Technology: The key to Africa’s future

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tech africa 4Have you ever stopped for a moment and thought about how life would be without technology? I pondered this for a while and I just couldn’t picture a single day without technology. Yes, technology has its ups and downs but let’s face it, it has made life a whole lot easier. Be it computers, cars, planes, cell-phones or tablets, we can all admit that we are all reliant on modern technology in some way.

Africa has definitely come a long way with technology, from the days of SMS (Short Message Services) to today’s internet usage- It’s crystal clear, Africa is yet to experience even greater innovations in the future.

Africa’s embrace of technology contradicts two common assumptions- that technology innovations only happen in wealthy countries and that Africa needs basic services before it can even think about using high-tech solutions. What African innovators are doing is using technology to solve basic daily challenges & provide bare necessities for a better day. In Africa, technology is improving people’s lives, especially mobile services and applications.

One of the highlights of technology is how it has improved healthcare in the continent. Take for example Bright Simons, now the President of mPedigree in Ghana, who came up with an innovative plan to tackle bogus medicine in African countries. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that almost 30% of drugs supplied in developing countries are fake. Simon’s innovative idea was to put special codes in scratch cards on medicine packages that buyers can send via SMS to a specified number to enquire if the drug is legit or not. This system is now used by many countries in Africa as well as places like Asia which has similar problems with fake drugs.

Moreover, in South Africa, there is “Impilo” which is basically a service that allows people to find healthcare providers anywhere in the country at any time, using their cell-phones. This service has proven to be of much assistance to people, as it also allows people to view healthcare providers’ qualifications and credentials therefore making it easier to choose the right doctor or clinic.

This is not the only sector that has been improved by technology. Technology has made a big difference in the agricultural sector as well. African farmers can now make better decisions leading to higher-earning potentials, thanks to mobile phones which serve as platforms for sharing weather information, market prices and micro-insurance schemes. At just one click of a button, farmers can find ouTech africa3t crop prices in places thousands of kilometres away.

There is also Ushahidi (Swahili term for “testimony”), a group of Kenyan technology experts who came up with a way to receive reports about Kenya’s post-election violence by web or mobile phone, creating real-time incident maps to show what was happening, when and where. Now, Ushahidi has evolved into becoming a global non-profit organization, producing the iHub technology centre in Nairobi. The iHub has created more than a thousand jobs and has also facilitated low-cost solutions to critical public problems.

One remarkable thing is that most of these technological innovations are made by Africans, for Africans. This is proof that the best people to deal with Africa’s shortcomings are Africans themselves. However, there is still a lot that technology can help with in the continent. Evidently, technology has been key to many of Africa’s noteworthy developments in the past years and with new pan-African social media platforms emerging, we can definitely expect more in the future.

By: Caroline Kende-Robb