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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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Android Go puts reliable smartphones in budget pockets

Nokia, Vodacom and Huawei have all launched entry-level smartphones running the Android Go edition, and all deliver a smooth experience, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Three new and notable Android Go smartphones have recently hit the market, namely the Nokia 1, the Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 and the Huawei Y3 (2018). These phones run one of the most basic versions of Android while still delivering a fairly smooth user experience.

Historically, consumers purchasing smartphones in the budget bracket would have a hit-and-miss experience with processing speed, smoothness of user interface, and app stability. The Google-supported Android Go edition operating system optimises the user experience by stripping out non-important visual effects to speed up the phone. Thish allows for more memory to be used by apps. 

Google also ensures that all smartphones running Android Go will receive feature and security updates as they are released by Google. This is a major selling point for these smartphones, as users of this smartphone will always be running the latest software, with virtually no manufacturer bloatware.

Vodafone Smart Kicka 4

At the lowest entry-level, the Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 performs well as a communicator for emails and WhatsApp messages. The 4” screen represents a step up for entry-level Android phones, which were previously standardised at 3.5”.

The display is bright and very responsive, while the limited screen real estate leaves the navigation keys off the screen as touch buttons. It uses 3G connectivity, which might seem like an outdated technology, but is good enough to stream SD videos and music. Vodacom has also thrown in some data gifts if the smartphone is activated before the end of September 2018. 

Its camera functionalities might be a slight let down for the aspirant Instagrammer, with a 2MP rear flash camera and a 0.3MP selfie snapper. Speed wise, the keyboard pops up quickly, which is a huge improvement from the Smart Kicka 3. However, this phone will not play well with graphics-intensive games. 

Nokia 1

Next up is the Nokia 1, which adds a much better 5MP camera, improved battery life and a bigger 4.5” screen. It supports LTE, which allows this smartphone to download and upload at the speed of flagships. It also sports the Nokia brand name, which many consumers trust.

Although the front camera is 2MP, the quality is extremely grainy, even with good lighting. This disqualifies this smartphone for the social media selfie snapper, but the 5MP rear camera will work for the landscape and portrait photographer. 

The screen also redeems this smartphone, providing a display which represents colours truly and has great viewing angles. Xpress-on back covers allows the use of interchangeable, multi-coloured back covers, which has proven to be a successful sales point for mid-range smartphones in the past. 

Huawei Y3 (2018)

The most capable of the Android Go edition competitors, the Huawei Y3 (2018) packs an even bigger screen at 5”, as well as an improved 8MP rear camera and HD video recording. The screen is the brightest and most vibrant of the three smartphones, but seems to be calibrated to show colours a little more saturated than they actually are. 

Nevertheless, the camera outperforms the other smartphones with good colour replication and great selfie capabilities via the 2MP front camera – far superior to the Nokia 1 despite the same spec. LTE also comes standard with this smartphone and Vodacom throws in 4G/LTE data goodies until the end of September 2018. The battery, however, is not removable and may only be replaced by a warranty technician.

Comparing the 3

All three smartphones have removable back covers, which provide access to the battery, SIM card and SD card slots. The smartphones have Micro USB ports on the bottom with headphone jacks on the top. The built-in speakers all performed well, with the Y3 (2018) housing an exceptionally loud built-in speaker. 

Although all at different price points, all three phones remain similar in performance and speed. The differentiators are apparent in the components, like camera quality and screen quality. It would be fair to rank the quality of the camera and battery life by respective market prices. The Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 performed well, for its R399 retail price. The Nokia 1, on the other hand, lags quite a bit in features when compared to the Huawei Y3 (2018), bwith oth retailing at R999.

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SA gets digital archive

As the world entered the centenary of Nelson Mandela’s birth on Mandela Day, 18 July 2018, South Africa celebrated the launch of a digital living archive. 

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The southafrica.co.za  site carries content about the country’s collective heritage in South Africa’s eleven official languages.

Designed as a nation building,  educational and brand promotion web based tool, the free-to-view platform features award-winning photographic and written content by leading South African photographers, authors, academics and photojournalists.

The emphasis is on quality, credible, factual content that celebrates a collective heritage in terms of the following: Cultural Heritage; Natural Heritage; Education; History; Agriculture; Industry; Mining; and Travel.

At the same time as reflecting on the nation’s history, southafrica.co.za celebrates South Africa’s natural, cultural and economic assets so that the youth can learn about their nation in their home language.

Southafrica.co.za Founder and CEO Hans Gerrizen conceptualised southafrica.co.za as a means for youth and communities from outlying areas to benefit from the digital age in terms of the web tool’s empowering educational component.

“We can only stand to deepen our collective experience of democracy and become a more forward planning nation if we know facts about our nation’s past and present in everyone’s home language,” he says.

Southafrica.co.za, with sister company Siyabona Africa, is the organiser and sponsor of the Mandela: 100 Moments photographic exhibition that runs until 30 September at Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront-based Nelson Mandela Gateway to Robben Island.  The 3-month exhibition, which runs daily from 08h00 until 15h00, is showcasing one hundred iconic Nelson Mandela images taken by veteran South African photojournalist and self-taught lensman Peter Magubane.

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