Information and communication technology (ICT), basically is used to facilitate electronics, processing, storage and dissemination of information, whether in numerical, textual, audio or visual format. Beyond that, ICT is an important driver for social and economic development, global participation and competitiveness, and ultimately, growth.
With a population of more than 1 billion people, Africa represents a significant portion of the world population and ICT is a vital tool to release the creative potential and knowledge embedded in its people. There is no doubt that many African countries are aspiring to become information societies and ultimately knowledge societies, allowing them to participate as equal partners in the global information-based economy.
Understandably, Africa carries on its shoulders a historical burden next to none in the use and provision of technology.
The continent therefore has to rise to the occasion and weigh-in its salt’s worth by becoming a strong player in the world ICT’s market.
Ethiopia, in an effort to catch up with the latest developments on technology, has massively expanded internet and mobile subscription in most parts of the country. Ethiopia crafted a growth model attracting investment on technology, digitalising education and health sectors. The mission to transform the traditional Ethiopian market also saw 250 million dollar investment from the state to build the first ICT Park in Addis Ababa. The state monopoly also allowed foreign tech companies such as ZTE and Tecno Mobile to establish their hubs at the ICT Park to enhance the local capacity.
The unsoiled fact is that Africa is blessed with many people, whose creativity and potentials can be better realised with the aid of ICTs. A 28-year-old Nigerian, Saheed Adepoju, who developed the first African-made tablet PC – the Afritab is definitely a revelation for Africa. No doubt there are many other ‘Saheed Adepojus’ out there. We can only delimit the ability of many other young Africans if not imbued with ICTs.
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To ensure active participation, Like Ethiopia, South Africa, Rwanda and a few others, African countries should initiate ICT projects to address the lack of connectivity to the Internet and other global communication networks.
Standard educational system with ICT
One of the most interesting projects is the use of e-readers in classrooms. The shortage of books in African schools is acute and e-readers could be the answer. Illiteracy is still a huge problem and can be traced back, in part, to the fact that there are so few books to read. Needless to say, if Africa is to have a bright future then the crisis in education has to be addressed – enhancing a standard educational programmes for young minds. Some countries are doing better than others but there are millions of school-age children on the continent and ICTs could be a means of transforming education in Africa.
To move ahead in the global economy, African countries will have to invest in education for its youthful population to develop skills required to operate in the global ICT world. More emphasis on primary and secondary school education will lead to greater literacy. Then there is more chance of moving on to tertiary education to learn business skills and develop training in the ICT sector.
Improved health setup with ICT
Health is an important facet of development and potentially may determine how individuals can actively get involved in productive activities and contribute to the welfare of the country. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has emphasised a need to improve health care services particularly in Africa.
WHO defines health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity (WHO 1946). This means that without good health it is impossible to actively participate in activities that promote social and economic development at both micro and macro levels.
The Ebola outbreak in Africa caused economic downturn and almost brought to halt economic activities in the affected areas. Many of the affected countries could hardly contain the outbreak due to inadequate health care services. Consequently, people in Africa are engulfed in destitution.
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The term eHealth could be described as the use of ICT in hospitals. eHealth could be regarded as the use of ICT in provision of health care services. This means ICT can be used in various health care functions such as clinical, educational, research and administrative regardless of geographical settings.
Simply put, an improvised health sector with the use of ICT will go a long way to quash avoidable disease outbreaks that bedevil Africa.
ICTs are truly transformational. With the power of technology, we can educate every African citizen, right across the continent. With the power of technology, we can open new opportunities and create new well-paid jobs for our people. With the power of technology, we can deliver healthcare services to every African citizen, even in the remotest villages. A better Africa with the use of ICT in all vital sectors of human existence is not just a pipe-dream: It is real.