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Sunday 18 August 2019
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Emerging technologies to solve socio-economic problems in Africa

We are living in a technological revolution, characterised by its disruptive nature and rapidly changing how we think, work and live. Moreover, emerging technologies present unique opportunities that can help solve some of the pressing problems facing our societies, thus open up new economic opportunities. This article highlights some of the prominent technologies that have impacted our way of life over the last years. 2016 saw Pokemon Go become an instant sensation for both young and old consumers, encouraging fan enthusiastic engagement. Moreover, games such as Pokemon Go also contributed greatly to the growing interest in virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), increasing the demand for mixed reality content production. With about 75 million downloads, the success of Pokemon Go cannot be disputed. Restaurant chains and bars who are lucky to be close to Pokestops are leveraging on this opportunity to increase their sales by encouraging Pokemon hunters to get involved. Despite successes, Pokemon Go has its fair share of criticism, Pokestop locations cannot be controlled, therefore sometimes placed in dangerous places. This has resulted in a number of incidents involving Pokemon hunters. Although, there are those who have wished and still believe that Pokemon Go was the end of VR/AR.

Pokemon Go was just the beginning of VR and AR, as it provided that first point of interaction and or experience with mixed realities for many. In the near future, we’ll see many applications ranging from educational to entertainment applications leveraging on mixed realities to deliver content to diverse audiences. Another emerging technology that will revolutionise how we do things is drones (unmanned vehicles) or remotely controlled aircrafts (RPAS) as drones are affectionately known. Although, notoriously known for the killings of many people in Afghanistan and Iraq. The use of commercial drones has proliferated over the years, redefining and disrupting many industries, from photography, logistics to surveillance. In Africa in particular, drones have become a beacon of hope for many, allowing those who are far away from basic needs such as health care to access medicine and protecting endangered species such as Rhinos. In Rwanda, an American drone manufacturing company called Zipline is working together with the government to use drones to deliver medicine to the most of remote places, which are conventionally not reachable because of the challenging terrains. Unlike Rwanda, which is small, Namibia is a big country with a population that is spread throughout the country, drones can play pivotal role in ensuring universal access to health care by making sure that those who need medication in remote areas are timely provided with their medications. It’s not only health care, drones can also be used in agriculture to monitor crop diseases.
The high cost of moving goods from one place to another has hindered Intra-Africa trade for many years, today technological advancement in a form of drones present a unique opportunity for commercial drone couriers on the continent. A Swiss company called Flying Donkey is undertaking research in Kenya, using drones to deliver heavy cargos on the continent. Therefore, boost the trade of goods among African countries. The world has become more digital today than any other time in human history, this is evident in the fact that we are always connected, generating and collecting huge amounts of data. This generated data can be very useful in providing useful insights for individuals and businesses. However, transforming raw data into opportunities and or insight might be a challenge but big data analytics makes it easier to uncover trends and derive insights from the raw data. The term big data is characterised by the fast growing nature of data, in terms of variety, velocity and volume. Although, this is supposed to pose a technical challenge pertaining to how to store this ever growing and diverse data from multiple sources. Technologies exist to help organisation manage the growing data. Moreover, aspire to do more with the data. For example, one of the most exciting things companies are leveraging on big data for is to provide self-service data, where they are using new tools to uncover new relationships and know more about their clients in order to be able to provide them customised services.

Furthermore, data has become the new ‘gold mine’ with immense value, some businesses have been successful in packaging useful information for their clients. For example, this information can provide analytics that associate sales data with location data, allowing resellers to ship the right quantities to different locations according to consumer demands.  Though these changes and trends may seem disparate, they’re all linked by the need to work with data quickly and conveniently. As big data changes and new ways of working with that data arise, which will make it easy for everyone to become a data analyst. Despite the optimism, big data is still in its early days, however as Internet of everything (IoE) devices become more popular, we’ll see a scale of data explosion we have never seen before. There are many other emerging trends that can positively impact socio-economic development on the continent. However, the trends such VR/AR, drones and big data have a potential for an instant impact.
In this day and age, the advancement in technology is inevitable; new technologies and approaches how to apply these technologies will always emerge. As a nation, we have to keep up with these trends and ensure that we exploit them to create new possibilities and opportunities that will enhance the socio-economic situation in Namibia.

*Lameck Mbangula Amugongo is country Ambassador of 1 Billion Africa in Namibia. He holds B.IT: Software Engineering, B.Hons: Software Development (Cum Laude) and currently pursuing MSc.  Computer Science




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