How Tanzania must plan to keep up with fast-evolving tech

What you need to know:

  • Experts believe that the country’s investment in developing its own technologies must go in tandem with preparation of local people who will develop them

Dar es Salaam. The massive investments in Information Communication and Technology (ICT) through various universities and colleges put Tanzania on the right path to achieving its aspirations of being an innovation-driven economy by 2050.

However, the country will also need to invest more in developing its own technologies instead of relying on imported ones, as experts noted in Dar es Salaam yesterday. Discussing a paper on ‘Tanzania’s Preparedness for the Fourth Industrial Revolution in 2050’, during the 8th Science Technology and Communication Exhibition (Stice), experts noted that the country’s investment in the development of its own technologies must go in tandem with preparing local people who will develop them.

Organised by the Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology (Costech) in cooperation with other stakeholders, the Stice, which started yesterday, will run until tomorrow.

It comes at a time when the African Development Bank said in one of its recent reports that Africa’s large population, anticipated to double by 2050 to 2.4 billion, offers both a source of data and a source of innovation in 4th Industrial Revolution technologies.

The growing population, the report says, was also a valuable market and one of the largest workforces on the planet.

And, speaking during the discussion yesterday, the University of Dodoma Vice Chancellor, Prof Lughano Kusilika, said: “We have made great progress. There are many programmes going on in colleges in the area of ICT. It is a good thing, but we must be careful with some of the technologies that are coming in. Their effects must be checked.”

He said the challenge now was ensuring that when new technologies arrive, they are effectively checked before they are deployed for use, citing how an artificial intelligence chatbot known as ChatGPT is currently challenging universities on how to assess students.

“Therefore, we need to think about how to evaluate our students. Due to the rapid advancement of technology, which also affects how curricula are created, colleges must be ready,” he cautioned.

Sharing similar sentiments was former Costech director general Dr Hashim Mshinda, who said that ChatGPT technology was a big challenge at the moment because the system could write several pages of a thesis within minutes.

He said new technologies always go ahead of what people think, noting that there was a need to move more quickly to beat the innovations in policy formulation.

Contributing to the topic, former Permanent Secretary in the ministry of Mining, Prof Simon Msanjila, said that despite several measures taken to keep up with the speed of the revolution, there was still the importance of the country having its own technologies in terms of infrastructure.

Prof Msanjila explained that if there is not enough investment in the fourth industrial revolution, Tanzania will be the recipient of technologies from other countries, which is not good even for national security.

He said that Tanzania cannot be like an island and continue to wait for technologies to be developed elsewhere and then used in the country.

“I don’t have a problem with the institutions that manage technology to take us there to the fourth revolution, the government has also made a big investment in infrastructure. The challenge is to what extent we have prepared people to adapt to this development.

 “Here it involves working to keep up with this development as well as working to develop technology, not waiting to use technologies that come from our colleagues,” said Prof Msanjila.

To deal with that, he said there is a need to empower local institutions involved in technology by creating an enabling environment for them to conduct research and innovation.