Drones, Apps and more

In Tanzania, researchers from the Southern Africa Centre for Infectious Diseases Surveillance (SACIDS), have developed a mobile application (App) known as Afyadata. This tool allows real-time collection, submission and analysis of data from the field and intelligently sends feedback to the data collector. Moreover, if any abnormal pattern is discovered, the App alerts respective health experts or response teams, and provides them with recommendations of actions to be taken. The AfyaData App is enabling early diseases detection, timely reporting, prompt intervention and management, thereby improving the lives of people in remote areas.

Meanwhile, in Rwanda, a drone delivery system built by a California-based robotics firm has increased accessibility to blood and emergency medical supplies in remote parts. The system, which reduces three hours journey to six minutes, has, in particular, helped to save the lives of mothers and children in rural area of Rwanda.

Jean Nepomuscene Hakizimana

The anecdotes above are examples of the potential of smart technologies in boosting lives in Africa. Indeed, smart technologies can contribute to resolving many challenges facing the continent including food security, health, access to safe water, energy needs and the impact of climate change.

Africa’s youth and transformative technologies

Many African countries now realise the potential of smart technologies and are committed to embracing the fourth industrial revolution (4IR). But, the continent is still a long away from exploiting the latent promise of smart technologies, and more effort is needed to integrate them into every daily lives.

To achieve this goal, empowerment of the youth is crucial, by creating training systems that will increase skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Young people also need ability to translate this academic knowledge into solutions for the needs of various categories of citizens. These objectives cannot be met without adequate government policies that will institute processes, measure progress and ensure that only the most beneficial technologies are being developed.

During the fifth PASET forum, participants discussed opportunities, risks and strategies necessary to better prepare African youth to the digital world. It became clear that:

  • There is an urgent need to transform higher education and Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) courses content and delivery methods, alongside creation of required infrastructures, use of technologies, and strengthening of digital skills to transform education systems.
  • Therefore, African governments have a task of creating an enabling environment for innovative research that will lead to local solutions, with inclusive and total participation of development partners and private sector.
  • While some African countries have started integration of digital skills in their services delivery systems, for example through online platforms, there are not enough skilled personnel. Therefore, PASET and other similar initiatives should be encouraged and supported to fulfil their role in preparing the continent for the fourth industrial revolution.