Why the use of ICT in East Africa is not picking up like the rest of the world

If you have ever had a really busy day to run a number of errands and you feel as though visiting a public office to tick a few items off your checklist will slow your day or waste your time, then you will embrace the technological revolution that is going on around the world when you get to experience it.

However it is quite unfortunate that a major part of the regional population still use their days off work to queue for services in a hospital, bank or any public facility, killing the time they would have used for personal development and building the nation.

 

The irony is that a number of institutions, both public and private, for example banks and government agencies in the region have hugely invested in ICT to reduce bureaucracy and enhance the institution’s internal efficiency in serving customers, the main question therefore is, what about the external efficiency?

 

For example, you walk into a bank and each teller is sitting behind a desktop, that is great because it means that the staff are fully equipped and trained to deal with your money and that technology has become a central tool in the banking sector, however you then look around and there is a long queue of impatient customers trying to transact over the counter for services which would have otherwise been done over the phone, or if at all the bank ensured that their ATM network was reliably working.

 

We develop ICT systems but we do not maintain them and strategically invest in a long-term plan that may in-cooperate more customers should they also get interested in using your products. Technology has been idolized to serve personal gain rather than social gain.

Another challenge is that in as much as the ICT systems have been established in the region they are  still either under-utilized to ensure that institutions don’t lose their entire workforce to technology, or  these institutions do not also ideally invest in enhancing awareness to their customers and creating youth employment through training. 

Seemingly, we tend to see a gap in communication when customers line up in an institution to inquire about their online services because the websites we develop are not user friendly, they don’t provide adequate information to the public and they overlook the customers’ need for efficiency.

Rwanda is however doing fashionably well in promoting ICT use in comparison to most countries in the region, with the extensive broadband networks countrywide and the digitalization of Government services. However, we still have a long way to go in making ICT use our way of life.

If you haven’t noticed the world of technology changes quite often, take for example your smart phone, you get requests to update certain apps almost every month, this improves not only the phone’s graphical user interface but also your security and efficiency in using the apps.

An IT specialist told me this week that there is always something new in the world of technology at least every 6 months, maybe a new invention or an update of sorts. This poses a challenge to us; we must update ourselves just as frequent as our phones do, for lack of a better narrative comparison.

As youth in the region we are adamantly seeking jobs but even though it has been said over and again, let this article be like a resounding gong to encourage us to leverage on ICT to create these and opportunities for ourselves. We can only do so if we have a competitive mind to identify these gaps and do something about it, keeping tabs with global trends.

It is always impressive how it is the simplest yet the most complicated challenges that ICT seems to solve in society. I will leave you with a simple example of this.

I was recently informed of a new technology in my field of Communications that can be used to monitor and evaluate the impact of a billboard advertisement within the city centre.

How the ICT device monitors the impact of a billboard placement depends on the assumption that every vehicle owner or driver that takes a certain route will notice the commercial by the roadside. The device therefore identifies the number of cars that pass through a route in a day, it notes the vehicle model and colour and this also makes it easy to identify how many times a certain vehicle frequents a certain route and passes across the billboard.

Twitter: @christineamira

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