Technology beyond  the buzzwords and rhetoric


On 12th  December 2017,  Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenya’s President shared the agenda for his government’s next five years. Fortunately, it did not include any issues of technology or innovation as his first term, first year manifesto before he ascended to Presidency in 2013 did.

I am grateful for this sent a clear message that the government had stopped getting all entangled in buzzwords and was getting down to dealing with the core issues that affect a majority of the society.

In 2013 a new government had arrived with this grandiose idea of providing every Class 1 student with a laptop. I am sure it sounded brilliant on paper especially when accompanied with a high-resolution image of a child with a computer.

The proof of the pudding was however in the tasting. When the government got down to implementation, the devil kicked in with the reality that over 80 percent of primary schools in the country did not have electricity. This raised the issue of how to charge the devices. Fortunately, the government realised that they had bitten more than they could swallow and made the wise decision to spit it out before being chocked to death.

They consequently took a couple of steps back and reassigned some of the resources for the laptops to connect the schools to the power grid. If I was on the panel that made this decision, I would have recommended solar and wind power instead with only initial installation costs and minimal operation costs.

Does this mean that I am not an advocate for technology in solving problems?  No. It means that technology is an enabler and not an end in itself although has been made seem a self-standing activity for too long!

The new pillars of the president’s agenda; food security, affordable housing, manufacturing and healthcare is all Kenya has been trying to achieve since independence with limited success. Today, and by leveraging on technology, they should be easier to attain but only if all parties act together.

As the technology fraternity, we have failed the country multiple times when it came to issues of selecting our leaders so I hope on these new issues we shall go out of our way to play our role in achieving these objectives. All the pillars can achieve exponential impact if technology is leveraged but the question is mainly whether there is a will to do this especially when we are still grappling with what to do about human piloted drones, leave alone even autonomous drones.

I look at a simple issue like a central portal to tell the status of ICU beds across the country, I recently sat with someone trying to get a patient into an ICU and the process, like extracting death in the 18th Century, is verily manual! One has to call each hospital.

Unless we embrace IoT/IoE in agriculture and healthcare it will be almost impossible for us to meet then objectives of the pillars, we must remember the words of Justice David Maraga, the current Chief Justice in Kenya, that it is the process and not the event that is important.

As we begin this New Year let us remember that one of our responsibilities is to serve the wider Community not only our wallets.

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