Africa faces many challenges on its path to becoming a global economic competitor. The impact of COVID-19 on development can either be a massive barrier to advancement or the spark that lights up innovation and investment across the continent.
There’s no denying that for most of the world, the pandemic has pushed digital adoption forward in vast leaps in a short time. What the pandemic has also made apparent is the disparities of infrastructure across Africa, as well as gaps in adoption and policy.
It’s now a necessity, rather than a luxury to fast-track adoption of technology. By increasing productivity and facilitating innovation, technology is a key sector for the economic development of any country, and those who have embarked on their digital transformation journeys are better equipped to handle the obstacles that arise.
As COVID-19 has introduced social distancing and lockdown orders across the continent, the need for digital connectivity is more essential than ever. And as the pandemic spreads beyond major cities into peri-urban and rural areas, unconnected or under-connected populations risk becoming more vulnerable and isolated as they lack digital means to access essential services.
Wi-Fi hotspots can provide connectivity to COVID-19 testing stations and field hospitals and can support remote working and learning. Microsoft has been championing use of TV White Spaces (TVWS), which uses unused portions of spectrum for tv broadcasting, to bring broadband and internet-connected solutions.
In Kenya, Project Mawingu connects schools, the Laikipia County Government Office, Laikipia Public Library, Red Cross and the Burguret Dispensary Healthcare Clinic. Through this and other partnerships, we’ve demonstrated how new technologies, business models and regulatory approaches expand internet access and support public policy goals around education, healthcare, e-government and other priorities.
This, in turn, motivates governments to adopt more regulations opening up access to TVWS frequencies. As much as we talk about the need for intensive ICT investment in infrastructure and technology that will support Africa’s engagement in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), this will not happen without human infrastructure to support it.
For Africa to fully realise opportunities brought about by digital transformation and 4IR, it is vital we have strong ICT skills. We refer to this as having ‘tech intensity’ – the ability to not just adopt emerging technology but develop capabilities to effectively use it. Skills development has a crucial role to play, both in skilling new resources – our youth – and in upskilling our current workforce to play their part in supporting ICT infrastructure development.
There is an abundance of talent and ingenuity in start-ups and entrepreneurs across the continent. Investing in them is as important as any other ICT investment. Beyond future workforce, digital talent will also support more local innovation, as developers and entrepreneurs are empowered to create locally relevant solutions that best address challenges and needs in various sectors.
African governments have important roles to play in developing sound digital policies and stable harmonised regulatory environments that enable people and businesses to participate fully in the global digital economy.
Now more than ever, we need to pay close attention to how organisations transform digitally, what changes they face in acquiring new technologies and broadband, and daily challenges they may be facing in the area of digital skills development.
If African governments, together with private partners and organisations, can invest in these areas through supporting start-up innovation, through contributing to skills development and in many other verticals, this will drive meaningful gains towards unlocking Africa’s vibrant potential.
Advancing far more quickly than other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, Kenya has seen a rapid expansion of the adoption of mobile technology and mobile connectivity in recent years.
There’s debate about just how many Kenyans are internet users, but numbers have increased substantially over the last 20 years, with just 200,000 reported users in 2000 increasing to nearly 47 million in 2019, largely driven by increased access to mobile broadband, mobile data subscriptions, and low-cost smartphones.
In 2019, mobile penetration in Kenya was at 112% with over 53 million mobile connections in the country, according to the Communications Authority of Kenya.
Beyond connecting locals with each other and the rest of the world, mobile Internet has started to infiltrate into different sectors of Kenya’s economy, enhancing financial services, education and health, to name a few. M-PESA is a prime example of how mobile connectivity has transformed an entire industry, allowing millions of Kenyans to send and receive money.
Already making a substantial economic contribution in the country accounting for around 3% of Kenya’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the mobile sector’s impact will only grow as network coverage expands, especially as 5G technology starts to take off on the continent.
And with economic advantages come social benefits too, including improved access to information, digital products and public services, facilitating innovation, entrepreneurship and international trade.
The knock-on value of mobile connectivity in Kenya cannot be overstated. However, how do we go about harnessing its benefits? Driving accelerated mobile adoption through universal access is a good starting point. Let’s look at what that means for our country.
While Kenya is considered a digital transformation pacesetter in the region, many mobile users are still on 2G networks due to budgetary constraints and technology gaps. To truly reap the benefits of mobile connectivity, these barriers need to be addressed so that more Kenyans can utilise key services enabled by 3G and 4G technologies.
Income inequality is an important factor to consider, mobile affordability for those on low incomes (an estimated 20-40% of the population) is much higher, and, therefore, presents a challenge to universal broadband coverage across the country.
Cost-effective and easily accessible mobile connectivity options need to be made available for those who can’t afford current packages. Digital skills are also necessary for increased mobile Internet adoption. Users need to be able to engage with mobile technologies effectively to realise the full economic and social potential of connectivity.
Developing the population’s digital skills is crucial for them to survive in a mobile-geared world. Kenya has made excellent progress in the last few years to create an empowering environment that promotes universal mobile access.
To ensure an increased uptake continues, investments need to be made not only in providing mobile internet but educating locals on the options that are available for their unique needs. As many Kenyans rely on word of mouth, awareness of the latest mobile developments is important for them to make use of these technologies.
