PC: I think that a good leader surrounds themselves with people who are better than them at lots of things. So if I surround myself with Deputy Vice Chancellors and Principals who are better than me in doing all of the things that my office has to do, and then you take that down to their level--they surround themselves with people who are better than them in the administration. And then you take it down to the next level, you’ve actually got the very best people, the most skilled and talented at the bottom of your organization. So it’s all about believing in those people and investing in those people.
PC: Rwanda is putting a lot of emphasis on knowledge based economies, but it’s also putting a lot of emphasis on future drivers for growth and human capital. If you look, most of the people in this country will be alumni of the University of Rwanda, they graduated from one of the former institutions. And a lot of people promoted to government positions are promoted from the UR. So we are able to have quite an influence.
LC: So can you tell us a little about the University of Rwanda?
PC: So in September 2013 the University became a legal institute, which meant that all the former public universities ceased to exist. At that time, we merged the seven public universities to create the University of Rwanda. There was a task team working for six months to create the University of Rwanda, writing the laws and some of the early protocols.
Philip Cotton grew up in South London before attending the University in Scotland. He went to Saint Andrews University before studying medicine in Glasgow. He began as a junior doctor in Glasgow, and continued to do his special training, master’s, and doctorate there--“So quite a boring person really,” he claimed. As a medical student, he… Continue reading Philip Cotton — Bio
LC: I wanted to get into one more big concern with the advancement of technology, which is that it causes and sustains wealth inequality. At some global forum in November of 2017 Bill Gates said that technology has a massive ability to accentuate the divide between the rich and the poor if we let it, and I was sort of shocked—hasn’t it done that already? How big is that man’s bank account? So what do you think is the key? What is tech’s role in wealth disparity and how do we tackle this cycle?
EL: We explained to Mark Emert when he became the UW president that there was this new form of computational science coming along, which was data science, and if UW is going to continue to excel we had to be good at that. To Mark’s enormous credit, he got this totally, and he managed to get us some seed funding from the legislature to bootstrap what became the eSciences institute. Because of the way we got that funding, we had a commitment to environmental oceanography, and here’s the story there...
LC: Do you think that data science and computer science have an image issue in popular culture—that they’re not portrayed as passionate and engaging endeavors?
EL: For sure, for sure.
How does one tackle that? The army has TV and radio ads all the time with people jumping out of planes saying “We need people who can do this.” How can the computational sciences compete with that, short of an overly-dramatic ad campaign?
LC: I want to talk a little bit about the kind of caution that’s necessary here. You’ve been pretty openly critical, as have many, of Facebook’s lack of responsibility regarding what’s on their platform and their inability to sufficiently monitor or control it. Do you think this is something that can be self-governed, that a community of computer scientists can decide to be more careful, or do you think it requires regulation of some sort?
LC: I watched one of your talks about King of Fish and at the end you said that the limiting resource in engendering change is not research, it’s the “human dimension.” I guess it’s obvious there’s a big disconnect between the research we have and the policies that are implemented. Can you talk about how that’s played out in your career and where you see a solution?