Turkey’s ‘national technologies’ vs. Apple
It is a common habit of Turkish politicians to talk about incredible “national” technologies. The Justice and Development Party (AKP) government holds the national record when it comes to claiming to have invented or built the most national technologies and devices. Ministers have claimed that they will invent or build a “national internet,” a “national chip,” a “national cellphone,” a “national car,” a “national tank,” a “national drone,” a “national Facebook,” a “national Twitter,” a “national YouTube,” a “national plane,” a “national submarine,” a “national war ship,” and many other national technologies or devices.
However after their long period in office, we can see nothing “national” on the technology front. Only a fraction of military R&D efforts have come to fruition.
There are three main issues that Turkey has to solve before we can produce anything national.
Our education system is not functioning as well as the rest of the OECD. From primary school to universities - in every type of measure such as Pisa ratings - Turkish students come in the bottom five of all major subjects.
State institutions that should support scientific progress, such as TUBİTAK, and educational progress, such as YÖK, are all being run by people who have not earned their seats on merit, but rather because they obey the government unconditionally.
The same goes for universities. For example, in Turkish universities the members of boards and all university teachers vote for the “rektör” (dean) of the university. After the voting, the results are sent to the president, because in Turkey the president appoints the head of all universities. The typical process until the AKP era was for the president to appoint the candidate who received the highest number of votes. However, after 13 years of AKP rule, most university heads are candidates who received the lowest number of votes from their peers. One of these is a “scientist” who was caught plagiarizing work. He was later on pardoned by YÖK, which is run by another government ally. These people are appointed because of their close ideological ties to the government. Naturally, the first order of business for these new heads is to eliminate their ideological rivals from the university management. The effects of these purges can be seen very clearly in the performance of Turkish universities. The number of citations and new patent filings drops exponentially every year.
The third issue is the culture. This is the hardest to change. The current culture in Turkey is based on polarization and violence. Nothing innovative or mind expending can come from a culture that does not allow the open exchanging of ideas.
On the other hand, we have Apple. Apple does not claim to be national. Apple does not appoint people to key positions because of their ideological inclinations. Everyone who is in their current position in Apple is there because they deserve it. There is not a culture of oppression in Apple, but rather a culture that lets different opinions flourish. The result of the two very different approaches is that Apple earns the highest profits in history by selling technology, while Turkey is trying to invent “national technologies.”
Simple choices create great differences. I hope our government will see that choosing a different path might be more beneficial to all.