Bill Gates and Elon Musk
While I was writing this article, it was still not clear if Elon Musk was coming to Turkey or not. Still, social media was buzzing about his planned meeting with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Naturally, as like any other subject there are two inclinations unique to Turkey. On one hand there are those who wrote that Musk is coming to Turkey to realise Turkey’s dreams about a national car, and that his meeting with Erdoğan shows that he is going to make investments in Turkey. Others said
Musk’s visit is not to be taken seriously and that even if a meeting takes place Turkey cannot benefit from his visions because we are too far behind the level of his companies’ technologies.
But it is better not to jump to any positive or negative conclusions. We had world leaders in technology visiting us before. Bill Gates came to Turkey in 2005 and it was a big spectacle back than. He met not only with the Prime Minister Erdoğan but with many local businesspeople too. I found a newspaper headline from that visit saying that Microsoft would invest heavily in Turkey and that Gates would donate $4.5 billion for the children’s education.
As far as I can tell, neither of those things happened. We are still a country that buys stuff from Microsoft.
However, Gates’ visit did initiate the “Fatih” smart tablet education project in Turkey. That was a potentially revolutionary project that could have transformed how we educated the young, but problems with Turkey’s education system itself made the Fatih Project redundant.
We were hoping that we could raise more computer scientists than any other countries with the help of the Fatih Project, but instead we have ended up almost in last place in PISA tests in terms of understanding maths. And if you don’t know math, you cannot design algorithms.
So lets not get too carried away about Musk and Erdoğan’s meeting.
Musk could have said nice things that we want to hear, but in the end he is running global companies. If investing in Turkey does not bring any of those companies a competitive edge, he will not do it.
At any rate, we don’t need Musk to produce our own cars! We know that Erdoğan is very serious about the issue. If there is a strong leadership in such big tasks, it is always easier to get them done.
What we really need is our own Elon Musks. If Turkey had a globally competitive technological R&D facility about car batteries, as Nejat Veziroğlu imagined years ago, Musk would have found it already.
He would have been the one getting excited about coming to Turkey to get a glimpse of what that research facility had to offer, rather than us getting overexcited about his meeting with our president.