Calestous Juma: A STEaPP Tribute
18 December 2017
Our work in the Department of Science, Technology
Engineering and Public Policy (STEaPP) at UCL has
drawn on and been inspired immensely by thoughts and works of many yesteryear
and current innovation, technology, public policy and development scholars,
among whom Prof Calestous Juma stands tall. It was indeed with a deep sense of
loss, shock and disbelief that we got to know of the passing on of Prof Juma on
Friday, December 15th.
Many colleagues in our department have worked
closely and remotely with Calestous on science, technology, innovation and development
issues in the last few to several years, and we all singularly and collectively
have memories of an accessible, inspiring, pragmatic and game-changing thinker.
From working with him on Freedom to Innovate: Biotechnology in
Africa’s Development; taking his classes at Harvard Kennedy School; to interactions
with him in many forums globally on issues relating the roles that innovation
could play in shaping global development – one always got the sense that from Calestous there was so much more to come. And indeed there was. Calestous’
insightful reflections would take you backwards and forwards and leave you with
a much richer understanding of the present.
A couple of months ago, when we
were looking for a book that would help our doctoral students to critically
interrogate and situate current and future innovation and development trajectories,
his 2016 book, Innovation and Its Enemies: Why People Resist New Technologies
– felt like it had been written specifically for us! But then again, that was
the flair and impact of Calestous’ incisive thinking and writing ability which
enabled his work to reach and be relevant to different audiences globally.
So much has been and will be said about Calestous and his contribution to the thinking, practice and roles of technologies and innovations in human development, but among these contributions what stands out for us is the impact that a single individual can make through passion, relevance and persistence. So much to learn, even for institutions, old or new. Adios Calestous.