Op-Ed: How Kenya can use its technological innovation prowess to leap forward

By Corine Mbiaketcha Nana, Managing Director Kenya Hub covering East, Central and West Africa at Oracle

Kenya has distinguished itself as a hotbed of technological innovation and creativity. The challenge now is how to consolidate these gains and leap forward as a country– to enhance the quality of life for all.

Cloud computing in layman’s terms

‘Cloud’ is a service you use every day, without even realising it. Whether with your mobile apps, email service (Gmail, Mozilla, Outlook) Facebook, online shopping services such as eBay/ Amazon- these are all services based in the cloud. Cloud computing is a general term associated with the delivery of services through public networks such as the Internet or private networks like corporate intranets.

Cloud computing enables companies to consume IT resources – Hardware, Software and Storage – as a utility — just like electricity — rather than having to build and maintain computing infrastructures in house.

With cloud computing, projects that took years to implement and action now take a matter of weeks or months, with predictable budgets. In such a context, more development and testing can happen at a lower cost and its effects can be seen on technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Machine Learning, Internet Of Things, Blockchain, Bitcoin and others.

Communities stand to benefit from the endless new services that can be launched, from financial services, healthcare and even manufacturing. We have seen manufacturers introduce products faster and cheaper than ever before, giving them the freedom to pursue real change and innovation across the entire supply chain.

Industries that are heavily regulated because of security concerns or full data access requirements should turn to unique models that combine the benefits of having data on servers in an on-premise data centre, with those of a pay-as-you-go model with a technology provider maintaining it all.

By having the ability to design their own map to cloud success, companies have almost limitless paths and roadways that they can draw – and reshape – to help drive their business growth.


For Africa, by Africans

Kenya can lead Africa forward, taking the next step onward becomes critical. How can we leverage these ingredients of technological innovation to drive inclusive development for all?

The solution for Africa’s challenges will come from within Africa. Technology is the same all over the world; the difference lies in building solutions that answer and address local socio-economic challenges.

Presently, Kenya is the clear leader in Africa when it comes to internet and mobile penetration, which stood at 89.4% in June 2017, with the next three lagging further behind: Morocco (58%), South Africa (56%) and Nigeria (54%). The continental average is 31.2%

The innovation ecosystem in Kenya is flourishing, drawing global interest. The most famous being mobile payment which sprouted from the need for efficient funds transfer by those working in urban areas to their kin upcountry. While the rest of the world is struggling to make mobile payments work for them, Kenya is already a global example. There is also significant goodwill from government as well as private sector players; business leaders are always looking for technology that gives them an edge in their industries. Individually, Kenyans are generally fast adopters of new technology and the youthful population is creative and not afraid of innovating.

There are a number of global innovations that have spread to Africa and are significantly disrupting lives. The challenge lies in taking this further. For instance, the impact of Uber in facilitating transportation in many African cities is massive; however, we need to consider how to make the concept work in rural areas too – which also have their unique transport challenges.

Technologies such as cloud computing have made this possible; by reducing the cost of access, we have the ability to scale solutions to meet these challenges and make a positive impact on people’s lives. Africa can play a strong role in the fourth industrial revolution and create heavy wealth out of it. This is only possible if technological innovations are used to address social challenges and the untouched market potential.

Cloud-led innovation

Cloud computing leads to faster development and quicker learning, therefore accelerates innovation as it drastically removes costly overheads when it comes to maintenance and updates, while localisation of technology to suit the circumstances on the ground also helps with data security and regulatory compliance.

The greatest value of technology is realised when it is applied across the value chain, leading to massive impact on people.

The backbone of many economies in Africa is the agricultural sector; deployment of artificial intelligence and robotics can help multiply agricultural production and productivity, and deliver more value to the farmer, the rest of the value chain, and the economy as a whole.

Similarly, in the healthcare sector, artificial intelligence and robotics can help enhance access to medical facilities, even for communities living in the hinterland. Using technology, people seeking medical attention do not necessarily have to travel to get to larger, better equipped facilities.

The same applies to the control of our finances with the urgent need for less human intervention if we want to collect more taxes and require more revenue to be redistributed with minimum loss.

In Kenya, such is easily achievable as the fintech and telco digitalisation speed is surely among the fastest on the continent.

Africa has a unique opportunity enabled by cloud technology; focus should be on using it in a manner that delivers maximum developmental impact. The secret is in unleashing the capacity to develop and educate with a focus on innovation and entrepreneurship. The onus is on Africans to make sure the best available platform and tools in the world are used to secure and get the most out of local data usage. Data tomorrow is what oil is today and the battle is on who will control it.

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