through engineering. In general, when reports and studies are commissioned through the UN, the recommendations for major investments and course corrections are made. Ideally, these recommendations if followed, can solve the problems of course. However, smaller changes can be effected quicker on the ground.

Meeting the challenges

There are, of course several ways to bell the cat or meet the challenges as an engineer. There are several opportunities for you as an engineer. Let us take a look at a handful:

1. Engineers for a Sustainable World

Engineers for a Sustainable World is an example of an organization that can bring together students, engineers, teaching professionals and others to work towards a sustainable

future in both developing and developed nations. Started in 2002, the US based non-profit organizations makes key connections between student teams and local communities to

drive success through a curriculum based approach.

Take a look: http://www.esustainableworld.org/index.cfm

2. Engineers without Borders

This is a more international organization, with chapters in several countries across the globe, working towards the same goal – a sustainable future fostered through engineering. Of course, like every other organization worth it’s weight in gold, they have their own mission and vision that I encourage you to check out:

http://www.ewb-international.org/index.htm

3. Social Entrepreneurship

Of course, ESW and EWB (abbreviations for the organizations mentioned above) are two of the major resources I was able to find online. Aside from these organizations, there are several large and small organizations that are popping up every day. They all have a common goal in sight – solving social problems through entrepreneurship. Whether you start one or volunteer with one, or join one, there are several resources such as business plan contests through Universities and other organizations that allow you to compete with your plan for a better future, win some money and hit the ground with innovative solutions.

4. Spread the passion

Are you finding satisfaction in your career as an engineer? Then maybe it is time to spread the passion. While it is understandable that organizations such as the UN would like to inspire engineers locally, an engineer can solve a problem from anywhere. Moreover, there will always be the challenge of issues such as “brain drain” where young engineers could potentially find satisfaction in financially lucrative pastures. Given this, you could inspire a student to consider an engineering career.

Of course, we have the image of a “mad scientist” through fiction and lore, but not one for a “mad engineer”. So, inherently, taken negatively or positively, engineering is not considered to be one of your brightest options out there.

Reinforcing a positive view of engineering

Whether it is in the United States or anywhere else in the world, you will have opportunities to motivate young engineers. For example, I spent the past weekend volunteering with Splash, teaching middle school and high school children about cancer research, being green and associated career opportunities. You can find out more about Splash here:

http://www.learningu.org/

Essentially, you should explain to people what it is that engineers do and why it is “cool” to be an engineer. This will motivate more children to think about using engineering as tools to make the future always a bit better than the present! May the developing world see more engineers.

References:

1. UN Millenium Development Goals: http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/

2. The SciDev network article on the missing engineers: http://www.scidev.net/en/news/lack-of-engineers-stifling-development-says-report.html

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