We have to get the basics right when building digital economies

Once again, Rwanda organised and hosted another successful, Transform Africa Summit.

It is clear that people involved in organising the events keep getting better at it and it was a surprise when I overheard some guests from West Africa expressing their satisfaction with the smooth process they went through to pick their accreditation cards.

It is always such small things that count the most especially when you are dealing with over 4000 guests. Attention to details and general decent customer service can go a long way in winning over people’s hearts regardless of where they have come from.

At this point I can only hope that vital lessons and experience are being collected as the country prepares to host the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting next year.

Back to the summit, I must say there were lots of interesting things that happened and so many interesting conversations aligned with this year’s theme of “Boosting Africa’s digital economy.”

I attended different sessions and keenly listened to many speakers. There were some crosscutting themes in what many of the key speakers said and this informed today’s column.

Away from the usual talk of Africa playing catch up and the recognition of how fast we have tried thanks to our tremendous embrace and adoption of mobile telephony, it was generally agreed that we need to get the basics right if we are to see our goals achieved.

This is all premised on first of appreciating that technology is an enabler of development. It is very important to understand this point.

Many times people look at technology as just something for a few people or something that brings in money and should be taxed heavily forgetting that it is such attitudes that kill everything.

Increasing access to digital technologies is very important at this stage and it is not just about laying fibre optic cables but also having access to stable power supply. Many can agree with me that one of the biggest modern problems today is your phone losing battery power and you being unable to plug and charge it.

Also, like most things concerning development, we have no way out but to keep investing in a decent education system.

I am talking about an education system that is not obsessed with how many students are in class but whether they are actually learning and being prepared for this fast changing world. We need to nurture critical thinkers and we have to do this whether they are at school or at home. Everyone has a role to play here.

Attitude is also very vital when it comes to building a foundation for the future we dream of. One of the challenges we face as Africans is the inferiority complex built off the narratives pushed through a lot of the historical education materials and news where the roles of natives are downplayed in favour of foreigners.

If we are to develop our digital economies we need the right attitude instilled in our young people. They need to believe in themselves more when trying to find solutions to the problems we face today.

It was interesting to the see humanoid robot, Sofia at the summit. I hope her presence inspired many to try and think about the future world of technology and how we can prepare ourselves to be a part of it.

Things like smart cities, driverless cars and internet of things are fast becoming prevalent around the world and we can only prepare to adapt or figure out how best to operate in these new settings.

The rate at which these developments are happening is the reason why we all need to up our game as individuals, governments or corporate entities. Many times the governments are found to be behind the curve and not understanding what new technologies are really all about.

They then delay crucial policies and regulations concerning the same. A lot of learning and unlearning is required here and it starts with attitude, not just knowledge.

With more and more of our lives and processes becoming digital, cyber security grows into a bigger and bigger concern by the day.

From one of the sessions on the topic it was clear that a lot of money is being lost to cyber criminals and that much more money and time needs to be invested in dealing with this challenge. For those still in search of career paths, aiming to be a cyber security expert is not a bad idea at all right now.

The views expressed in this article are of the author.

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