We are a creation that has never been perfect, yet we are blessed with fertile imagination. That imagination, and re-imagination, sets us apart from other living things. We are innovative.
It is due to that imagination, and innovations, we constantly change. Here we are today in an era of advanced technology, just a touch away from a better life.
During a weeklong Sahara Sparks event, organized by Sahara Ventures, former Commission of Science and Technology (COSTECH), Managing Director Dr Hassan Mshinda observed that emerging technologies are crucial to providing social services where they lack.
For example, he noted, a team of experts had been sent to remote parts of the country, mostly pastoralist communities, to look into how best to ensure that school going aged children can learn how to read, write and count.
“These are children who are mostly sent out to look after their parents’ livestock, they don’t go to school. What the experts did was provide them with modern technology to learn from scratch how to read, write and count,” he said during a panel session.
The results were unbelievable. More than 60 per cent of the children who were reached learnt how to read, write and count in a short period of time without ever having been in a classroom.
“This is not to say that we should not build schools. But it is evident that there are other ways of reaching out to populations that are still detached from what is considered normal in society,” he said.
During the same session, a Tanzania former ambassador in South Africa, Ami Mpungwe, suggested that it was imperative for the government to now adopt clear policies that would accommodate emerging technologies in the provision of social services.
Various African countries have established national task forces to come up with a framework on how to make the most of digital technologies in providing social services.
Retired Ambassador Mpungwe and Dr. Hassan Mshinda pleaded with the government to establish a national task to particularly chart out a framework to that effect.
Sahara Sparks was specifically organized to bring together stakeholders to discuss on the role of Africa in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Sahara Ventures Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Jumanne Mtambalike, said that Africa, and most specifically Tanzania, cannot avoid the rise of disruptive technologies and their role in shaping global societies.
“Technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, virtual reality (VR), artificial intelligence (AI) and the likes have a chance to address the most complex issues in our society if well adopted,” he said.
He added that technologies have already started to change the way we work and leave and they will greatly influence our planning in the years to come. It is expected 300 million additional people to come online by 2025 in Sub-Saharan Africa.
“Currently, there are 995 Million mobile subscribers and 362 million internet users. The digital economy is real. With almost 18 million youth getting into the job market every year and their median age being 19 years, strategically we cannot afford not to talk about the future,” he said.
Topics discussed during the course of the week also touched on the need to revisit curricula to accommodate technology entrepreneurship studies at early stage.
The common perception is that the advancement of technology will lead to loss of jobs due to envisaged diminished need for human labour. On the contrary, experts have said that emerging technologies will create new jobs; all that will be needed are necessary people skills.
As a country, how is Tanzania prepared to cope with the ongoing technological transformations to secure jobs for her future population?
The Minister for Education, Science Technology, Prof. Joyce Ndalichako said during a leadership workshop on the role of Africa in the fourth industrial revolution which was also sponsored by the Embassy of Switzerland, higher learning and technical/vocational institutions have a vital role to play in adapting, diffusing and implementing these new technologies.
“They have to prepare a critical mass of technicians, technologists, engineers and scientists with the requisite knowledge, competencies and skills,” she said.
The institutions, she added, will have to undertake applied research and provide innovative solutions to local contexts in cities as well as rural areas with the ultimate goal of promoting socioeconomic development.
According to Sahara Ventures Chief Strategist, Adam Mbyallu, the future of jobs is a potpourri of love, empathy, creativity and critical thinking.
“How are we teaching our children today? Let us teach and allow them to go and read many books and give us feedback,” he said.
“According to a World Bank report, Tanzania is doing badly in terms of skills for schools and youth. If we don’t arrange ourselves, we will only stress ourselves,” Mbyallu said.
Of vital importance is to make the most of innovation hubs and use industrial experts. They do not necessarily have to be trained teachers or lecturers, but experts in the field they are involved in.
Samson Mwita, a high school graduate expecting to join the Dar es Salaam Institute of Technology (DIT) says; “It will be practical to have mentors on matters involving emerging technologies at the primary level of education. It would help shape and guide young minds and equip them with the necessary skills and give an advantage in the future.”
Another student from the National Institute of Transport, George Fortunatus, said that gone are the days when pupils and students are taught to have good grades.
Through new technology, he noted, he has been able to access part-time jobs and gain experience that would come in handy when seeking employment or if he would decide to employ himself.
“Innovation is real, it is important to have gone to school and get certificate, but this is also an era where skills matter the most, this is what is needed. We have to impart skills to pupils and I believe every other thing will follow,” he added.