It is easy for many to take the internet for granted. Roaming around the city, chatting with friends and staying connected with family using mobile applications is possible only because of internet connectivity. One might argue that the internet comes as a luxury element post healthcare, energy, food, shelter and education. The Internet can help people with communication and decision making. For example, farmers can charge their yields at a reasonable price post referring to market prices on the internet. They can even predict weather and harvest accordingly. Money transfers from people across the city can occur instantaneously. This list never ends. Now the internet giant Facebook is teaming up with a company to provide free internet. Here is why Facebook added Reliance as a friend.

Why Facebook Wants to Provide Free Internet

Back in 2015, Facebook experimented with Free Basics for providing basic internet services to the rural population of the world. However, things did not go according to Facebook’s plan because of the regulatory conditions across telecom sectors in different parts of the world. It violated net neutrality laws. After public consultation, the Indian telecom regulator banned Free Basics. Since then Facebook has been eagerly waiting to do something about it.

There are more than 400 million WhatsApp users in India. Added to this fact, Facebook’s core platform has more Indian users than any other country. However, half of the Indian population is still offline. Facebook wants to target that new user-base.

Reliance’s Jio Initiative

Reliance’s Jio initiative succeeded in doing what Facebook was not able to do. It succeeded in providing mobile phones and the internet at a very low cost. It was able to do so because of the revenue generated from other divisions of the organization and the exorbitant loan that Reliance opted for. This move wiped out the telecom sector foundation in India. Competitors such as Vodafone Idea and Airtel lost millions of customers to the new Jio network.

Internet services and call services were provided by Reliance Jio at free of cost in 2016. This move forced competitors to charge less, which in turn, resulted in the internet revolution. Most of the poor population across India started using mobile phones and the internet. As of December 2019, more than 370 million people across India had subscribed to the Reliance network

How Facebook Added Reliance as a Friend

Facebook’s failure in the past to enter Indian markets with the Free Basics concept taught the company an important lesson. Starting from scratch will not work all the time. Acquiring an existing player was an easy choice at this point. Mark Zuckerberg was intelligent enough to detect Jio’s achievements. Added to this fact, the market capitalization of Reliance was down because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Indian National Rupee was at all-time low-value trading around 76 INR for 1 USD. After recognizing these facts, Facebook acquired 10% of the stake in Reliance India Limited at $5.7 billion. Facebook can leverage Reliance’s data for targeted advertisements. It will realize a significant jump in advertisement revenues from the Indian region.

Benefits of Increased Internet Access

Education is not available to everyone. Fortunately, people from poor backgrounds can get access to quality education through the internet. Poor people can access online education sites like Unacademy, Coursera and edX at free of cost. Added to this fact, people search and apply for jobs mostly through the internet. All jobs are highly interconnected these days. Thus, the internet would certainly provide intangible benefits to the rural population.

Millions of people could come out of poverty because of free internet access. Economic growth, employment and productivity of a country will improve significantly because of the internet access provision. In fact, Internet connectivity can generate $6.7 trillion of the global economy and create new jobs. India is the second-largest market for internet connectivity ranked only below China. It has around 600 million internet users.

Moving Forward

Around 30 million local stores in India were not online yet. Reliance’s latest experiment JioMart is working towards enabling this dream. Local Kirana stores can connect to the entire Indian population through the internet. If WhatsApp pay is leveraged on this occasion, possibilities will become endless. Owing to all these facts, accepting Reliance’s friend request was a strategic move towards achieving Facebook’s dreams.

– NarasingaMoorthy V 

Photo: Flickr

Starlink Satellite System
As the world progresses through the 21st century, the internet has become an invaluable tool. In the United States, people widely use it for educational purposes. Unfortunately, the developing world is not so lucky. With Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite system, people across the planet should be able to gain access to high-speed internet.

