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Tuesday, October 27, 2020

We should embrace technology to create wealth

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STANDARD DIGITAL 1 MAR 2020

I thank God for the numerous opportunities to travel to Japan, a nation that has become like a second home to me. Every time I visit, I learn a new lesson that I endeavour to inspire others to adapt.

During breakfast, I noticed there was only two staff waiting on us in a restaurant at a five-star hotel. We served ourselves, wiped the tables after we were done eating and even took the utensils back to the kitchen. The same happens with personal laundry because such self-service is predominantly inculcated in the Japanese culture. The essence of self-service is to take responsibility and initiative. Such is the spirit that has catapulted Japan into a technological powerhouse and a top tier economy.

The Japanese education system is one of the best in the world. It has increasingly encouraged comparison, exploration, speculation, and reflection. Education is the foundation of a vibrant economy. As such, education itself should be highly technologically innovative. In this regard, it should be possible to learn about a student’s educational journey at the click of a button.

This will make it possible to customize lessons to the student’s needs. It will also enable the holistic growth of students and help them infuse technological solutions into their respective careers. As a case in point, photographers in Kenya are already utilizing drones and reaping handsome financial benefits.

However, drone technology can be used for much more than photography. A firm in Rwanda uses drones to deliver blood to remote areas. Amazon has finalized plans of delivering small packages using drones. Kenya can follow suit.

Government ministries should deliberately dedicate a percentage of their expenditure towards techno-solutions.

Similarly, private sector players and civil society organizations should continuously invest in technological solutions to the social challenges that beset our society.

As an environmentalist, I am alive to the role drones can play in aerial mapping and nature monitoring.

They provide high-quality images of the landscapes beneath them. Through such a technological approach, we can know in real-time if a river’s flow is decreasing; if industries are dumping dangerous effluents into rivers and lakes; if our water towers are being decimated, and much more.

This will ensure conservation and create jobs for the tech-savvy young people coding software for the drones and manning them.

Drone-based thermal imagery captures and analytics can also be used for smart solar panel installation. In the same vein, drones can be used for maintenance of the ever-increasing wind turbines.

Regenerative agriculture can greatly benefit from drones to increase farmers’ productivity. Using them to spray can reduce fertilizer usage by as much as 20 percent. This would save billions. Other hi-tech innovations that can power agriculture include GPS technology; temperature and moisture sensors; aerial images and robots.

Kenya’s manufacturing is also aching for the golden touch of technology. Across the country, millions of Kenyans still grind their maize in decades-old posho mills that consume more energy and are more expensive to run.

More advanced posho mills wills save both energy and money. But even in their flawed state, these posho mills were a huge leap from the sturdy stones that were previously used to grind grains.

The big question we need to ask ourselves as a society is this – are there other sectors in our society where we are still symbolically using stones to grind grains? Just as mobile telephony leapfrogged Kenya into vibrant telephone communication, there are scores of other technological innovations that can leapfrog us into an upper-middle-income economy. These innovations include the internet of things, artificial intelligence, big data, and robotics. Hi-tech tools enable businesses to be more efficient, safer, profitable and environmentally friendly.

This is true irrespective of the sector in question. Since 75 percent of Kenya’s population is below 35 years, the youth must be buoyed to rise up as technology champions who will usher Kenya into a more vibrant technologically powered economy. Once they do this, they will have followed the footfalls of Japan even as they carve out Kenya’s own prosperous path. This is what it means to think and act green.

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