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Africa can lead in digital

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GORDON GREYLISH, VP, Sales and Marketing Group General Manager, Governments and World Ahead Division, Intel, discusses how embracing the 3rd industrial revolution will assist in addressing issues like diversifying economies and improving efficiency.

One interesting theme took centre stage during panel discussions at the recently concluded World Economic Forum on Africa in Rwanda; that what the continent needs as much as roads, dams, power plants (although there is still more development required) is a way to embrace technology and infuse digital transformation in all sectors.

It was interesting because when questions such as “how can we diversify our economies” and “how can we improve efficiency” or “how do we prepare our young generations to have jobs” were asked, the answer from a lot of different players including politicians, think tanks, investment organisations and the private sector was the same; embrace the “3rd industrial revolution”; the digital transformation revolution.

With a 350 million strong middle and upper class currently expected to jump to 430 million by 2020, in a 1.3 billion continent by that time, the private and public sector strongly concurred that technology will have a significant impact in modernizing African governments’ in effect creating what I call the next-generation governments.

It’s encouraging that this revolution is already being stirred in small offices and houses across Africa that have wholly embraced mobile communications. Thanks to Kenya’s pioneering M-Pesa, Africa is leading the mobile money revolution and this has already had a noticeable impact on the continent in expanding financial inclusivity.

But mobile technology alone is not enough.

The next logical step should be to harness technology for industrialisation, agriculture and social transformation. The world is entering one of the most exciting eras of technology.  Everyday objects are becoming part of an integrated system of smart devices that are changing the way we live. Opportunities are endless in smart energy power grids, smart cities, smart agriculture, building secure government services and developing a vibrant globally competitive technology industry. Beyond getting more people connected to the internet, making things smart and connected in Africa will allow governments to create opportunities that enhance productivity, improve service delivery, support real-time decision making, solve critical societal problems, and deliver innovative user experiences. These opportunities have the ability to fuel GDP, create new jobs, and boost economies.

I was encouraged to see that the political will to use ICT for economic and social growth abounds in Africa. For instance, over the last decade, Kenya has experienced substantial growth in the ICT sector that is now worth Sh138 billion in GDP. In addition, Kenya’s public service outlets, Huduma Centres, anchored on e-government, have increased efficiency and even won Kenya a United Nations award. The Rwanda government on the other hand saw a 20 percent increase in VAT collections from 2014 to 2015 after introducing e-fiscal devices while the Nigerian government saved more than $1B through the introduc­tion of digital IDs for public servants.

As governments continue to use ICT, they will gather a lot of data and in the modern world, data is the new oil. The next big thing after the big thing will be for governments to analyse this data, which will then help in detecting trends, increasing efficiency, reducing costing and, as it were, opening new business opportunities in transportation, power supply, agriculture, social welfare or even security provision. The private sector is ready to help governments digitise operations. Indeed, there are already efforts towards this. Smart Africa, African Development Bank and Intel Corporation, for instance, are finalising a Digital Government Blueprint. This is a framework that will provide guidance and systematic steps for governments to tap the power of ICT and build digital infrastructure that will help transform how they operate and delivers service to their citizens.

With such a blueprint, there is no room for guess work. It will enable governments to develop a National ICT policy aligned to the national priorities of the country and provide a measurable plan to enable everyone to participate in the digital economy and reap its benefits.

The best starting point is automating internal government, whether external services or internal operations. Second is developing an electronic ID system at the national level, which provides the foundation for securing identities, protecting privacy, and enabling trusted e-services.

The other critical area thing is having an interactive government portal with open application programme interface (API). Here, a government can partner with private sector to develop additional secure services through an open API. The government should then create cashless societies through digital payments to reduce the cost of doing business and increase revenues by having visibility of all transactions. The Nairobi County Government in Kenya has successfully digitised payments for parking and licences. This has not only increased collections, but also reduced physical interactions that encourage corruption.

Last but not least are e-government services like e-tax, licenses and registrations, e-parking, smart city services, digital signatures, and more. The e-government portal will provide high quality, timely and accurate data and services in a secure yet transparent and accountable manner.

It was not surprising that the recent AfDB annual general meeting in Lusaka would also amplify ICT. In fact, Africa Development Bank and World Bank Africa have changed their priorities into transformation through ICT, as a catalyst of economic growth, sustainability and equality and created special funds to invest in the digital transformation of Africa.

AfDB announced a $5 billion fund focused on opening opportunities for 50 million young people in Africa through skills development and job creation in Agriculture, Industry and ICT sectors. With the current political goodwill, I believe a smart Africa can be achieved by harnessing the ICT revolution.

