Honestly my first thought about the subject was that internet of things is completely useless for Africa. You can’t lack water and think about a way to connect you table to the web, there’s some kind of paradox. Internet of things is just the idea of connecting every device you can imagine to internet,it could be a watch,a camera and everything you want. My point was, Africa can’t fix basic needs but is looking for most recent technology trends like Big Data and IoT (Internet of things). BUT month after month there was an evolution of my point of view and the great change was the day my country (Cameroon) decided to start the war against Boko Haram. I am pretty sure you will be curious to know how Internet of Things could be connected to the military world. It’s simple. So let’s check together point by point in which fields and how internet of things could be useful for Africa.
The first point which naturally comes to my mind as I told you is security. To fight against terrorist groups African armies can use connected Drones to get images of the field with low risk for soldiers. Don’t think drones are big engines like in movies only capable to send missiles. There are drones of all sizes, types, characteristics, colors… There are even drones for cinema and the technology is used by majors of the entertainment industry since many years. A drone with a connected camera and a large wide can send thousands of images of a dangerous field with two major’s advantages. First of all confidence of the information, the drone can capture information in many contexts we’ll not explain more by respect for the job of security forces. Second point as explained before it’s better to lose a drone than to lose the life of a soldier who has his family and which death will have a negative impact on the psychology of his comrades. In Cameroon Medias covered a local initiative of an entrepreneur who created a drone to support the army, maybe it’s only the beginning of a big movement. US & Germany armies are already well equipped, African forces can inspire themselves. In cities you can also use security cameras to have a better view of possible law violations, like the Brazilian police did on the Rio de Janeiro beach to protect tourist of favelas robbers. Even your home could be more secure with this type of technology, imagine you can see what’s happening in your home with a single mobile application. It’s just few example of IoT amazing possibilities, but my main fear about connected cameras devices is the cyber-security. Why? Because connected devices are made to be easily accessible from the web, manufacturers and developers working on those projects generally don’t want to lose time and budget to provide an accurate security on this type of devices. The consequence is clear, today millions of cameras and thousands of servers with standard configuration are accessible to everyone on the web in 2 mouse moves if you know where to look. I let you imagine what will happen if a thief have access to a connected camera in your house. There are concerns about private life, even if today it’s a great utopia from the moment you decide to use internet. In a Natural parks , you can fight against poaching by connecting localization devices on species like Rhinoceros and elephants . So, yes internet of things is a great security tool but without cyber-security measures it’s dangerous.
Money is power but education is vision. Considered for education purposes, internet of things can be a game breaker. If a teacher board is connected to the web and allow him to directly look for information while he is giving courses it will be wonderful. At university in France, the first day I saw those connected board, I was really impress. Coming from Africa where teachers sometimes look at you as an ET when you talk about the web, it was funny and more interesting to be in a connected classroom. As you can see there’s a psychological impact on the way the children receive the information. In Africa we don’t have “officially” phones and internet at school except from a connected room where you can go one time per week for a computer science course. I think it creates some distance between the students and the technology. In Western countries technology is everywhere around people, so when there’s a new trend, all the social system can quickly adopt the evolution. In Africa technology is becoming more accessible everyday but remain elitist for the majority. Internet of Things can bring technology close to people. If in Africa someone bag, watch, TV, and classroom are connected, I am sure he won’t have the same relationship witch technology and knowledge. With a raspberry (a low cost micro-computer) as a server you can create a Wi-Fi internet access point for nothing. Education in Africa is done from a traditional manner which is not efficient. Too much work, useless courses and the information’s are not enough updated. With a connected board, the teacher and the students will have real time information. While reading this article keep in mind that Africa is not a country. The reality I’m describing is true for most sub-Saharan countries (except places like Kenya for example), but in Northern Africa and South Africa, Internet of Things has already some steps in advance.
IOT market is estimated to worth more than 5 billion dollars in the world. AFRICA should absolutely take his part of the cake. It’s write nowhere that technology innovation should only come from Europe, America and Japan. Why not Africa? We have the same degrees, the same competences, less stress and more time! We can create IoT applications for almost everything we few development costs. A developer in a western country will ask you thousand dollars per year, in Africa you can spend 10 times less for at least the same job. In Cameroon I only know two startups working on IOT, Kwiizi of a friend Yann Nkengne and mine . We are both part of the windows developer program for IOT because we want to promote and make business with Internet of things in our country. Like the Big Data, Internet of Things is first of all not a tech but a business trend. The internet penetration is growing every day and companies understood that customer’s data has a market value. The reality is that when you buy a connected device, you give access to many data about what you like and how you interact with you environment. Those information’s can be sold at millions for advertising. It’s the same logic than a mail address which is “free” to create. We want to see more and more African entrepreneurs try to do business with IoT. There is no job in Africa for young people without experience, instead of wait for a job, why not create yours? The boom of African economy is now! Don’t way the next 5 or 10 years. It could be nice to have an African made TV connected to the web available on the market but as I told you I don’t want to be streamed around the world because the camera on my TV is being hacked. Africa is the place to be and nowhere else. If you create a real business or IT innovation now, it will become a reference on the continent before 2030. Today you will only have early adopters but as a pioneer you will become the trend maker during the next years.
Now Windows 10 is accessible on Raspberry, with Internet of things people can let their imagination do the rest. Believe me in Cameroon, we have a lot of great surprises coming for the rest of the world. Together we can build another Africa where dreams come true.