Technology like art is a soaring exercise of the human imagination. - Daniel Bell, American Sociologist
It is in our very nature to imagine, create and move onto the next goal. We have been doing it for centuries. A quick look at your surroundings will tell you what you already have. A roof over your head, a means of transport, a screen from which to read this article. Things that at some point were goals you set out to work for and acquire. Somewhere in the world, a different person has already acquired what you’re still dreaming about and moved onto a new goal, while elsewhere, someone is working hard to achieve what you have. Our dreams are relative to our circumstances.
Technology gives us the means to reach our goals. Life changing goals, like the ability to give an amputee a robotic arm. Goals of convenience, like predicting the best traffic route before heading to a meeting. While we still have so much to create, we have arrived at a point where the technology we have built allows us to imagine almost any solution.
Developers and businesses exist to create solutions to problems. The problems addressed come from what we observe and experience in our own worlds. When the need to talk on phones while driving became apparent, Bluetooth solved the problem. When accommodation ran out for conference in San Francisco in 2007, two men rented out mattresses in their apartment which lead to the creation of Airbnb. When a man in Kenya realised school children weren’t able to study at night without any electric lights, he created a backpack with solar panels so light could be provided. This is where technology begins to really change lives.
While students in Kenya aren’t yet concerned about making phone calls while driving, they have just as much to benefit from the digital world. In Africa, we need to use technology to solve the uniquely African challenges we face. Solutions are sprouting all over the continent as connectivity spreads and access to resources become more accessible. For example, the majority of people in Africa rely on agriculture to make a living but our tough terrain presents several challenges for farmers. Innovation, like the use of sensors and drones, make it easier to understand things like soil quality and predict weather forecasts. Start-ups, like Zenvus in Nigeria, provide this technology to farmers so they can increase productivity and grow more.
The best solutions to the problems we face come from within the continent because developers and businesses are exposed to these problems everyday – either in their own experience or in what they observe. Apps like LocTransie were created by South African women who know that parents rely on public transport to get their children home from school safely. The app allows parents to track their children’s trip home so they have peace of mind at work. The use of APIs to enable geolocation and message alerts has resulted in a simple app that relieves South African parents of a major daily concern.
As we continue to find solutions to African challenges, we take important steps in a journey to build a continent that enjoys the abundance our neighbours have – access to clean running water, opportunities for education and world class connectivity to thrive from the benefits of the digital world. Once we’ve used technology to solve fundamental African problems, we can move onto the conveniences technology affords us like other nations have. Such as the creation of smart cities.
Picture your ideal future of the world. Would it be a metropolis buzzing with the neon lights and flying cars sci-fi movies have alluded to? Or do you see a great return to nature, where we apply our technological aspirations to living more harmoniously with the earth? Perhaps you see a combination of both or something entirely different. A smart city in your country may look very different to a smart city elsewhere. Simply put, a smart city depends on what your city already has and what it currently needs. To get there, we need developers in Africa to keep innovating so that when the time comes, the solutions we create can be combined to make a major impact on the way we live and work.
What developers in Africa need is access to the resources required to create solutions. Resources like Chenosis, the continent’s fastest growing API library. Just like digital services are combined to create a single smart city, APIs connect technologies to create a single app. The use of APIs can drive the creation of smart cities across Africa. Developers can take an integrated approach to the solutions they create, building faster and more cost effectively. Saving time and money means developers can build more and move quickly onto the next goal, the next solution, the next dream.
With technology on our side, Africa is moving swiftly to solve its own problems. Once we’ve conquered our conundrums, we’ll move on to code solutions for the world.