The primary challenge with providing high-speed internet across the globe lies with the cost of fiber optic cables. It is very expensive to obtain and supply to certain areas of the world. On the other hand, using a satellite system to create connections in a vacuum is around 47 percent more efficient and does not require the use of fiber optic cables.

How Starlink Will Connect the World

Musk’s plan is to send 42,000 satellites into orbit. This substantial goal by SpaceX might be a dream, but a large number is necessary to ensure fast and widespread connections across the planet.

People who use the Starlink satellite system would require a device called a Starlink Terminal in their homes. It is a simple tool that they would plug in and point towards the sky. For those in hard-to-reach areas and whose internet connections are slow, this is fantastic news.

Ultimately, the hope is to provide all those who cannot obtain a strong internet connection with the means to connect with the world. The first step of the plan is to provide broadband internet to the west first and expand it into the developing world shortly thereafter.

The Global Impact of a Connected World

Global connectivity would provide an opportunity for anyone to receive the same education despite geographical location. Some of the latest reports regarding primary school-aged children in sub-Saharan Africa have indicated that 59 percent drop out of school.

Additionally, the quality of education is poor; many children across the globe are unable to read at a basic level. The main concerns surrounding the lack of education include cost, quality of teaching and a lack of schools and teachers. Fortunately, the Starlink satellite system could provide connectivity to reduce cost, provide proper tools and improve access to education.

The Starlink Terminal would cost between $100-$300 and several people could conceivably share it. A shared cost between multiple people, perhaps a school, would increase the affordability of the Starlink satellite system and terminal.

A growing global economy would likely also result from the Starlink satellite system. Specifically, the system has an extremely low latency for information transfer. This could give people in developing areas of the world more opportunity to participate in local and global stock markets.

Further, since the Starlink satellite system would likely be the fastest internet connection in the world, most of the financial markets would undoubtedly use it. Financial organizations using the system would provide customers the ability to send and receive money at the same rate, no matter the geographic location. Ultimately, the use of the Starlink satellite system would aid in the fight against global poverty by allowing the communities to participate in activities that developed nations regularly have access to.

The Timeline

As of right now, 362 Starlink satellites are orbiting the world and more should launch every other week. However, the recent pandemic might slow down the time frame.

Prior to COVID-19, the expectation was to have all 42,000 satellites orbiting by the end of 2021. Eventually, there will be enough satellites in orbit to provide global coverage. Even if the Starlink satellite system implementation takes more time than Elon Musk originally intended, the potential benefits are difficult to ignore.

The Starlink satellite system has the capacity to connect the entire world, changing the way people around the globe interact with one another.

Drew Pinney
Photo: Wikimedia

ICTS and eHealth in Developing Countries
Information Communication Technology (ICT) supports medical workers when physicians are absent. They manage patient records and keep accurate accounts in medical supplies and medication inventory. ICTs increase lab information management and create algorithms for effective treatment plans including the distribution of medications and immunizations. As a laundry list of medical conveniences, ICT in eHealth has a lot of advantages. Yet, the concept of eHealth in developing countries is more about connecting rural and resource-poor communities with specialists. So, how does ICT and eHealth in developing countries work?

Asynchronous Medical Exchanges

The obvious advantage is that health information is easily accessible, regardless of time, location or occupation. Asynchronous medical exchanges bridge physical and time-complying barriers between multiple personnel. This could be between a doctor and patient or doctor and specialists or all three. There are various forms of ICT (email, video conference and audio), all of which offer an array of services including teledermatology, telepathology and teleradiology, to name a few.

Maternal and child health care is of primary concern in many countries, and India has shown particular promise in women and children eHealth platforms.

Successful ICT Programs in India’s Mobile Health Initiative

The use of cell phones, home patient monitoring devices and other wireless devices closed the gap between India’s poorest communities and health care. The National Informatics Centre developed MCTS (Mother and Child Tracking System), which utilizes information technology (IT or ICT) to access a full spectrum of health services for pregnant women and children. MCTS operates on an alert-notification platform for medical workers. Services include antenatal, post-op and post-natal care for mom as well as guaranteed immunizations and check-ups for the first five years.

