Written by Derrick Mwiti, a Mathematics & Computer Science student of Multi Media University:
Technology has enabled Mark Zuckerberg to connect millions of people to each other via Facebook. Technology has enabled Larry Page and Sergey Brin to provide access to information to millions of people via Google. However, it probably is in Africa where technology has had the most impact. Technology has changed the lives of people (literally) in this Continent, if you doubt that just look at MPESA. Here are several other technological innovations that have had a great impact in Africa.
- Politics and Governance
Before e-citizen, Kenyans would get into long, time-consuming queues inorder to access any of the services offered by the government. However, the e-citizen portal has made this process more efficient as one can now apply for a visa and passport ,register a business or company, conduct a name search, apply for a driving license and have access to many other services, that were previously highly inefficient. Other similar services by the government include Huduma Kenya , Itax Portal and the HELB Portal
- Business and Economics
Tenderpreneur is an online platform gives businesses(entrepreneurs) access to the best opportunities(tenders),the platform enables small and medium businesses to discover new business relationships. The platform connects suppliers of goods and services to serious buyers (procuring institutions). Tenderpreneur launched its core platform in Kenya in February 2015. Today, they serve thousands of businesses. Other innovations in this sector include Brighter Monday, Kuhustle and Cheki among very many other.
In the recent past, the education sector has been highly infiltrated by technological innovations. Recently we took part in a Start-up Challenge that was targeting the Education sector. We came up with many innovations.
eLimu is an ed-tech initiative that incorporates content correlating to the national curriculum vamped up with animations, videos, songs, music, games and quizzes to make the learning process more interactive, interesting, fun and engaging for students. The eLimu tablet is engaging Kenyan primary school students in the learning process by shifting the way we think about education. They are using technology as a tool through which information, ideas and passions can grow. By changing the approach to learning, they are improving the quality of education and citizenship. Other innovations in education that have been enabled by technology include Bridge Academy, Kytabu and Eneza Education
In South Africa, the Ziwaphi Community Newspaper in rural Mpumalanga is using old smartphones submerged in clear plastic bottles in rivers to monitor sewage contamination and water-borne diseases, like cholera. Functioning as simple electron microscopes, the phones use their inbuilt cameras to take regular flash-lit pictures that are then magnified and compared against an existing image data base to detect dangerous levels of E.coli. The information is then fed back to Ziwaphi’s readers via SMS, so that they know from which rivers it’s safe to collect water, and which ones are unsafe. Amazing, right?
In Kenya, the Star Newspaper group has developed Star Health, a simple-to-use online tool that helps readers find doctors and the location of health facilities close to their homes. All users need to do is type in a doctor’s name to find out whether they have ever been found guilty of malpractice (in one case a man working as a doctor in fact turned out to be a vet). In a country where quack doctors are a real problem, the tool has proved to be a real hit.
- Art & Entertainment
Art Africa is international magazine showcasing Contemporary art from Africa and published on the continent. Their vision is to collaborate with and facilitate grassroots transformation in Africa. Through criticism and debate they address important issues that assist them in showcasing contemporary art from Africa.
Technology has been used to provide solutions and solve problems in each of the sectors of society mentioned above. Is technology the solution though? Clearly not, the actual services offered are the solution, and technology is just an enabler. The solutions in this case is providing information about the eligibility of doctors in the case of the Star Health, showcasing contemporary art from Africa on the case of Art Africa among others. Technology is then the platform on which these solutions are build on. As the Continent embraces the changes that Technology can unlock, we must remain clear the technology is just an enabler, and therefore coding skills in themselves are not sufficient to change anything unless it gets past the 3 point checklist below:
- Is it a solution fixing a problem?
- Does it replace an existing behavior?
- Can your mother explain the benefits of the solution?