OPINION: Staggering technological changes taking place

Sunday December 13 2020
Saumu Jumanne

If you look at the technological change of the 1980s, they were fast, furious, and staggering. The changes have changed the world and the way humans operate. For instance, looking at the history of technology and its development, we had the Sony Walkman, Compact Discs, IBM personal computer, then the Microsoft Windows, Apple’s Macintosh computer etc. In 1989, Briton, Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web (WWW), and insisted it to be free forever and available to anyone.

Innovators had monumental tech changes initiated in America or Europe. Africa comes into the picture as users and not inventors. Yet, our continent has great and the oldest human technological achievements when we come to history. For instance, in Tanzania’s Olduvai Gorge, we have the world’s earliest evidence of the use of tools.

Some historians claim that between 1,500 and 2,000 years ago, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Uganda were more developed in metal use for tool-making than in Europe. And it beats all logic that, today, 2020, many African countries import bicycles, spoons, hoes, etc. Phew, that is a story for another day.

In the computer world, Tanzania had its first computer in 1965, which was installed in the Ministry of Finance, which increased to seven by 1974. The computerization venture was a failure, and at one point, the government banned the importation of computers!

Fast forward today, and all government ministries and departments are computerized. In both the public and private sectors, computers are part of daily operations how things change technologically!

Before 2005, in terms of ministries, we used to have the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Higher Education. In 2008, it changed to the Ministry of Communication, Science, and Technology, with some of its briefs being Information and Communications Technology (ICT), science, technology and innovation. Before the recent cabinet changes, we had the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology, headed by Prof Joyce Ndalichako. A pleasant surprise has been a fully-fledged Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (ICT), which is now headed by Dr Faustine Ndugulile.

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The new docket means that the fifth-phase government wants to rope in ICT as a major development paradigm, which is great for our mother Tanzania. This may help ensure that we are not left behind in the world of ICT advancements, which encompassed all other developments. Every sector, to operate seamlessly and efficiently, needs ICT. Take the case of education. The other day at the end of a seven-day ICT training for 297 teachers, the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Works, Transport and Communication. Dr Zainab Chaula, candidly told the participants that they needed to have thorough technological skills, which will help them improve teaching and learning in schools.

She was adamant that the world had changed and technology was here to stay. It was the duty of teachers to adopt it and make their students benefit from the capabilities of ICT. We still have teachers who are not computer literate. We also have teachers who know how to use computers but don’t have access to the machines. The future for teaching, is where, every teacher and pupil will have to possess a computer gadget.

I hope the new ICT ministry will catalyse Tanzania’s development led innovations that will make the world a better place. Maybe, we can have our own ‘Google’ version, PayPal, and operating systems, among others. We could even have an Amazon for selling minerals worldwide. We have many young Tanzanians who are very innovative. They just need encouragement and the supporting environment to make great ICT innovations. I wish Dr Faustine Ndugulile the best in his new docket. He has a chance to change Tanzania ICT landscape, not just for being consumers but also for making it a land of innovators in the ICT world.

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Saumu Jumanne lectures at the Dar es Salaam University College of Education (DUCE) based at Chang’ombe.