At the state level, eHealth programs like PICME (Pregnancy Infant Cohort Monitoring Evaluation) in Tamil Nadu, Arogyam in Uttar Pradesh and the 2018 Digital LifeCare initiative all provide working platforms for physicians to screen, manage and care for patients in resource-poor areas on or off-site.

The use of ICT in eHealth has impacted developing countries and progress, as illustrated in India, has occurred. However, reliable internet access is necessary for the successful implementation of ICT in eHealth. In addition, eHealth development varies by country and has unequal distribution among the poorest of countries.

Serbia has a population of 7 million with about 37 percent seeking health information online; only 33 percent have access to reliable internet. Similarly, Turkey has a population of 80.3 million with reliable internet access for more than half. Algeria, Guatemala and Zambia’s populations have less than 20 percent internet access respectively and Afghanistan only 5 percent. Many challenges threaten the successful implementation of eHealth, chief among them access to reliable internet.

A Digital Divide

If global society continues daily reliance on digital technology and services, resource-poor countries will be in the wake of information communication technology. Gaps in supportive infrastructure cripple developing countries’ chances of successful eHealth platforms.

Rapid technological advances over the last decade impede resource-poor locations’ ability to remain up-to-date with medical equipment and treatment plans, disallowing use of the technology. Likewise, unstable power supplies and insufficient or unreliable communication networks fundamentally limit the potential of eHealth integration.

A cross-sectional survey conducted in Brazil reported 81.4 percent of medical physicians believed EHR (electronic health records) response time was unsatisfactory. Eighty-six percent complained of technical difficulties and 35 percent had an insufficient supply of equipment in clinics—a direct result of insufficient funding.

Information Communication Technology is expensive and insurance packages, private party investments and individual donors or clients provide the majority of funding.

Deputy Director of the Digital Health Solutions Programme Skye Gilbert speaks caution and vigilance to collaborators when considering solutions for the digital divide, stating that “Being excluded from the digital domain will have more and more implications for someone’s health status…So the digital divide will become more and more tied to health equity over time.”

A Symbiotic Relationship

Overall, health improvement for resource-poor settings will not improve unless health technologies are accessible to all. The way in which ICT impacts eHealth in developing countries is quantifiable in that the countries with proper resources and pre-existing conducive technological platforms have measurable success in the implementation of eHealth programs. But for those countries struggling to fill in a widening digital gap, eHealth and, by consequence, people will always underrepresent and neglect public health.

Countries like Bangladesh, Paraguay, Qatar and Rwanda officially adopted eHealth strategies—four of 73 with eHealth initiative plans. Until medical information communication technology is accessible to everyone, health will only ever be a privilege for those able to afford it.

– Marissa Taylor
Photo: Flickr

6 Ways Kenya is Closing the Internet Connectivity Gap
Access to the internet has come a long way in Kenya since its adoption in 1993. The first internet users in Kenya were nonprofits, international organizations and multinational companies. In 2000, there were a total of 200,000 users, only 0.7 percent of the general population. A gap in accessibility persisted between these organizations and the remote, urban poor. Today, not only are all government ministries now accessible via the web, but 89.7 percent of the population regularly uses the internet as of June 2019. Better access to data translates to better education and standard of living. Kenya achieved this dramatic increase in accessibility thanks to a number of government and business initiatives. Here are six initiatives that have helped close the internet connectivity gap in Kenya.

