Science & Technology Can Save Africa
Internet access has often proved to have been a problem for the African continent. But, November of this year saw a number of various attempts to rectify the situation. There have also been a wide range of other scientific and technology-related launches in Africa recently.
Included in the November rollouts were Facebook’s Internet.org app, a free online initiative from Outernet, and the respective launches of an e-commerce portal and EmployMentor programme via Microsoft4Afrika.
The Internet.org App
The Internet.org app will be launched in Kenya, with Facebook and Airtel working together for the benefit of Kenyan internet users. Kenya will now follow on the heels of Zambia and Tanzania as countries that have utilised the app. Facebook is also offering a suite of free services in an attempt to get the remaining two-thirds of the world online.
The Outernet Project
Outernet also announced that several African countries will be chosen to be able to access some information on the internet for free. This will begin in 2015 and may include countries such as South Sudan and Namibia.
The Outernet project hopes to be able to offer a free data service by way of a receiver and broadcast satellites. This will then make it possible for users to download data wherever they are, and will include books, videos, audio and news. Data will, as a consequence, be able to be downloaded without the need for a conventional internet connection. The whole process works when a device is connected to a receiver that is linked to a satellite.
Microsoft4Afrika have joined up with Skrill, the mobile payments systems provider, to create a portal for e-commerce purposes. This is intended to help entrepreneurs, in terms of online marketing, and also to make it easier for consumers to purchase items from world famous brands – by using their mobile wallets. Also, educational content will be freely available on the portal, along with the ability to use Microsoft software.
Kenya will not only be benefiting from the Internet.org app, but the EmployMentor programme too – courtesy of Microsoft4Afrika. This programme aims to improve the careers of female graduates in specific areas, namely business and technology. More than 150 graduates will be joining the programme, which also sees ACWICT working in conjunction with 4Afrika. The programme will involve one-on-one sessions for graduates with mentors on Skype, and EmployMentor week on-the-field training.
Other Recent Developments In Africa
As the efforts to help more of Africa enjoy the benefits of being online gathers pace, a number of other interesting developments have appeared in the news recently.
Startups have been boosted in Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria. While services ranging from free video on demand to a classifieds platform have been made available to some of Africa’s internet users. South Africa, in particular, has seen a few notable recent developments, including Bitcoin exchange BitX launching a new app. With most of the company’s development taking place in Cape Town, the new app is aimed at emerging markets. Exchanges are already in place in South Africa, Namibia and Kenya.
The m-health SMS-based service Hello Doctor has been launched by MTN Zambia, and offers customers expert advice on a variety of health-related subjects. This involves advice being sent by mobile phone to address health issues.
Optimism For The Future
Earlier in 2014 an op-ed by Mr. Melvin Foote and Dr. Nkem Khumbah appeared in the New York Times. The authors came to the optimistic conclusion that Africa will eventually have the tools to not only ward off poverty, but to also trigger economic growth.
Backing the move for scientific independence in Africa is UK and Rwandan-based charity Planet Earth Institute. Their chairman, and African-born philanthropist and businessman Dr Alvaro Sobrinho has long championed the need for Africa to stand up under it’s own merit:
“As a whole, we have become too focused on short-term emergency and too dependent on foreign aid. In many instances that has been necessary, but it’s also necessary to realise that this dependence has left the continent vulnerable and unable to embrace the enormous benefits on our continent.
Scientific independence is not scientific isolation – and it can never be. Scientific development and expertise is built on collaboration, locally, regionally and internationally, and Africa’s scientific development will be both more rapid and far-reaching with support from the best and the brightest across the world.
By independence we mean an end to dependency and the ability for Africa to lead it’s own development agenda. It’s a provocative mission and I often talk to people who disagree with the language. But we chose it to help stimulate debate and get attention, as well as raise questions about Africa’s current scientific dependence.”
And we need initiatives like this. Otherwise Africa stands to fall foul to the global technology behemoths, which (as a recent article on urbantimes.co reiterates) could mean that the race to save Africa with science and technology has already been won.