As the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread, countries across the world have been impacted. Africa in particular a has been faced with a lack of foreign investment, which may have sparked innovation in Africa as tech innovators find ways of creating, efficient inexpensive solutions that are to help fight against the pandemic.
For a continent where people are equipped to making do with limited resources, innovation in Africa in communities is fairly common. Who have created products ranging from home-made farm implements and vehicles, to the popular M-Pesa – the new mobile money payment system, Several startup hubs across Africa are creating innovative solutions, for the immediate demands of daily life.
As the corona virus targets the human respiratory system, individuals with severe symptoms find it very difficult to breath, and will need artificial ventilation. However, there are very few intensive care units in Africa that are fitted with these machines. This isn’t just a problem in Africa, industrialized nations like Germany and the United States have ordered car manufacturers to mass produce ventilators. With demand outweighing production, other counties like Ghana, South Africa, and Uganda have started producing their own ventilators.
In Uganda, an esteemed professor at Makerere University in Kampala, Vincent Ssembatya has partnered with another success story, car manufacturer Kiira Motors, with the primary objective of producing affordable ventilators for the countries cash-strapped health care system.
Another team at the Academic City University College in Ghana has demonstrated innovation and created a prototype ventilator but is currently amidst financial limitations to purchase more components for the device to be ready for certification and testing.
Non-profit venture capitalist Africa Business Angel Network is also working on creating another prototype, and Innoson Motors, a local auto manufacturer has sidelined its production process to manufacture ventilators.
Mobile apps and web solutions
After the success of its virtual hackathon early last week, WHO the World Health Organization is offering up to $20,000 in seed funds to the finalists that have digital solutions that may curb the pandemic. The winning team, representing Ghana has developed a tool that maps test cases that are similar to that of the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center. The main difference however is that their screening tool has the ability to classify cases according to risk and furthermore submit the data to national authorities.
In Nigeria, Wellvis – the on-demand health information platform has utilized innovation in Africa and developed an easy-to-use app called COVID-19 Triage Tool. This free app allows users to assess their own risk category according to their symptoms and previous exposure history. Depending on the answers, the user will be offered remote medical advice or will be referred to a nearby health care facility. In parallel, the South African country is using platforms like WhatsApp to run interactive Chabot that can answer common questions about symptoms and treatments. Also, in an attempt to decrease fake news and curb panic, two alumni of the University of Cape Town have created Coronaapp, a tool that releases accurate and centralized information about the pandemic.
Mobile money transfer services
Africa is already familiar with phone-based money transfer services with the mobile money platform M-Pesa being used by more than 20 million people. Safaricom, the telecom giant that owns M-Pesa has waived fees on transactions under a certain amount. And Airtel have also waived charges of all payments through their platform Airtel Money.
Food delivery services
Lockdowns are targeted at stopping COVID-19 from spreading. But they also stop almost everything else including food deliveries to markets. In several Southern African cities, markets are essential to supplying locals with daily essentials, contrary to Europe where people can easily stock up on food.
Fresh In A Box, is a startup in Zimbabwe that delivers fresh food produce directly from farmers and door to door. The company operates mainly from an app, using their fleet of delivery motorcycles. This app helps reduce the risk of infection and prevents shortages of food in the community.
In Uganda, a popular app known as Market Garden allows for venders to deliver and sell fresh fruits and vegetable to customers as restrictions that promote social distancing have been applied. The app was developed by the Institute for Social Transformation, a Ugandan charity. The app reduces crowds in the market areas by allowing individuals to sell their goods from their home directly through the app.
The multi-cloud adoption boom
As the rapid advancements in tech continue – fueled by the current pandemic – we find ourselves stretching our limits and breaking boundaries. An important area that has gained significant traction this year is cloud computing, and more specifically, multi-cloud adoption.
What is multi-cloud?
For those of you who are not familiar with the concept, a multi-cloud environment Is when an enterprise utilizes more than one cloud platform and delivers a specific function, application, or service. Multi-clouds can be made up of private, public, and edge clouds to achieve a datacenter’s end goals and objectives.
Multi-cloud adoption garnered a significant increase to 70 percent year-over-year in 2020, outpacing the previous year by a whopping 20 percent.
Current State of multi-cloud
The Continuous Intelligence Report The State of Modern applications, DevSecOps and the Impact of COVID-19 from Sumo Logic revealed that customers adopted 3 main vendors to meet their cloud needs; CloudTrail (60 percent), VPC Flow Logs (34 percent) and GuardDuty (22 percent) respectively.
