By George Achia
When he first joined Parliament in 2008 as a Member of Parliament (MP) for Emuhaya Constituency through a by-election after the Emuhaya seat fell vacant in parliament following the election of the then MP Kenneth Marende as speaker of the National Assembly , Dr. Wilber Ottichilo was clear from the onset that his legislation duties would be science-based approach.
Prior to joining the Parliament, Dr. Ottichilo had made remarkable achievements as a scientist in the field of natural resource management and space science, and had held senior positions in different organizations including director general for Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development, deputy director and chief scientist at Kenya Wildlife Service, Remote Sensing expert with FAO/IGAD, among others.
As a scientist at the helm of these key institutions, he promoted economic development through generation, application & dissemination of geo-information in resource surveys, mapping, remote sensing, GIS and natural resources assessment and management and disaster risk reduction in Kenya and across the horn of Africa.
His background as a scientist and researcher had laid a formidable ground that would later play a critical role in formulating key bills and policies related to science and technology in parliament.
In his own words, Dr. Ottichilo notes that any country which cannot utilize science, technology and innovation (ST&I) can’t industrialize and develop. “Science is about finding solutions to the problems bedeviling the society,” he told ScienceAfrica during an exclusive interview.
He is categorical that investments and integration of ST&I into social, economic and governance policies will increase Kenya’s global competitiveness, create employment and increase productivity.
During his time in parliament which ended in 2017 before being elected the governor of Vihiga County, he served in various Parliamentary Committees as a member including Departmental Committee on Education, Research and Technology, Environment & Natural Resources Committee, Transport, Public Works and Housing Committee, among others.
“Science, technology and innovation (ST&I) are key drivers to development, because technological and scientific revolutions underpin economic advances, improvements in health systems, education and infrastructure, and for all other sectors to prosper, they must be pegged on ST&I,” he points out.
It is during his tenure in these committees that he contributed, and in some cases, single-handedly pushed for bills and policies that had direct bearing on science and technology, with a conviction that when such bills were passed into law, would help improve the economy of the country.
He boasts of several bills that he sponsored and were passed into law. During the 10th Parliament, Dr. Ottichilo was a member of Parliamentary Committees on Education, Research and Technology and Transport and Communications and in the 11th Parliament he was a member of Parliamentary Committees on Education, Research and Technology and Environment and Natural Resources.
While serving in these Committees he contributed immensely to the formulation and enactment of several laws including Basic Education Act; Universities Act; the Technical and Vocational Education Training Act; Science Technology and Innovation Act; the Biosafety Act; the National Construction Act; the Engineers Act; the National Safety and Transport Act; the Technologists and Technicians Act; the Wildlife Act; the Forest Act; the Water Act and the Mining Act.
In addition, he personally sponsored the following Motions and Bills in Parliament successfully: Motion on the threat of the impact of construction of GIBE 3 Dam in Ethiopia on Lake Turkana, Motion on the establishment of National Spatial Data infrastructure (NSDI) in Kenya, Motion on the establishment of Kenya Space Agency, Motion to set aside one national day every month for the public to clean their environment as per Article 42 of our constitution, Motion on the promotion of the use and development of renewable energy in Kenya 20 and, The Climate Change Act (2016).
In May 2015, Dr. Ottichilo was voted the best performing MP in Kenya, based on his development record and use of Constituency Development Fund.
He avers that science is an enabler that if effectively utilized and incorporated and placed at the top of national development agenda, has great potentials to change the livelihood of the people.