Africa is indeed the last frontier. The continent has huge opportunities to come up with awesome innovations, notwithstanding the fact that her operating environment is generally unfriendly.
Tech Trends with CFA on Channels Television is a platform where Africa's techies and innovators air their views on the numerous issues and challenges confronting the Tech industry across the continent. Last week, it was the turn of Uyi Stewart, Chief Scientist of IBM Research Africa, to appear on the Tech Trends show.
Below are excerpts. You can also view the conversation here
Africa will rise
According to Uyi, Africa is on a journey to rise and take on the world. In this journey, we are going to need technology and innovation. The content of technology already cuts across the very fiber of everyday life from, Wellness and decision making to food and agriculture. The biggest concern, however, is whether African innovators can take this to the next level.
At present, for instance, the continent has more mobile phones than adults. This is indicative of a growing resource that is not being exploited fully. Africa has the potential to change the world as evidenced by the continent pioneering mobile money transfer. Although, the continent is in its infancy, technologically speaking, it has vast Data that can be utilized to achieve unimaginable successes. Uyi advises that this untapped resource can be optimized through smart collection techniques followed by smart analyzing and processing in a way that it will be applicable for use here in Africa.
However, a lot to be desired
Leapfrogging into technology supremacy will require African innovators to rise to the challenge and create African-specific innovations. The African tech space at present leaves quite a lot to be desired. Mindless copying from the west is still a big hindrance to prosperity. With problems such as poverty and illiteracy still being real in Africa, innovators have to create tools that can work in Africa for the African population.
For Africa to move forward, innovators must dream big enough to solve the problems of the continent. Uyi Stewart describes this as innovating in Africa, for Africa. Even if the innovations are inspired by creations from abroad, they ought to adapt to the Africa setting for them to be efficient. While for most inventors, the main incentive is money, it is important that innovators look first at the overall good that the creation will bring to Africa ahead of money consideration.
Government role is key
It is the role of African governments to create an enabling and well-regulated environment to encourage local innovation. This is by the formulation of favorable policies as well as extending incentives for brilliant innovations. The freedom to innovate ought to be a provision given by the government for new technologies to emerge.
Uyi Stewart PhD is an IBM Distinguished Engineer. He is Chief Scientist at IBM Research Africa, Nairobi, Kenya. He has over twenty years of experience of research in software and research plus 9 patents to his credit. He appeared on Tech Trends on special invite, courtesy of CFA.