6 Ways Kenya is Closing the Internet Connectivity Gap

  1. The Communications Authority of Kenya: To commercialize the internet, the Kenyan Government created the Communications Authority (CA) of Kenya in 1998. Its charge was to develop licensing for systems and services in communications and telecommunications, electrical engineering, broadcasting, e-commerce, cyber-security, multimedia as well as postal services.
  2. The Universal Service Fund: In 2009, the CA established the Universal Service Fund, which was designed to propagate access to information and communication technology (ICT) throughout the country. The fund has helped finance ambitious initiatives and innovation ICT through license levies, government appropriations, grants and donations. National projects continue to be enacted to expand services to remote and urban poor.
  3. Cyber Cafes and English: A challenge in making internet more commercial in Kenya was the lack of technology, electricity and landlines in the hands of average people. With the expansion of internet shops in the past two decades, urban centers have offered more access to technology without directly purchasing access from providers. A significant catalyst for greater usage has also been the English language since English is the official language of Kenya.
  4. Mobile Network Signals: Data from a CA report covering July to September 2019 shows that mobile phone users are purchasing more than one SIM card in order to gain access to new services and products, thereby increasing overall mobile subscriptions among the population. During that period of time, subscriptions increased 4.1 percent from the previous quarter.
  5. Fiber Optic Cables: In order to support a more robust data infrastructure and increase internet access in Kenya, companies like Telkom have expanded undersea fiber optic cables, known as “backbones,” that hold together multiple company networks to build capacity and expand regional access. If one line fails, the backbone is able to reroute internet traffic.
  6. Public Wifi Zones: In 2019, telecommunication companies like Telkom Enterprise, Safaricom and Poa! introduced WiFi zones in urban centers, offering wifi access either free or reduced in cost. In partnership with Nairobi County, the Link Kenya Project was developed by Telkom in Nairobi to help close the internet connectivity gap by providing free wireless internet access to three major urban centers in Nairobi. Project “innovation hubs” include 55-inch LCD displays that show ads in order to pay for support. Telkom aims to bring free public WiFi access to most major cities and towns in Kenya, claiming that portions of the population were unable to purchase subscriptions due to high costs.

Kenya’s agenda to digitize the country and economy were spurred in part by the government’s investment in information technology and communication technology in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Since then, commercial access to the internet ballooned through government investment, the spread of mobile technology and technological innovations of private companies. Although not yet at 100 percent coverage, these six initiatives to close the internet connectivity gap in Kenya demonstrate how a country can leap into the digital age when government and business work in tandem.

Caleb Cummings
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Internet Access Helps Impoverished Nations
As of 2018, 4.1 billion people currently have internet access. This is roughly 95 percent of the world’s 7.1 million population. According to a data graph constructed by Our World in Data, the majority of this internet access is in North America and Asia. Comparatively, on average only about 20 percent of the population of Africa has internet access. Meanwhile, over 60 percent of India’s population lives under the poverty line and only 26 percent of the country’s population has internet access. Internet access can help impoverished nations, though, which is why there are efforts to bring it to places it is not available currently.

Connecting the Globe

Providing a country with internet access is more than just access to the internet. It is also about global connections. Internet.org is an organization that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg created, which explains that the internet should be a global right. This is due to the wealth of information that the internet contains. Global Citizen also asserts that if Africa had access to the information that the internet provided, it may be able to jumpstart its infrastructure.

Causes of Lack of Internet Access

Weform.org explains the following reasons for lack of internet access across the world:

  • Countries do not have the proper infrastructure to provide their people with an internet connection. According to the United Nations (U.N.), however, the establishment of 3G networks could be one effort toward improvement.
  • A 3G network currently covers only 60 percent of the world. By 2020, the U.N. expects that 97 percent of the world will have full 3G coverage.

  • Cost is also a major factor because 13 percent of the world’s population currently lives under the poverty line.

  • People in these countries do not always have the skills necessary to properly use the internet. Also, 13 percent of the global population is illiterate.

  • Eighty percent of internet content is only available in 10 different languages and less than half of the global population speaks these languages.

