Participants at the ICT Conference
By Walter Wilson Nana in Harare, Zimbabwe
Africa was not part of the agrarian and industrial revolutions. However, in the 21st century, Africa must be part of the technology revolution if the continent hhas to develop, Prof Sammy Chumbow from Cameroon told delegates during last month’s fifth annual conference of Information and Communications technology (ICT) in Harare Zimbabwe.
Information technology is present in all aspects of human development including education, agriculture, banking, government etc. Despite multi sectorial efforts to get the continent connected, a large number of Africans in rural areas will not even know what an ipad is if you show them one.
There are large companies in Africa engaged in international marketing that have no website while some Africans only see a computer for the first time when they enrol in a university. Speaking during the conference, Zimbabwe’s Deputy Prime Minister, Prof. Arthur Mutambara said ICT revolution is a game changer, and things cannot be the same again in Africa. “ICT affects every sector of our life.
Africa must be competitive in all its facets of life and how we can use ICT to drive Africa’s competiveness, attract investors via ICT, develop it, customise it and stop being consumers of ICT,” the government executive officer said The host country that is often under the international spotlight for the wrong reasons appears to have moved faster than most African countries because it has an ICT minister.
The ICT Minister Nelson Chamisa told delegates that Africa should no longer be importing computers, “we should make them. We should consolidate and strategies on more ideas,” he added. Chamisa invited government across Africa to move very fast on the ICT developments as they do in other sectors.
But why is Africa reluctant in using the full potential of the information superhighway? Slow or non existent internet connections, computer literacy is basic (some secondary schools don’t even own a single computer or when they do, they are not for teaching purposes, ineffective power supplies etc.
Whatever reason is advanced for the slow progress of ICT in Africa is not good enough considering that the continents loses big time when it loses its competitive edge by not being part of the internet revolution. The Zimbabwean deputy Prime Minister Mutambara echoed this point when he told participants, “We can’t fight technology, we’ve to catch-up,”
Prof Sammy Chumbow
Encouraging signals from Africa
All is not lost though. Some Africans, most of them youths have taken up the challenge to get African join the a rapidly changing technology world. The BBC in this story revealed that a 29 year old Nigeria had invented a cheap version of an Ipad that could stand against any developed by global giant technology company Apple. Another 28 year old Nigerian Lakunle Ogungbamila did not worry that Nigeria has slow internet connectivity and massive poiwer outrages but went ahead to create an internet based gaming company that can rival any in the west (see separate story). This are encouraging signs that despite the slow introduction of information technology, some youthful Africans are facing the challenge head-on.
The future of ICT in Africa
Participants agreed African governments and the private sector must be at the forfront of the drive to include Africa in the fast changing world of technology. African governments now need to devote less resources to maintaining a fighting or idel army and more to teaching technology early to African children. Parents need to encouraging their kids to be technology savvy not necessarily by buying them all those technological gadgets like Ipads, and smartphones but developing their interests in learning technological related subjects like programming. Not surprisingly, the conference was co-ordinated by yet another Nigerian Professor Adekunle Okunoye of Xavier University, USA. The next ICT conference will take place is Kenya next year.