The report is developed from data that is aggregated from more than 2100 Sumo Logic customers that run applications over several major cloud platforms as well as on-premises environments. The report highlighted the importance of securing cloud workloads via the adoption of both cloud-native security technologies and available cloud data sources.
Furthermore, the pandemic has highlighted how important remote work is – and that is where cloud-computing shines bright. The rise in multi-cloud adoption led enterprises to modern cloud platforms such as Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services (AWS), and Google Cloud Platform (GCP).
It is noteworthy to mention that AWS regional centers in the EU and US were among the top targets for hackers, according to the Sumo Logic’s global intelligence.
What are the benefits of multi-cloud adoption?
- Flexibility: No single cloud can perform most business functions, or at least no single cloud can do everything well. Integrating multi-cloud can allocate the right cloud platform to the right business function
- Proximity: By hosting some workloads through regional cloud providers that operate closer to where the user is, the enterprise would be greatly enhancing a user’s experience
- Failover: As a failover solution, multi-cloud adoption can protect an enterprise from outages by providing readily available and highly scalable backup for data and workflows for systems
Why GovTech adoption during COVID-19 is a must
GovTech is a new term that refers to the modernization and/or digitization of government services for better accessibility and efficiency of public services. A mouth full, but this suggests a need for governments to do what the private sector has been doing from the start: embrace and incorporate industry 4.0 technology. However, to do so on a governmental level is complex.
The tech revolution occurring around the world, accelerated by the pandemic will not wait for governments to search their paper file cabinet for a solution. Citizens’ expectations of speed and efficiency are set higher by the private sector.
Too many authorities in developing nations, and many government-managed institutions in developed nations, are woefully behind on tech adoption within their systems.
According to the World Bank’s definition as stated in their brief, GovTech is essentially about putting people first.
“GovTech is a whole-of-government approach to public sector modernization that promotes simple, accessible, and efficient government”.
Governments who had already begun improving their digital infrastructure before the pandemic, had a better chance of curbing outbreaks after the initial wave with known exceptions. Namely the US and UK.
Examples of GovTech used well during the pandemic can be found more to the east, in Singapore and South Korea among others, where data-gathering and citizen compliance with safety measures worked well to begin with.
Still, in the United states we see examples of GovTech being implemented even before the pandemic.
In areas of infrastructure, 120 Water Audit was recently launched, a cloud-based water management software, that a government on any level and size can use to minimize water waste.
During the pandemic, we have seen companies like BlueDot develop early warning systems to predict outbreaks, allowing governments to react preemptively. These systems used data gathered from numerous data sets from news, medical records and airlines to detect certain trends using their algorithm.
In the future, we should expect better GovTech adoption in public health services. Governments must work with the private sector to secure the right systems and consolidate their systems for better data collection. Undoubtedly, this is a long-term process.
Vaccine warriors: University of Oxford COVID-19 vaccine update
As the race for a new COVID-19 vaccine continues, the University of Oxford vaccine is effective at stopping people from developing COVID-19 symptoms. Overall, results indicated 70 percent protection rate, however, researchers claim that figures can increase to 90% if the dose is modified.
Study lead, Andrew Pollard, Professor of Paediatric Infection and Immunity at the University of Oxford, has vast experience in clinical trials of new and improved vaccines for children and adults.
In comparison to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, the University of Oxford vaccine is far cheaper, easier to store and can be transported to every country around the world. It shows highly promising use in tackling the current pandemic, if it gets the approval from regulators, who will assess the vaccine based on safety, efficacy and manufacturing standards. This process is set to take place in the coming weeks.
While typical vaccines usually take around a decade to be developed, the University of Oxford vaccine was developed in about 10 months. Initial trials involved a sample size of 20,000 individuals: 10,000 participants in the UK and 10,000 participants in Brazil. From the study, there were 30 Coronavirus cases from those who received two doses of the vaccine and 101 cases in people receiving placebo treatment.
The researchers say it works out at 70 percent protection however, it increased to 90 percent when people were given a “low” dose followed by a high one. It remains unclear why there is a difference.
Although nothing will happen until the University of Oxford vaccine receives full approval, the UK is preparing for an unprecedented immunization campaign. Care home residents and staff will be the first in line while healthcare workers and citizens 80 years and above, will be the next priority. The plan is to steadily work down the age groups.
After Pfizer and Moderna introduced their vaccine candidates with a protection rate of 95 and 90 percent respectively, a figure of 70 percent might be perceived by some as disappointing. However, in reality, anything above 50 percent is considered promising.
AstraZeneca, Oxford University’s manufacturing partner is prepping to make three billion doses of the vaccine to be made available worldwide.
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