Looking Toward the Future

Internet access can help impoverished nations see major improvements. Google created a network of free Wi-Fi hotspots across the country of Nigeria in 2018. Global Citizen estimated that this could generate $300 billion for Africa’s total GDP by 2025. The Nigerian government is taking notice of the efforts led by Google. President Yemi Osinbajo visited Silicon Valley in 2018 and attended the launch of the Google hotspots, according to Global Citizen. This shows that an increase in technology not only improves conditions for a nation’s people but can also help local governments understand how internet access can reduce poverty.

Another way internet access can reduce poverty is by providing support for those suffering from poverty. Telecommunications company Vodafone launched Vodafone’s Farmers’ Club. Esoko states that the organization provides over 1 million farmers with phones. This allows access to numerous services including farming tips, weather updates and nutrition tips. According to Dela A. Kumahor, who served as a design expert on the project, research showed that farmers often feel restricted by their low amount of technology literacy and lack of business sense. According to The Guardian, Vodafone has done the research to show that mobile-focused agricultural services could lead to a $34 billion increase in 26 different markets by 2020. The service has also rolled out in Turkey, where 500,000 farmers have signed onto the project. This has led to a $100 million increase in farmer productivity.

Internet access can help impoverished nations that need relief. The internet provides jobs, services and connections that allow people, governments and industries the opportunity to help their countries fight global poverty. Improving agriculture and providing services are just two of the ways that internet access can reduce poverty.

– Jacob Creswell
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Africa
World hunger has been on the rise for the third year in a row, with nearly 10 million more people without enough food to survive on. Hunger in Africa is especially prevalent, where over 25 percent of the population suffers from some form of food insecurity.

There are many factors that play a role in why some areas of Africa suffer from food insecurity. While poverty is a key factor, environmental issues such as drought, desertification, overpopulation and ongoing conflicts are all contributing issues. These issues inhibit the creation of a stable food source. Therefore, the lack of food stability is a key contributor to hunger in Africa. However, a new and innovative digital solution is joining the fight against hunger in Africa.

Jumia in Africa

Jeremy Hodara and Sacha Poignonnec founded Jumia in 2012, which is an online marketplace for clothes, technology and other commodities. The website has quickly gained the reputation of being the Amazon of Africa, because of its similarity to Amazon in operation and magnitude.

The website created a service, Jumia Food, that delivers fresh food to citizens and businesses alike in 11 African countries. The service aims to reduce food scarcity in Africa by offering a reliable source of food to select countries.

Services like Jumia Food are common in the United States. For example, the services Imperfect Produce and Farm Box Direct, offer the delivery of fresh produce to people’s homes. These companies act as a way to promote sustainability and lower food waste in America; however, Jumia Foods also offers a way to maintain a healthy diet from a safe and reliable source of food.

Jumia Food offers basic food necessities that people can normally find in supermarkets, as well as the delivery of restaurant foods, alcoholic beverages and an assortment of commodities, such as electronics and beauty products. Jumia employed delivery drivers to deliver all orders by bike.

Internet Access

While not a continent-wide solution to food insecurity, Jumia Foods has great potential for those with an internet connection in Africa. The ongoing conflicts in a number of African countries and the fact that the majority of Africans live without a car make trips to a local supermarket a difficult endeavor. This is especially the case for those who live in rural regions far away from a supermarket or grocery store.

Despite this, most of Africa is still without connection to the internet. This difficulty currently hinders the impact of the service. Less than 12 percent of the world’s internet users are located in an African country and only around 13.5 percent of Africans have internet access. However, telecommunication in Africa is growing at a rapid rate. In 2018 alone, the number of internet users in Africa increased by 20 percent.

Bridging the Gap

The internet is a great solution to help reduce hunger in Africa because of the potential to connect remote parts of any country to a reliable food source. As internet usage in Africa continues to rise, this will hopefully reduce food insecurity. With services like Jumia Foods and the potential to connect thousands of customers to their local supermarket, enormous progress is in the future.

Jumia Foods cannot provide food to the most impoverished corners of Africa yet, but the business is nonetheless a futuristic solution that will help provide food to many African consumers. With every additional country that the service expands into, it will create more delivery driver jobs. Further, food insecurity may reduce through this innovative new solution to hunger in Africa.

