OPINION: How Africa can drive its own digital disruption
Technology / 26 July 2019, 1:00pm / Wesley Diphoko
The African continent is undergoing the early stages of digital disruption.
Earlier this year, Rwanda pioneered the delivery of medical supplies via drones. This was the first on the continent. It was also an important development, partly due to the challenge of access to health services. The delivery of medical supplies via drones has shown the meaning of digital disruption in health within the African continent.
Right now, you can travel to almost anywhere in Africa through the push of a button on your mobile device. It is now possible to buy any goods or services from any part of the world via e-commerce.
All of these developments point to an early stage of digital disruption within the continent.
The advanced stage will take Africa to new heights. In future, it will be possible to have access to any doctor in the world from the comfort of your home. Future transport will make it possible to fly from Cape Town to Nairobi and come back on the same day via tech solutions such as flying drones that will be operated by ride-hailing companies.
The challenge with this disruption, however, is that it is not driven by African technologies. The drones that enabled Rwanda to deliver medical supplies are driven by foreign technology.
The apps that are behind transport digital disruption are also driven by foreign technologies. The same is true about technologies that are at the forefront of e-commerce on the continent.
There’s nothing wrong with benefiting from using foreign technology and in the process of solving the challenges.
There is, however, a major problem with the continent relying only on foreign technologies.
This approach can only lead to Africa missing out on economic opportunities that could be derived from the digital disruption.
For Africa to benefit fully from the digital disruption, it will have to create a data bank, country operating systems and a tech start-up stock exchange.
The continent needs to create its own data bank. An environment that will store African data within the continent.
This can be championed by one country on the continent and thereafter be replicated to other countries. Companies that are in need of applying tech can use data from such a data bank.
Second, the continent needs to create its own operating system (CountryOS) to carry out e-voting, e-health and e-governance and other critical services. Estonia has created its own country operating system with great success.
Such a system has enabled the country to better serve its citizens.
Last, as mentioned, the continent needs to create a tech start-up stock exchange. Currently, one of the major challenges faced by technology start-ups is that funding is only circulating within a small network.
A technology start-up stock exchange will ensure that there's enough funding pool for local tech start-ups.
This approach will also ensure that local technology is developed by local technology companies.
As long as Africa does not create its own infrastructure to drive the digital disruption, the continent will just be a user during the digital disruption.
Wesley Diphoko is the editor-in-chief of The Infonomist. He also serves as the chairperson of the IEEE Open Data Initiative. You can follow him on Twitter via @WesleyDiphoko