What Africa should know about being digital

Kristine Yakhama
Posted May 15, 2020 from Kenya

The Coronavirus pandemic has turned the world on its head. No part of our lives has been left untouched by the global disruption. Children are out of school. Manufacturing firms have fallen silent. People are out of jobs in the millions, and more are joining them every day. The best healthcare systems in the world are overwhelmed, scientists are trying to understand the virus and find a vaccine.

The worrying part for everyone is that there's no end in sight. For now, no one knows when the world will be able to halt the downward spiral. What's left for us to do is to adapt. We urgently need to reinvent our approaches to life in order to face the new circumstances successfully.

We must innovative on our support to people and communities so that we can all get through this crisis. But we must also appreciate a few facts. Had this pandemic happened 30 years ago, the world would have been worse off without all the innovation that has emerged, especially in telecommunications.

Technological innovators have built vast capabilities that are, in my view, assisting in limiting the spread and impact of the crisis. Information from one site can today be gathered, analysed, and shared by scientists, health experts, and policymakers around the globe at the speed of light. But only one half of the world is enjoying the dividend from these innovations. This makes for disturbing reading on the wide gap that exists between the digital haves and digital have nots.

According to UNESCO data, only 55percent of households globally are connected to the Internet.

 

GSMA Association, the industry organisation that represent the interests of mobile network operators globally, notes that the mobile internet adoption currently stands at an average of 24percent in Sub-Saharan Africa. The region also accounts for 40percent of the global population not covered by a mobile broadband network.

This data is in a day and age when the Internet is the answer to many coronavirus lockdown problems. Today, billions are using the Internet to learn more about Covid-19, schools are setting coursework online, and millions around the world are working from home.

I'm keenly aware that millions of children in Kenya and sub-Saharan Africa have no access to the technological advancements that their age mates in developed nations and minority portions of our populations enjoy. Online learning for these children is only a remote possibility. They can only access learning from less interactive channels such as SMS, radio, and in even lesser cases, TV.

Technology is proving to be effective in aiding the education sector. Cloud storage has made it easier for students to access research materials compared to going through piles of books for their assignments.

I see future opportunities with our universities and other higher learning Institutions, partnering with technology firms to create solutions for eLearning, helping them reduce costs of setting up campuses across the country and increasing the level of education.

In medicine, numerous hospitals in and out of capital cities in sub-Saharan Africa are also ill-equipped to handle even common ailments. The ones in deep rural areas or remote regions tend to be less resourced and less equipped. Today, our doctors in Nairobi are holding 4G-enabled video conferences with their counterparts abroad, sharing best practices on how to deal with the Coronavirus and sharing knowledge across the country. Telemedicine needs to become the new normal.

Of course, when the world gets around the crisis, one of the next significant challenges is likely to be food insecurity. We are already witnessing a disruptive phenomenon in sub-Saharan Africa with the floods and locusts visiting havoc across nations.

I was raised in rural Kenya in a region of fertile farmlands. I am passionate about food security, and I am glad to see technology aiding in scaling agriculture capabilities, especially for smallholders' farmers like my parents.

I see more opportunities to harness the power of mobile technology to scale these opportunities we have in agriculture by leveraging them to reduce the negative impact of erratic weather

This story was submitted in response to #SheTransformsTech.

Comments 19

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Jill Langhus
May 15
May 15

Hi Kristine,

How are you and your family doing? Welcome back! Thanks for sharing your tech story and COVID update. I hope you and your family are safe and well and that you have a good weekend.

Kristine Yakhama
May 16
May 16

Dear Jill,
Am fine thanks. My household doing well we thank God. How are you doing and your family? Stay safe. Stay hopeful.Stay active. We'll overcome corona.

Jill Langhus
May 18
May 18

Great to hear:-)

We're doing very well, thanks.

Yes! XX

Chi8629
May 15
May 15

Thank you for sharing .

Kristine Yakhama
May 16
May 16

Thanks Dear. Stay safe

Chi8629
May 16
May 16

You too darling .
Thank you.

Vanora.Lee
May 15
May 15

Thanks for your sharing the powerful tech, its development and use cases. Yes, really hope that the progressive rollout technology solution into deep rural and remote areas much faster and more people gets the benefits. Stay safe and well.

Kristine Yakhama
May 16
May 16

Thanks Dear. Stay hopeful soon corona will be a story

madison2308
May 16
May 16

Hello Kristine,
Thank you for sharing. It is crazy to think about what this pandemic would have been like 30 years ago. We are fortunate to have the technological advances we do have, but like you said, hopefully soon technology and the internet will be better distributed in the regions you discussed which need them. Hopefully you are staying safe and healthy!

Kristine Yakhama
May 17
May 17

Good afternoon Madison. Am safe thanks stay safe and hopeful

Tamarack Verrall
May 16
May 16

Hi Kristine,
You raise such critically important questions, questions that belong to all of us. "We must innovative on our support to people and communities so that we can all get through this crisis".
We do as a global community need to look at "the wide gap that exists between the digital haves and digital have nots" and that 40percent of the global population is not online.
Your heart is where every heart needs to be "keenly aware that millions of children in Kenya and sub-Saharan Africa have no access".
hospitals in and out of capital cities in sub-Saharan Africa are also ill-equipped
floods, locusts and food insecurity. The changes you bring forward are changes we have needed for centuries. But you are so right. We have opportunities now through technology to bring awareness as you do here, and to use it to solve problems, like the availability of food for everyone.
In sisterhood,
Tam

Kristine Yakhama
May 17
May 17

Thanks. Stay safe and hopeful Tam

Karindoli Andrew
May 17
May 17

Thanks alot

Fanka
May 17
May 17

Hello Kristine,
Thanks for sharing. Good security is a serious humanitarian issue in times of crisis or pandemic to be responded to

Shimaa
May 17
May 17

That is a huge transformation and I wish Africa raise Up and use digital in everything that's a big step for us and I wish that using digital become our lifestyle

JULITON
May 19
May 19

Hello Kristine, hoping that you and your family your OK?, tech is truly changing,

Kika Katchunga
May 21
May 21

Hello Kristine

thank you very much for sharing my sister
Stay safe

rebecca.tang
May 25
May 25

Technology really helps a lot during these lockdown days. In developed countries, adults can continue to work and kids can continue to learn. I am sad to hear that there are still countries without the access. Hope the NGO and technologies companies can do more to improve the situation.

Thank you for sharing.

MUKABA ZAWADI
May 26
May 26

thanks for sharing your story, really this pandemic affects the whole world especially the plan and brings a big crisis everywhere