Jive Media Africa, a multi-media* company located in South Africa and focused on Science and Technology, Biodiversity Conservation, Children in the context of HIV/ AIDS, and Human Rights, posted an April 30,2014 announcement on the company’s homepage,
Jive Media Africa is excited to be producing NanoNews, with Prof Janice Limson at Rhodes University. [emphasis mine] The project, initiated by the South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement (SAASTA) includes 12 monthly eNewsletters, 4 quarterly newsletters and a series of three “science – writing” training workshops in which scientists are being supported to write articles for the public.
The NPEP [Nanotechnology Public Engagement Programme] NanoNews project aims to bring together scientists and the public to create awareness and engagement with nanotechnology.
This appears to be the company’s third ‘nano’ project. You can find more about all three projects (NanoNews, nano posters for children, and a NANO facility tour at MINTEK and the University of free State [sic] (Solid State Lighting and Advancement Materials) on the Jive Media Africa Nanotechnology page.
I went to the NPEP website and was not able to find any newsletters despite the existence of that category on their navigation bar (left side of screen). It seems this contract for Jive Media Africa will result in a revived website (I wasn’t able to find any announcements dated after Feb. 2013). I did find this information on the About NPEP page,
The Nanotechnology Public Engagement Programme (NPEP) was launched in 2008. SAASTA, a business unit of the National Research Foundation (NRF), was mandated to implement and administer NPEP. The major aim of NPEP is to promote public understanding of nanotechnology and engagement with the new emerging scientific discipline. NPEP also assists in the translation of academic research in nanotechnology for the public, industry and the policy makers, being a service to these diverse groups of stakeholders. The NPEP was born out of the government’s National Nanotechnology Strategy.
Just as in every technology, public acceptance of nanotechnology is the key when it comes to commercially developed nanotechnology products, because ultimately, it is the end-users who will influence the trajectory of nanotechnology. It is inevitable that public perception of nanotechnology will be shaped by the news and information that the public receives about the technology, informing their attitude and behaviour towards it. This makes it necessary that adequate information about the technology is timeously provided to educate and enable the public to make informed decisions. Their involvement at this early stage is thus, imperative.
It is for this reason, among others, that the National Strategy has identified one of the key initiatives in supporting the vision of the strategy as ensuring that the implementation of the strategy occurs in a manner that fosters open debate and public access to information. This, therefore, necessitated the development of a communication programme, the purpose of which is to inform, educate and engage the public with nanotechnology and its potential societal impact.
In trying to find some more information about Prof Janice Limson and her involvement with the NPEP programme, I found a published paper in the November 2013 issue of Nature Nanotechnology (Focus issue: Nanoscience education),
An education in progress by Tebello Nyokong & Janice Limson. Nature Nanotechnology 8, 789–791 (2013) doi:10.1038/nnano.2013.235 Published online 07 November 2013
The article, behind a paywall, provides a comprehensive overview of nanoscience education in South Africa. As a Canadian, I find the notion of an integrated national nanoscience education programme provides an interesting contrast to the situation here (there are programmes in various provinces but there is not an integrated strategy even within a single institution of higher education except possibly for the University of Waterloo in Ontario) in Canada.
The article had this to say about the NPEP programme,
The Department of Science and Technology, through its National Nanotechnology Strategy, established a Nanotechnology Public Engagement Programme, implemented by the South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement in 2008. Its major aims were to communicate nanotechnology to a diverse range of stakeholders — the general public (including scholars), industry and policy makers. Before its establishment, SANi served in this capacity through a national nanotechnology newsletter, a vital communication tool in the established nanotechnology academic sector. The recently launched NanoNews, published through the Nanotechnology Public Engagement Programme, has gone one step further by training postgraduates as writers to communicate nanotechnology beyond their peer communities in a bid to encourage and evolve another generation of nanoscientists.
There’s one last bit I want to share and that’s the article’s perspective on nanotechnology/nanoscience on the African continent,
It is clear that South Africa is leading the rest of the African continent in the field of nanoscience and nanotechnology, as illustrated by its rankings in relevant scientific outputs. However, there is a danger of a ‘nano-divide’ emerging in Africa with respect to the rate of development and application of nanoscience and nanotechnology. This divide is perhaps to be expected for developing nations with broad social and economic circumstances. With this in mind, workshops by the United Nations Institute for Training and Research held in Nigeria have actively encouraged discussions specifically around nanotechnology and manufactured nanomaterials for the benefit of all African countries. Central to these discussions is the raising of awareness regarding the use of nanomaterials and of precautionary approaches. In other partnerships, the University of Cape Town’s NIC is at the centre of a Nano-Power Africa network that is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which aims to develop indigenous solar-cell technology. The network currently includes South Africa, Botswana, Ethiopia and Rwanda.
I’ve been thinking about this notion of a ‘nano divide’, a concept I had accepted unthinkingly, with a little hesitation since reading Dexter Johnson’s Oct. 10, 2013 posting (on his Nanoclast blog on the IEEE [Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers] website),
A recent article in the venerable Financial Times proposed a sort of nanotechnology equivalent to the oft-mentioned “digital divide (the idea that the benefits of digital technology appear to accrue to the wealthy while the poor are left out). At issue in the article is whether developed economies and poorer nations are separated in their respective access to nanotechnology.
So, is there a nanotech divide?
The answer probably lies somewhere between “yes” and “no,” depending on the metric you use. But I would argue that nanotechnology has been one of the most egalitarian fields in technology history.
He goes on to make some telling points. I think one of the major telling points in Dexter’s argument is that the ‘nano divide’ won’t be like the digital divide. While I haven’t yet marshalled my resources to develop a logical counter-argument, long experience of human nature tells me that a ‘nano divide’ is not only possible but likely.
One final observation. The reference to USAID (US Agency for International Development) seems amusing and sad in light of the recent ‘scandale’ concerning that agency’s attempt to create an alternative to Twitter in Cuba without admitting to its involvement. For anyone unfamiliar with the ‘scandale’, here’s an April 8, 2014 posting by Mike Masnick on Techdirt.
*’miulti-media’ corrected to ‘multi-media’ on May 13, 2016.