It is with shame that I make this unfortunate admission; In the days leading up to the World Economic Forum on Africa held in May, I, like many of my fellow city dwellers, got caught up in the spectacle of this prestigious conference coming to Kigali and turned something of a short-sighted eye towards the core purpose of the meet.
While, of course, I cannot speak for the one million plus people living in our city, I can definitively say that not once in the lead up to the conference did I contemplate, read commentary, or hear mention in casual conversation of this year’s theme, “Connecting Africa’s Resources through Digital Transformation.”
You have to see the irony here, as a people who take enormous pride in our advancements in the technology fields, this message somehow got lost in the “ohhs and ahhs” that the lit Convention Centre evoked.
Once day one was done, first day jitters had died down, those baser instincts that tend to overrule the superficial and demand for substance reared their irrepressible heads with the questions that should have been asked in the first place.
What does WEF in Kigali hope to achieve? With the conference now a not so distant memory, I set out to do just that.
It turns out, that if one simply paid a little more attention, the information was floating all over, low hanging fruit so to speak, all we had to do was reach up for it.
In a bid to work with the available space, this article will examine one exceptionally ripe fruit, the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution is, contrary to popular belief, not about electronics and information technology that, in fact, was the third industrial revolution. The fourth edition of the waves that entirely change the way that the world works is an amalgamation of technologies in all realms of life like government, health, transport, education, agriculture to mention but a few that builds on the gains and advances of the third.
This transition is somewhat inevitable, similar to growth in home electronic appliances like cookers, fridges and washing machines following the second industrial that ushered in electricity for mass production.
The way of the world dictates that eventually mankind will find ways to use existing resources to make life easier for themselves.
And so here we are, after years of using our computers and hand-held devices as communication tools and the backbone of the automation process, the people would like technology to do more for them and it starts with the small things.
A simple example, slowly but quite steadily, the morning and evening commute to work is becoming quite a frustrating exercise.
Our traffic lights, it would appear, were not configured to adjust to changing commuter trends in real time which has forced our police to become human traffic lights every evening further slowing down traffic. In comes the SMART Kigali Initiative, which I would like to think was adopted to tackle these kinds of issues.
Rolling out a smart system that will make use of mobile devices or sensors or even better, Big Data, the internet, and of course, computers to regularly communicate with our road system and traffic lights to keep traffic moving is the proverbial tip of the iceberg of the innovations that this revolution can do to make life more convenient.
Ours is a relatively small country that may not afford to expand all major roads in the short term, however this exponentially smaller investment is bound to go a long way at a fraction of the expense to the tax-payer that road construction entails.
The scale of potential is absolutely mindboggling; a fully interconnected society is an informed society and with information comes the inevitable desire for better, a desire to have the same conveniences that more technologically advanced societies enjoy and eventually the drive for even more.
It is absolutely encouraging to see our young entrepreneurs venture into building applications to solve local problems like the Safe Moto and the Tap-and-Go bus system.
It’s even more encouraging to see that our government is jumping head first into using technology to streamline processes for citizens via platforms like Irembo, e-tax, e-procurement to mention but a few.
The next step will be to ensure that we have a populace that is open to change, that understands that the rate of disruption in this revolution is unprecedented, which means that holding onto the status quo just won’t do anymore.