Governments and operators in this space have a critical responsibility to drive digital transformation through increased investments in mobile networks and practical solutions for barriers to adoption.
With more supportive policies in place, and initiatives geared to improve the affordability of mobile services and the education of these technologies, Kenyans, in all areas, of all backgrounds and incomes, can tap into the power of mobile connectivity.
The Council of Governors was on Monday forced to apologise after one of their social media handlers used their official twitter account to endorse loud sex.
Trouble started when a netizen, identified as Kimone Pitterson, initiated a trending phrase, “Sco pa tu manaa” which asks users to contribute their thoughts about a particular topic or person.
Pitterson’s subject matter was on the matter of talking during sexual intercourse which was endorsed by Taruri Gatere.
Gatere’s tweet accidentally won the endorsement of the Council of Governors after their official handle retweeted her sentiments.
“Yes Please. Say my name. Moan. Tell me how it feels. Tell me what you like. Tell me how much you like it. Ask me questions I cant answer because I’m too into it. Look into my eyes and smile and say hi. I love that sh*t!” the retweeted message stated.
The CoG’s apparent endorsement of the tweet quickly went viral before the handlers realised their blunder.
“Sincerest apologies. We sincerely apologize for the inappropriate retweet through our twitter handle. We have regained control of our handle and have put proper measures to ensure this does not occur again,” the Governors’ forum stated.
CoG is one of the many prominent personalities and corporates who have landed in trouble after retweeting, liking, or posting inappropriate material.
Safaricom was recently on the spot after one of its social media editors used its official handle to publish tweets disparaging Kenyans demanding for a Kenyan to succeed former CEO Bob Collymore.
“Let the government first improve management in Muhoroni, NHIF, Mumias, Kenya Airways and Kenya Pipeline and many other organisations that have deliberately been run down by state appointees before they can think of imposing their choice on Safaricom,” said the giant telco.
They later blamed the inappropriate language on a “system glitch”.
“Good morning. We apologise for the series of tweets that went out from our official accounts last night. We had a system glitch that has since been rectified. Thank you,” Safaricom said.
The errors are often caused by the fact that social media editors run multiple accounts, including their personal accounts which brings about the risk of accidentally interchanging the handles.
Alphabet Inc’s Google has suspended business with Huawei that requires the transfer of hardware, software and technical services except those publicly available via open source licensing, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters on Sunday, in a blow to the Chinese technology company that the U.S. government has sought to blacklist around the world.
Holders of current Huawei smartphones with Google apps, however, will continue to be able to use and download app updates provided by Google, a Google spokesperson said, confirming earlier reporting by Reuters.
“We are complying with the order and reviewing the implications,” the Google spokesperson said.
“For users of our services, Google Play and the security protections from Google Play Protect will continue to function on existing Huawei devices,” the spokesperson said, without giving further
This is so much more than a dispute about tariffs.
China and the United States are competing for global dominance in technologies of the future: artificial intelligence, robotics and 5G high-speed mobile phone networks.
That has been on display this week at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference in the northern Chinese city of Tianjin, where the mood has been surprisingly upbeat despite the trade war between the world’s two biggest economies.
Chinese President Xi Jinping wants Beijing to be a world leader in this sector, believing it will help move his country’s economy up the value chain and improve the lives of his people.
But US President Donald Trump sees it very differently. He says China wants global tech dominance and does not care how it is achieved.
Shen Hongyuan, a local Huawei manager, politely declined to answer questions about whether he felt the company’s business was now finished in the US. Again, like Yin from Honeywell, he wanted to stress the positive. “We hope we can cooperate with other countries,” he said.
In truth, the US has become far less important as a market for Huawei than other parts of the world – at least in terms of its smartphones.
“Huawei has not been able to crack the US market. And that’s where it gets interesting, because … still, every quarter Huawei is growing at a record rate. So it is still growing in China, and that is spectacular. And the next region it’s growing in is Europe, and Southeast Asia,” Shobhit Srivastava, an India-based analyst at Counterpoint Research, told Al Jazeera by phone.
But it’s the Middle East and Africa where sales of Huawei phones are growing the fastest, recording a 68 percent expansion in the first quarter of this year compared with the same period in 2018, according to Counterpoint.
The research firm says 17 percent of the world’s smartphones were made by Huawei in the first quarter, making it the second-biggest maker behind Samsung and one notch before Apple.
To China’s leadership, the US case against Huawei is connected, driven by bewilderment and jealousy that one company has come so far, so quickly.
But to the Trump administration, Huawei represents all that is wrong with China’s economy – a success story built on stolen technology.
But, make no mistake, this is serious for Huawei.
Of top concern will be its inclusion on the US Commerce Department’s “Entity List.” This means US firms that sell key components – like the chips used in Huawei phones – will have to apply for a license. That is going to make it very difficult for Huawei to do business with any US firm.
Analysts say they are digging in for the long haul.
“The US-China trade conflict shows no sign of de-escalating anytime soon, as the White House banned Huawei from selling equipment to the US market and required US companies to obtain licences in order to sell chips and technology to Huawei,” CMC Markets analyst Margaret Yang said in a research note.
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