Andrew Lueker
Photo: Flickr

 Technology's Role in Human Trafficking
The United States Department of Justice defines human trafficking as a crime that involves exploiting a person for labor, services or commercial sex. Tactics for recruiting victims have existed since the dawn of time with vulnerable people, forced or coerced into trafficking. Those most at risk for recruiting include vulnerable demographics. This includes groups such as homeless people or runaways, domestic violence victims, undocumented and documented immigrants. The internet has made the facilitation of human trafficking easier, but it has also improved circumstances for victims and survivors. This article will highlight technology’s role in human trafficking.

Technology’s Role in Human Trafficking

Prior to the use of technology and in some areas where access to the internet is limited, recruiters depend on personal social networks, the lure of wealth and romantic relationships to recruit victims. In addition, women and girls, already involved with the trafficker and known as bottoms, will assist the trafficker in recruiting other victims.

One way in which technology changes this dynamic is by allowing recruiters to operate through the veil of anonymity. Traffickers often conduct conversations via the Dark Web. According to Europol’s Internet Organized Crime Threat Assessment from the year 2015, 40 percent of criminal-to-criminal payments take place in Bitcoin, a decentralized digital currency without a central bank.

Anyone can become a sex trafficking victim because access to the internet furthers the reach and influence of a trafficker. If they are unable to take advantage of socioeconomic vulnerability, then they will be able to use a potential victim’s naivete in online interactions to their advantage. Further exploitation of the victim often includes threats of using commercial sex acts that people have documented. Traffickers might threaten to expose the images, which is a fairly common exploitation tactic. Laws against nonconsensual pornography or revenge porn are increasing, although New York’s laws need improvements.

Tracking Victims

Technology’s role in human trafficking becomes increasingly disturbing, considering the abilities to track the victim’s every move. This could potentially involve the use of GPS technology; however, traffickers have gone as far as embedding GPS tracker chips into their victim’s bodies. An article in Principia Scientific International, which is legally registered in the United Kingdom as a company incorporated for charitable purposes, detailed the story of a doctor x-raying a patient who had handed him a note saying, “I have a tracker in me.” Both the doctor and the victim in the story chose to remain anonymous for safety reasons. This is especially alarming considering an RFID chip was, in fact, embedded in the victim. Often used for pets, RFID chips, short for radio frequency identification, utilize electromagnetic fields to automatically identify and track tags attached to object.

The Bill: AB226

On March 4, 2019, KOLO-TV featured a story regarding the bill, AB226. The bill would ban forced human microchipping. Democratic Assemblyman, Skip Daly, presented the bill at a legislative hearing in Carson City. The network stated that it wanted to show the story after a Wisconsin company offered optional implantable microchips to its employees. Many of the people interviewed for the story appeared to believe that this issue had science fiction overtones. They further stated that “no good could come of (the use of microchips).” This implies the ambiguity of the results of such a procedure and presents issues that could possibly occur in the future.

However, the story of the victim at the doctor’s office signals that this could be a present-day issue. Despite this fact, most do not hear of the issue. It is unknown how many other victims have had microchips implanted into their bodies. Technology’s role in human trafficking seems bleak so far; however, when people use technology correctly, it can be a powerful tool in anti-trafficking efforts. Further, Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore created the company, Thorn. The company “house(s) the first engineering and data science team focused solely on developing new technologies to combat online child sexual abuse.” Despite these positive efforts, human trafficking continues to be an alarming issue globally.

Julia Stephens
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

smart cities

Major cities around the world are aiming to reinvent themselves as smart cities. Smart cities integrate new technology that has already been successful for individual households into largescale cities. The modern household has an abundance of people and appliances connected through the internet. The tech-world refers to this phenomenon as the Internet of Things (IoT). Smart cities will take advantage of new technology to become the utopias of sci-fi. On a laundry list of issues to tackle, homelessness stands as one of the most imposing. While some cities concede that the leap forward will not solve homelessness, they are optimistic about broaching benefits for the homeless.

Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona is looking to join other European Union cities in offering on-line diaries.  These semi-private journals will allow the homeless to account for their location and day-to-day activities. Most importantly, they will keep track of crucial information, like medical records, potentially saving lives in critical situations. This addresses a symptom of modern life that has only gotten worse over time. Authorities treat individuals without documentation as though they never existed, and therefore, these individuals cannot benefit fully from the modern information age.

People often take being in the system for granted. Medical records, employment history and interpersonal connections are integral pieces of information to share in modern life. The homeless in smart cities will no longer be invisible people.

Birmingham, England

Many different charity organizations address specific issues out of the multitude of problems that the smart cities face. A divide and conquer strategy is necessary but it benefits from a coordinated approach across groups. Change into Action, a partnership of the Birmingham City Council, the Mayor of the West Midlands and the West Midlands Combined Authority, unites all of the major charity organizations in Birmingham together.

 Fortunately, citizens now have an easy way to select exactly how charities will use their money to help the homeless in smart cities. This donation strategy targets two key psychological barriers for the average benefactor. The first is that people are overwhelmed when they face a multitude of problems they would like to try to remedy. People are more likely to donate now that they can specifically send £2 for a hot meal to someone in need. The second barrier that is broken is the identifiable victim effect. While potential donors may not know exactly who their money is going to, they are able to conceptualize the individual that will receive their help and are more likely to donate.

Jhansi, India

Energy-efficient housing is another technological advancement that smart cities are integrating into their new smart infrastructure. Wealthy people have been able to experience the monetary benefits of energy-efficient housing for some time now, as they can afford modern homes. Modern, energy-efficient homes use less energy and therefore cost less to live in. Jhansi, India has stated in its smart city initiative report that it aims to provide energy-efficient affordable housing for about 7,000 households. The homeless in smart cities will have the opportunity to afford to pay their utility bills and keep a roof over their heads. 

A variety of cities within different countries are all benefitting from embedding smart technology into their framework. The Chief Information Officer of Adelaide, South Australia Peter Auhl, said that the smart city planning phase is the most critical for success and that cities should purchase technology with a direct goal in mind. Saving the homeless from the neglect they experience is a goal that smart cities can achieve.

– Nicholas Pihralla
Photo: Pixabay

5 Facts About the Technology Renaissance in Africa
As of 2019, 11 percent of the world’s internet subscribers are from Africa and only 39 percent of Africans use the internet. However, Africa is quickly closing the digital gap with the developed world. Here are five facts about the technology renaissance in Africa, as digital technology rapidly expands across the continent.

