Dar es Salaam. Tanzania, alongside the rest of the world, is slowly but surely immersing itself in the digital technology that is bringing about drastic changes in the manner people handle their income generating activities.
In agriculture, for instance, there are new innovations such as precision agriculture, satellite farming or site specific crop management that use technology in observing, measuring and responding to inter and intra-field variability in crops.
Instead of doing the job manually, a person can use drones and global positioning system (GPS) to monitor soil fertilization and thus be able to better monitor crops and yields.
Experts have coined this era as the fourth industrial revolution, meaning it follows three previous advancements, namely, the steam engine, the age of science and mass production, and the rise of digital technology.
Speaking during the opening ceremony of the leadership workshop on the fourth industrial revolution in Dar es Salaam yesterday, former Bank of Tanzania (BoT) governor Prof Benno Ndulu discussed what he termed as digital economy, which he said would allow for new ways of producing and providing services.
The workshop was hosted by Sahara Sparks and the Embassy of Switzerland in collaboration with Swiss provider of security inks for currencies and sensitive documents, Société Industrielle et Commerciale de Produits Alimentaires (SICPA).
“It creates opportunities for More precise ways of increasing yields (e.g. precision agriculture) and connecting agricultural markets (e.g traceability of produce allowing higher returns to be captured all the way into export markets),” he said.
Technology, he said, enables production of more complex goods. Exploiting better connectivity such as 5G, he said, would allow services to be remotely provided and create new export opportunities.
Generally, the era is that of disruptive technologies and trends such as the Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI) all of which are changing the way we live and work.
Prof Ndulu said: “The current narrative on automation and technological advances is misleading and poorly framed, particularly for developing countries – focusing almost solely on job losses in manufacturing.” He challenged policy makers to go for approaches that will put people at the centre of digital revolution.
Prominent investor Ambassador Ami Mpungwe said sound policy, strategy and culture were needed if the fourth industrial revolution in Africa was to be positively anchored.
“We have what it takes to go with the fourth industrial revolution but what we miss is policy, strategy and culture that facilitates adoption of technology and the leadership that guides the process,” he said.
The director general of the Commission for Science and Technology (Costech), Dr Amos Nungu, said Tanzania was on the right track in as far as the improvement of the business environment was concerned.
He said the process was not an overnight thing, saying the government’s review of the syllabi would fuel the uptake of the fourth industrial revolution.
Education, Science and Technology minister Joyce Ndalichako said the fourth industrial revolution was yet another milestone in human development, which would bring about changes in both the way people live and transact business.
However, she said, policymakers and other stakeholders should reflect on, and ask themselves as to what extent they were prepared to take advantage of and fully benefit from technological transformation.
“Since the impact could be either positive or negative, our preparedness and a clear understanding of the envisaged technological transformation are very important,” Prof Ndalichako noted, promising that the government was committed to supporting all initiatives geared towards promoting uptake of and diffusion of emerging technologies.
Acting Swiss ambassador to Tanzania Leo Nascher said it was important for stakeholders to understand how the emerging technologies could be used to provide innovative solutions relevant to the local context.
He further explained that emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, block chain, robotics, data, sciences and 3D printing, among others, had gained popularity as the most important innovations of the 21st century.