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Earth 2050: memory chips for kids, telepathy for adults

An astonishing set of predictions for the next 30 years includes a major challenge to the privacy of our thoughts.

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Buy 2050, most kids may be fitted with the latest memory boosting implants, and adults will have replaced mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought.

These are some of the more dramatic forecasts in Earth 2050, an award-winning, interactive multimedia project that accumulates predictions about social and technological developments for the upcoming 30 years. The aim is to identify global challenges for humanity and possible ways of solving these challenges. The website was launched in 2017 to mark Kaspersky Lab’s 20th birthday. It comprises a rich variety of predictions and future scenarios, covering a wide range of topics.

Recently a number of new contributions have been added to the site. Among them Lord Martin Rees, the UK’s Astronomer Royal, Professor at Cambridge University and former President of the Royal Society; investor and entrepreneur Steven Hoffman, Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner, along withDmitry Galov, security researcher and Alexey Malanov, malware analyst at Kaspersky Lab.

The new visions for 2050 consider, among other things:

  • The replacement of mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought – able to upload skills and knowledge in return – and the impact of this on individual consciousness and privacy of thought.
  • The ability to transform all life at the genetic level through gene editing.
  • The potential impact of mistakes made by advanced machine-learning systems/AI.
  • The demise of current political systems and the rise of ‘citizen governments’, where ordinary people are co-opted to approve legislation.
  • The end of the techno-industrial age as the world runs out of fossil fuels, leading to economic and environmental devastation.
  • The end of industrial-scale meat production, as most people become vegan and meat is cultured from biopsies taken from living, outdoor reared livestock.

The hypothetical prediction for 2050 from Dmitry Galov, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab is as follows: “By 2050, our knowledge of how the brain works, and our ability to enhance or repair it is so advanced that being able to remember everything and learn new things at an outrageous speed has become commonplace. Most kids are fitted with the latest memory boosting implants to support their learning and this makes education easier than it has ever been. 

“Brain damage as a result of head injury is easily repaired; memory loss is no longer a medical condition, and people suffering from mental illnesses, such as depression, are quickly cured.  The technologies that underpin this have existed in some form since the late 2010s. Memory implants are in fact a natural progression from the connected deep brain stimulation implants of 2018.

“But every technology has another side – a dark side. In 2050, the medical, social and economic impact of memory boosting implants are significant, but they are also vulnerable to exploitation and cyber-abuse. New threats that have appeared in the last decade include the mass manipulation of groups through implanted or erased memories of political events or conflicts, and even the creation of ‘human botnets’. 

“These botnets connect people’s brains into a network of agents controlled and operated by cybercriminals, without the knowledge of the victims themselves.  Repurposed cyberthreats from previous decades are targeting the memories of world leaders for cyber-espionage, as well as those of celebrities, ordinary people and businesses with the aim of memory theft, deletion of or ‘locking’ of memories (for example, in return for a ransom).  

“This landscape is only possible because, in the late 2010s when the technologies began to evolve, the potential future security vulnerabilities were not considered a priority, and the various players: healthcare, security, policy makers and more, didn’t come together to understand and address future risks.”

For more information and the full suite of inspirational and thought-provoking predictions, visit Earth 2050.

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Pizoelectrics: Healthcare’s new gymnasts of gadgetry

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Healthcare electronics is rapidly deploying for wellness, electroceuticals, and intrusive medical procedures, among other, powered by new technologies. Much of it is trending to diagnostics and treatment on the move, and removing the need for the patient to perform procedures on time. 

Instruments become wearables, including electronic skin patches and implants. The IDTechEx Research report, “Piezoelectric Harvesting and Sensing for Healthcare 2019-2029”, notes that sensors should preferably be self-powered, non-poisonous even on disposal, and many need to be biocompatible and even biodegradable. 

We need to detect biology, vibration, force, acceleration, stress and linear movement and do imaging. Devices must reject bacteria and be useful in wearables and Internet of Things nodes. Preferably we must move to one device performing multiple tasks. 

So is there a gymnast material category that has that awesome versatility? 

Piezoelectrics has a good claim. It measures all those parameters. That even includes biosensors where the piezo senses the swelling of a biomolecule recognizing a target analyte. The most important form of self-powered (one material, two functions) piezo sensing is ultrasound imaging, a market growing at 5.1% yearly. 

The IDTechEx Research report looks at what comes next, based on global travel and interviewing by its PhD level analysts in 2018 with continuous updates.  

Click here to read how Piezo has been reinvented.

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