[Column] Elizabeth Adeshina: Technology remains Africa’s saving grace
If Africa is to truly move forward and be competitive in the world economies, all sectors of the continent including Health, Education, Infrastructure, Security, logistics, Finance, Media and others must embrace technology.
Science and technology is a game changer that is making significant global strides in solving problems. Africa can use technology to overcome, prosper and thrive and should be viewed as a positive rather than something to fear.
As a Health Tech entrepreneur and business owner who has identified many challenges and created tech solutions to address them, I have experienced a resistance to and fear of technology particularly from the Public sector.
Fear that jobs will be replaced by robots, fear that many would become redundant, fear of skill gaps and fear of change. These fears do not compete favourably with the benefits like, easy access to healthcare such technology provides, not by any margin - I have seen the results and have all the relevant data to prove this.
Many will not become redundant as widely feared, a shift to incorporate technology and training is required, and as for the fear of change, it's unwarranted, because you soon find that it's so much easier and more adaptable.
The average African living in Africa has yet to connect the dots, acknowledge and embrace technology to a significant extent that will enhance their daily living other than for social media activities. Whereas the Financial sector has been on the forefront of Tech uptake, most other sectors have been either very slow or are a non-starter.
One of such worst affected sectors is healthcare, and this continues to have a negative impact on progress in the sector with many (who can afford it) being forced to seek medical attention outside the continent for the most routine of reasons, yet never quite managing to notice that the destination provider outside the continent uses technology to enhance its services.
The Health Sector, which is dear to my heart is still sadly grossly underserving the people. Internet penetration and smart phone accessibility in Sub-Saharan Africa now stands at about 44% and 250 million respectively and with 3g and 4G costs reducing, we cannot afford to ignore the place of technology in driving Africa forward and fit for the 21st Century.
Africa suffers more than 24% of the global disease burden with access to only 3% of health workers and a very low Dr to Patient ratio of 0.376:1000 (WHO data) in Countries like Nigeria and the majority of the continent having a ratio of 1 Dr per 1000 patients.
Technology helps to bridge this deficit; it connects patients to their healthcare providers online without the need for either party to move from their current location, allows seamless referral to other healthcare providers online, prescribing, health insurance and other chronic health management tools are readily available on platforms like ours.
Technology must be harnessed for improving access to health care products and services, reduce cost, reduce medical tourism and ultimately give individuals better control in a continent where these are in short supply. Anonymised health data from Technology platforms can also be of immense benefit for Governmental and Global health service planning.
In closing, I would like to reiterate some of the benefits of applying technology across the continent, which include; improved efficiency and operations, improved access to services, massively reduced loss and theft of resources (or at the very least make it easier to track and locate these resources), improved management of resources, reduced overall costs, generate more entrepreneurs and improve economies and in the case of the Health sector, literally save lives.
The Private and Public sectors must drive and encourage the application of technology in solving Africa’s challenges.