The world keeps changing every day and in the 21st century, what is fueling the changes is technology more than anything else. Today, the world speaks of the fourth industrial revolution, a world of robotics, artificial intelligence, internet of things and augmented reality.
The first industrial revolution was about the steam engine. It enabled mass production of products as well as powered mobility, like trains to be able to move goods and cargo faster than before. The second industrial revolution was about electricity and how it powered systems and people. For instance, students could read for more hours than before and the effects of lanterns on their eyes reduced, making them more productive.
And the third industrial revolution laid foundation for the fourth. It is Information Communication and Technology (ICT). You can simply call it computers that deepened efficiencies in institutions.
When you think of these developments, you think of adversities or redundancies that led innovators to crack their heads on how to change fortunes. In the same breath, one can think of the COVID-19 pandemic as an adversity that institutions must surmount someday, one way or the other. One long term solution is the vaccine. But until it is here, people and organizations must continue doing their chores.
It is about that future, the long haul because adversities are not here for long. This is the reason technology is standing tall. It is enabling people continue to work remotely from the comforts of their houses, where they can exercise todays terminologies like social distancing. When you think of the mask, it will enable you to move around outside the house without infecting others or being infected.
In the same breadth, during the Chinese lockdown, members of the Shanghai ballet continued to practise – wearing facemasks – for their upcoming performance of Swan Lake. They took precautions, but remained focused on the next phase of their development.
Technology is proving to be the differentiator, what Kenyans have been accustomed to, ‘nobody can stop reggae’. Organizations are embracing different platforms to meetings, work and educational purposes. It is the facilitator and this will be the norm for some time to come. Some organizations have for instance already told employees that they will work remotely for the remainder of the year.
At such times you remember Huawei and the recent tumultuous periods it has had. The negativity over 5G technology including currently being erroneously linked to COVID-19, the ban on using Android operating system following restrictions from US government and the link to the Chinese government, labeling it as an agent.
Chen Lei, Huawei President for Southern Africa Region is emphatic that as critical as it was to react appropriately to COVID-19, it has also been important to proactively prepare for the next phase. “We are conscious that as well as protecting lives, we need to help lay the foundation for the next stage of society’s technological advancement – the Fourth Industrial Revolution”, he remarked.
Chen is inspired by a recent YouTube video of young South African dancer Hlumelo, who has been under lockdown in his home township of Gugulethu. A member of the Zama Dance School, Hlumelo has not let the lockdown hold him back, and has continued practising his steps for the moment when he and his friends can perform together again.
One area that Huawei has been important is video conferencing systems. They have supported African countries share domestically and experience exchange internationally between epidemic prevention experts in China and Africa. It has also helped medical institutions communicate more efficiently. “We have also implemented an AI-based diagnosis solution in several medical institutions. CT scan reviews can now be completed in two minutes, 80 per cent faster, in a race with time, critical for saving lives”, he noted
Incidentally, a new business model is taking shape across sectors. It is characterized by remote work, distance education, remote healthcare, online shopping and mobile money. These business models span transportation, security, finance, medicine, education and entertainment.
For Africa, ICT platforms are likely to provide the foundation of the future economy. The key is to continue honing and perfecting them, expanding their use even now, so that once the lockdown ends, recovery can be faster.