The advent of the internet and technology has changed the world. With over 70% of Africa’s population under 30, the continent has one of the youngest populations in the world. Technologies have altered methods for communication, medicine, economics, employment, business, education, entertainment – the list is endless. With the advent of information technology into virtually all aspects of life in the 21st century, Africa has taken advantage of the promise and opportunity that a new age of information technology offers.
Technology has been a key factor in shaping Africa’s future and the proliferation of mobile networks has transformed communications. This mobile revolution has enabled Africans to skip stages of technology development and jump right to the digital age. With mobile penetration at over 50%, cell phone ownership is now pervasive across the continent.
According to the Pew Research Center’s “Cell Phones in Africa: Communication Lifeline” report, mobile phone penetration in Africa is expected to increase from 52% in 2012 to 79% in 2020. With the challenges on the continent, such as limited infrastructure, mobile phones are devices that have proven to be effective in reaching people in spite of such challenges. For example, the use of medical apps that connect healthcare providers to remote communities or the use of marketing apps that enable small businesses to better target and reach customers. Technology adoption on the continent is undoubtedly driving a ‘tech savvy’ generation that is enabling young people to create opportunities for themselves, solve problems, start businesses and create jobs.
In Nigeria, two graduate students, Emmanuel Zidafamor and Samuel Ubaneche, have developed an application for the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS). The students have built a solution to improve the ability of the NHIS to deliver health insurance services to the community. The app NHIS PATEXP manages a patient database and supports the streamlining of drug pricing, reporting and billing.
Kutullo Makgatho from South Africa attained a Bachelor of Science degree in Information Technology and Management and has since put that knowledge to work, creating a baby monitoring app called FEMA Baby Monitor. The app is aimed at reducing Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). The FEMA Baby Monitor kit includes a bracelet that can be worn by a caregiver, as well as an anklet for the infant. The app uses wireless communication to transmit data on the baby, such as breathing, pulse rate, blood pressure, crying and temperature, to the bracelet. The bracelet uses a vibrator, LCD screen and microphone to alert the caregiver of any irregularities. This app enables the caregiver to promptly respond to any complications that could arise and seek medical attention that could potentially save the child’s life. After developing the app, Makgatho has continued to network and build relationships in order to market her product. She subsequently founded a company that has 15 innovations based on child and maternal healthcare.
In Botswana, Daniel Dube created an app Kgolagano that allows people to share pictures and videos to celebrate Botswana’s 50 years of independence. He was awarded over 1,000,000 Pula (about 100,000 US Dollars) to work on future projects.
Tech startup Qelasy in Ivory Coast has developed Africa’s first educational tablet with the aim of reducing the cost of educational material. The app is essentially a digital backpack that can replace books, textbooks and notepads.
In Cameroon, 76 in 100 adults have a mobile phone (World Bank, 2014) connecting them to a wealth of information unimaginable a decade ago. There are ongoing community projects in the country to track illegal deforestation using smart phones apps based on GPS sensors, cameras and accelerometers. Such captured real-time information enables the monitoring of protected areas and serves as a deterrent of illegal activity.
Ruzivo Digital Learning in Zimbabwe is a low-cost home-grown indigenous platform that provides much needed educational material to students throughout the country.
The examples noted above are but a few of the myriad of technology-based innovative solutions being built across Africa to improve service delivery across a wide range of areas, such as healthcare, education and business.