For century, Africans have relied on indigenous knowledge to develop technologies to solve their challenges. Now, with advances in smart technologies, it might be time to consider the meeting point between these ‘local’ and ‘global’ technologies.
As a young scientist, I am dedicated to promoting smart technologies that will lead to smart energy solutions, smart agriculture, smart mining solutions, smart cities, smart homes, smart factories, among others. But before we prefix the word smart to everything, we need to examine what smart technologies really are.
Smart technologies are intelligent materials, techniques and approaches that technically adopt human functions. This enactment and the accompanying self-management methods might be through software that incorporates additional or connected features. Indeed, the fourth industrial revolution (4IR), is built on this ‘intelligence’ and is characterised by increased use of information communication technologies.
When we think about 4IR, it is easy to think of high tech innovations like robotics, virtual reality and so on. But there are other possibilities, for example, use of mobile phone applications for quality and affordable healthcare, as well as solutions for agriculture, banking and transport industry.
Therefore, the definition of ‘smartness’ that is close to my heart is that of technologies that can cleverly incorporate African ideas and knowledge to address day to day needs of people.
That for me, is where the local meets the global: smart technologies must be localised to a point where they can truly solve problems. This process should see African challenges as advantages, and opportunities incredible advances in smart technologies.
Of course, this will only be possible if African governments create policies that will enable all-inclusive co-innovation and co-production between researchers, communities, private and public sector towards of smart technologies that will improve life across Africa.
Encouragingly, during the fifth PASET forum, it was evident that several African countries are on the right path and are laying solid foundations that will make Africa-led smart technologies a reality.