2016 was a great year for tech in our lifetimes, heralding groundbreaking technologies and innovations that changed many people’s lives. We drove alongside autonomous cars to the thinnest smartphones, leaps in stem cell research, and cured HIV in infants. It really felt like all the years of hidden research and development came out to play.
Now well half way into the year, it only feels like last year was a warm up for all the technological innovations the rest of this decade is going to see, particularly in Africa. Here are some of the ways our lives are bound to change.
If only Turing were alive to see this
According to Techopedia, Artificial intelligence (AI) is an area of computer science that emphasizes the creation of intelligent machines that work and react like humans. It hasn’t been 15 years since our introduction to AI was the stuff of science fiction movies. Today, however, we have the likes of Jarvis and Sofia among many other examples, and the improbability has all but diminished. Self-driving cars have become a part of the cocktail of solutions innovators are using to make the existing ones better. Coupled with the astronomical digitisation of personal assistants in our pockets.
The South African company, Clevva, last year deployed AI to train, advise and guide professionals. In Abuja, TD4PAI is building world-class robotics, which is revolutionary in a sense. In 2017, Africa has seen a rise in the application of AI in fin tech and customer service almost exclusively. This means people are presented with the opportunity to personalise bots and virtual assistants.
Internet of Things
McKinsey and Co conducted research which shows that by 2020, developing countries will account for more than 40% of the global IoT market. This year, with the vast increase in the African middle class, the average home can expect to get ‘smarter’. The rollout of Fibre -To-The-Home and the capability of many new devices and traditional appliances to connect to the internet allows relative upgrades in the electronics consumer market. Many of these will be connected to the internet and tethered to a central device, most likely your smartphone, or home assistants like Google Home and Nigerian based smart meter company, GRIT systems.
Sweet Sense has installed IoT sensors in latrines, water pumps and cookstoves in Rwanda, Kenya, Haiti and Uganda in an effort to monitor the impact of global health programs.
Despite the challenges in definition and practical application, smart cities are also guaranteed to thrive around the world. 2017 has already seen a prevalence of interconnected machines for farming and permaculture.
Training and Education
Generations of brain drain in Africa has gone unchecked and the subsequent lack of competent developers went unchecked. Albeit slowly, the gap will close, and 2017 has already seen an astronomical rise in ICT education to cater for this need.
2017 has seen Nigeria’s incubator Andela use its position to leverage venture capital from Silicon Valley to expand to two new countries in Africa. For years, they’ve been training world class African developers that have been in constant demand across the globe. The approach has seen a rise in incubators springing up across the continent, Kenya’s Moringa school, Zimbabwe’s MUZINDAhub and CodeX in South Africa all assumed a structured approach to skill indoctrination. South Africa hosts the first African WeThinkCode campus, that offers a stipend and is completely tuition-free, and OfferZen is actively conducting research placements for developers from across the continent. It is tempting to sit and marvel at the strides we’ve made as a continent, but considering we have a population averaging 19 years old and set to be the largest workforce on the planet by as early as 2040, we have a lot of work to do to define the future we want to live in.
Hope abounds, as evidenced by the winner of the Google Code-in competition, Collins Nji: a self-taught teenager who learned to code during an uprising that saw his hometown’s internet cut off by the government. Such stories of overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds, is why the industrialised world has begun to open their minds and wallets to Africa.
Does the future of tech in Africa excite you nearly as much and what changes have you seen in your life this year due to these new investments? Share your thoughts in the comments section below. Thank you for visiting Base64!