Africa can Lead the 4th Industrial Revolution by looking inward and using homegrown technology to solve its unique challenges.

In many ways, African consumers have been leaders in adopting new technologies in segments like mobile telephones, data connectivity, and mobile money. However, African governments have lagged behind this trend. The reasons for the lag are numerous and primarily due to the following:

  • Limited funding, likely because of budgetary priorities targeted at basic needs such as infrastructure
  • The shortage of skills in the technology domain
  • The litany of projects on the continent using “off the shelf” products that require governments to adopt first-world practices, which are often not feasible, ultimately resulting in these projects failing

Despite the lag and causes highlighted above, African citizens are demanding the first-world service levels from their governments that they are exposed to through digital media and pushing their governments to adapt at a much higher rate than the pace of change typical for governments. The chart by Gartner below shows the typical progression; however, the lack of systems in Africa, in general, creates the potential for African nations to leapfrog their first-world counterparts because legacy applications can either be replaced or are manual

Leapfrogging Digital Transformation to Digital Autonomy with ICE Engine

The opportunity for African governments to adopt Industry 4.0 technology, or Government 4.0, is immense, but it must be fit for purpose. Technologies such as ICE Tech’s Integrated Country Engine, a Low Code eGovernment development framework developed in Africa, built using industry-standard cloud-native technology, designed around the unique challenges African governments and citizens face, is the key to unlocking Government 4.0. ICE Tech’s funded Government as a Service or GaaStm offering addresses the funding and skills constraints faced by Government.

The design of the ICE Engine platform creates fertile ground for local skills development and job creation. Technology is a potential onramp for youth to develop skills that can be employed locally for the benefit of their nations. Our experience, to date, has dispelled the fear that digital transformation will cause job losses. It is, in fact, quite the contrary; jobs are created due to:

·       The scale of services the Government can offer with the greater budgetary capacity created by the revenue enhancement digital transformation can deliver.

·       Introducing new technology creates the opportunity for the upskilling of youth, ultimately contributing to a broader base of technical know-how in digitally transformed countries empowered by accessible technology like ICE Engine

“THE TRANSFORMATIVE POTENTIAL OF 4IR IN AFRICA IS SUBSTANTIAL (1)

Encouraging economic growth and structural transformation – The ICT sector in Africa has continued to grow, and mobile technologies and services have generated 1.7 million direct jobs.

Fighting poverty and inequality – The spread of #digitaltechnologies can empower the poor with access to information, job opportunities, and services that improve their standard of living. We have already witnessed the transformational power of formal financial services through mobile phones, such as M-Pesa, reaching the underserved.

Reinventing labor, skills, and production – By 2030, Africa’s potential workforce will be among the world’s largest, paired with the needed infrastructure and skills for innovation and technology use. Africa’s working population is becoming better educated and prepared to seize the opportunities provided by the 4IR. Access to online learning platforms such as Udemy, coupled with the ubiquity of mobile digital communications, has democratized education by making it available to anyone, anywhere on the globe. 

Increasing financial services and investment – Digitization has impacted economic growth through inclusive finance, enabling the unbanked to enter formality through retail electronic payment platforms and virtual savings and credit supply technological platforms.

Modernizing agriculture and agro-industries – Africa has yet to harness the full potential of its agricultural sector, and #4ir technologies provide an opportunity to do so – see the ICE Cash case study below.

Improving health care and human capital – African countries face numerous health challenges exacerbated by climate change, limited physical infrastructure, and a lack of qualified professionals. 4IR technology can help mitigate these threats and build sustainable healthcare systems, especially in fragile states, by employing borderless digital diagnostics and the delivery of medicines using innovative technologies such as drones, a process already undertaken in Rwanda, and leveraging off the increasingly efficient #globalsupplychain .”

The following case study illustrates where technology can be applied to the unique needs of Africa, solving challenges typically not faced in the first world. ICE Tech has developed an AI-based Vehicle Classification module deployed within its tolling projects in Africa.

Case Study

Vehicle toll fees are determined by the class of vehicle crossing the toll. Even where there is a vehicle registration system that maintains the vehicle class linked to a license plate, the connectivity and inter-agency data sharing challenges limit the usability of this data. Consequently, the vehicle class is determined by the toll booth operator. This process is subject to fraud and error. In the former scenario, an operator can classify a truck that would attract a higher fee as a car and “pocket” the difference in the fee. The existing solutions to counteract this problem are electro-mechanical strips in the road after a toll which is maintenance intensive and can only provide a post-transaction audit function. It does not stop the fraud.

The Solution: ICE AI Vehicle Classifier

ICE Tech uses an array of commodity cameras paired with its proprietary artificial intelligence engine to identify and classify vehicles in real time. This high-tech solution, developed in Africa, solves a unique African challenge cost-effectively. This is fit for purpose.

Case Study

The fertility of the African land imbues it with substantially greater potential to generate export revenue from agriculture than at current levels. Technology is one of the keys to unlocking this potential. There is an abundance of aid funding seeking a home to be deployed to significantly enhance the agricultural contribution of Africa to the global economy. The challenge lies in the fragmented mode of operation of most farming activities on the continent, whether cattle or crop. This fragmentation limits the capacity for #aidfunding to make significant inroads into delivering the impact that the mass of available funds could have. Furthermore, the lack of track and trace of cattle dipping and immunization limits the export capacity for meat producers to the first world, where high standards demand traceability.

The Solution: ICE Cash Agricultural Solutions

The ICE Cash platform has been deployed into the following agricultural initiatives:

·       The digital financial management of farming inputs and outputs for small-scale farmers funded by donors or government initiatives. The digitization of these processes eliminates the leakages in funds inherent in the existing manual processes, shortens the working capital cycle of farmers, and ensures the input suppliers receive payment.

·       The digital tracking of cattle using RFID ear tags that link cattle to the owner, providing a digital cattle asset register. In addition, the #rfid tags are scanned during each dipping process and veterinary visit providing the traceability of the animal lifecycle required for export purposes. A further benefit of the digitization of cattle is the management of stock movement permits and the reduction in stock theft. Once mandated, an untagged animal is deemed stolen, as removing a tag renders it unusable. 

The opportunity to digitally transform African governments is an opportunity to improve the life of African citizens and accelerate Africa’s inclusion into the global digital economy.

Africa can become digitally autonomous with more locally developed, fit-for-purpose solutions.

References:

1.     https://www.brookings.edu/research/the-fourth-industrial-revolution-and-digitization-will-transform-africa-into-a-global-powerhouse/