Innovation solves unique African challenges. The eCitizen is the next wave.

Paygate Africa

I often sit back and marvel at the rate of adoption of new technologies in Africa which, in many cases, exceeds that of developing world. Technology is embraced when it solves practical problems. The most notable example in Africa has been the exponential penetration of mobile telephony, and more recently smart phones. The lack of physical infrastructure connecting people who were starved of this basic service drove this unprecedented phenomenon. Humans are social beings that crave connection and simplicity.

When the public services fail, like they did with fixed line telephony, the private sector steps in to fill the void. Technology has been an exceptional enabler of this drive. If one, simply considers the following statistics, which would have been scarcely believable many years ago, it tells the story (Mail & Guardian, April 2022):

  • The mobile industry contributes $132 billion to sub-Saharan Africa’s GDP as of 2022 and is expected to grow to $155billion by 2025
  • Transactions on mobile money platforms reached over $490 billion by 2020

The ubiquity of connectivity that now exists on the African continent has created the platform for the practical implementation of digital transformation of government on the African continent. 

In many parts of the developed world “old school” processes in government have not transitioned into the digital age simply because they work. My nephew lives in Switzerland, and I am stunned at how manual, and paper laden government services remain. However, regardless of the “archaic” mode of operation, they still work efficiently. Forms are filled out by hand and mailed in. In contrast, in #africa , manual, paper-based systems simply fail the citizen. When last did anyone use the mail and trust that what was posted would be delivered?

The ubiquity of information and consequent exposure by the African citizen to the services levels they deserve is applying the pressure to governments to deliver on these expectations or risk losing support. 

Transitioning to Digital government in 2022! Rising expectations, uncertainty and disruption have placed more pressure on governments to advance their transition to digital government.

Given the dynamic described above, it is worth considering what latest technical trends will be adopted first or perhaps in unique ways in Africa. The chart below, compiled by Gartner, reflects the international technology priorities in governments across the globe. 

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A similar survey of African governments would produce a similar list but with differing priorities and significant variation and between countries. There are additional global technology trends for 2022 which have potentially significant application in governments in Africa. These include:

  • Robotic process automation (RPA)
  • Edge computing
  • Blockchain Internet of Things (IOT)

What is creating the drive?

The internet has democratized access to information, exposing citizens from across the globe to the services they are entitled to from their governments. The age of the eCitizen and the expectation that their governments should be easy to do business with is applying pressure to governments to conform to global standards. Furthermore, access to development agency funding is becoming increasingly dependent on systems that introduce transparency into the process of deploying funds.

Africa’s Technology Priorities

With the overload of potential technology to employ, the practical requirements on the ground will drive the adoption of innovation in unique ways. Based on our experience, we believe the following emerging technologies, funded by way of Public Private Partnerships (“PPP”) will drive the African citizen becoming an #eCitizen and are central to our strategy as ICE Tech:

1.     Private cloud platforms with containerization and orchestration on new infrastructure where business continuity, cybersecurity, and connectivity are deployed as part of a single layer for application delivery. We serve our applications on Kubernetes deployed on Nutanix Hyperconverged Infrastructure with real-time or near real-time replication to disaster recovery sites in each country.

2.     Mobile application or web application access for eCitizen services to provide broad access limiting the need to visit physical offices ideally eliminating paperwork.

3.     Legacy or paper-based system modernization, hosted on the private cloud infrastructure described above developed using Low Code development platforms such as ICE Engine, which is our specialized eGovernment framework. 

4.     Edge computing but with offline capability to combat the real challenges of connectivity and power consistency. At ICE Tech we have developed #edgecomputing solutions that employ containerisation, clustering, and orchestration to provide performance and redundancy at a site level. 

5.     The internet of things or IOT implemented to solve critical automation requirements rather than to service consumer applications. This could include sensors for agriculture, the railways, port automation and flow control triggers to execute business rules obfuscating the need for human. In effect automation to ensure the digital separation of duties. We have deployed such a solution at Beitbridge to manage the boarder flow across all fourteen agencies. 

6.     Machine learning/ artificial intelligence applications to provide input into IOT or flow control systems to execute unbiased decision making. In this context, ICE Tech has built a machine learning platform to categorize vehicles at tolls to ensure the correct toll fees are charged.

7.     Blockchain – I have this last. I won’t go into the details of my views on #blockchain in this context as I believe that warrants a follow up article on its own which you can watch out for. 

Gartner refers to “Total Experience Solutions” as a government priority identified in its survey. Our Mission at ICE Tech is exactly this:

“Our solutions must aim to improve compliance and revenue collection to provide government with the resources and tools to improve service delivery and the overall citizen’s experience in their country.