5 Facts About the Technology Renaissance in Africa

  1. Africa is Ripe to Enter the Tech Economy: Africa has multiple advantages over other regions in developing a technology-based economy. The continent has the youngest population in the world with an average age of 19.5, meaning that there is a large population of young people looking for a chance to break into the technology industry. Because of the continent’s late entry into the global tech economy, African tech companies can learn from the early mistakes of tech hubs like Silicon Valley. Further, Africa is entering the digital market at an ideal moment – by entering the industry late, African techies can immediately take advantage of globalized internet technology, bypassing outdated infrastructures such as landlines and branch banking and directly adopting mobile phones or mobile money.
  2. Technology is Revolutionizing Other Sectors: Technology is not just good for the technology industry – as many countries have discovered, one can apply tech to a multitude of industries. Technology is revolutionizing education in Africa through digital books and online classes with global universities such as Harvard and MIT. An app called iCow helps farmers manage their cattle populations. Africans can attend church services online, solving problems of limited religious resources in smaller communities. Additionally, mobile phones and increased connectivity have already been critical in responding to crises like Boko Haram kidnappings in Nigeria.  New technology has already had a profound effect on both commercial and social industries.
  3. Tech Education is Booming: Recognizing the critical need for technology-based education, multiple universities in Africa now offer software engineering, computer science and other tech programs that compete with established universities such as Yale or Stanford. Further, technology accelerators are rapidly growing. French telecommunications company Orange opened its first African digital center in Tunis, Tunisia in April 2019, which will support startups and educate young entrepreneurs. Nairobi, Kenya-based Andela is the top computer engineering accelerator in Africa, connecting its students with tech jobs around the world.
  4. Africa is Building its Own Tech Economy: The technology renaissance in Africa means that the continent will eventually have its own independent tech market. For example, in October 2019 President Paul Kagame of Rwanda inaugurated Africa’s first smartphone factory. The factory does not produce iPhones – instead, it produces the Mara, a mobile phone that the pan-African Mara Group developed. The Mara is unique in that it is the first phone a company entirely assembles in Africa. Other African companies entering the smartphone market include Onyx Connect from South Africa and AfriOne from Nigeria.
  5. Growing Tech Industries Raise GDP: The increase in access to technology is critical to increasing African countries’ economies. The World Bank reports that a mere 10 percent increase in internet penetration represents a 1.38 percent increase in GDP for a developing country. The growth of African technology also attracts international business – IBM, Google, Facebook and Microsoft have all begun investment projects in Africa based on the continent’s technological growth. Though getting widespread technology access across dispersed communities is a challenge, African governments are coming together and developing plans to move the technology renaissance in Africa forward.

Though African countries are still developing, the continent is becoming a major player in the global technology economy. From international investment to country-specific development, a technology renaissance in Africa is truly underway. The next decade will only see more development and innovations from the “Silicon Savannah.”

Melanie Rasmussen
Photo: Flickr

Technological Access in Bhutan

A mountainous landlocked kingdom of 766,000 people, Bhutan has been traditionally been isolated and disconnected from the outside world for a number of centuries, with previous rulers keeping the nation as a “hermit kingdom” prior to the legalization of television and Internet in 1999. Bhutan‘s economy relies heavily on its agriculture and forestry alongside the budding hydroelectricity industry, which has proven difficult due to the mountainous terrain of the country. The country’s main trade partners are India and Bangladesh, with no known relationship with the U.S. or other major U.N. members. The legalization of the Internet in 1999, as well as investments in technological advancement in the mountainous country, is a turning point for the kingdom as the developing technological access in Bhutan is expected to bring the country to the modern era.

Internet Development

Since the Internet’s introduction in 1999, Bhutan quickly was able to quickly build its telecommunication infrastructure and have much of the country connected. Cell phone services began in 2003, with 80 percent of the population owning a cell phone as of 2018, which includes 70 percent of the population that consists of farmers, making Bhutan one of the most connected countries in the world. This jump from the days of being isolated from the world allows the people of Bhutan to communicate both within and outside of the country’s borders.

Telecommunications

The continued developing technological access in Bhutan has also seen growth through Bhutan’s own investment into its communication networks. Bhutan‘s internal ICT development includes:

  • implementing protection lines for consumer purchases
  • building stations for mobile carriers and broadcasters and expanding upon broadband connections for wireless connections and private access for citizens
  • investing in cybersecurity and strengthening the overall connection quality

The investments in the internal network lines have allowed Bhutan to quickly connect the nation at a rapid pace. However, challenges remain in terms of developing the rural areas of the country within its mountainous terrain. That said, the government is actively looking at ways to change the status quo.

The National Rehabilitation Program (NRB) and the Common Minimum Program are two examples of initiatives focused on building new facilities and roads as well as easier access to electricity and supplies. Mountain Hazelnuts, a company headquartered in Eastern Bhutan has also made major tech investments for its farms, increasing employment and supplying smartphones for hired farmers that help with directions on the road and improve communication.

Henry Elliott
Photo: Flickr