Week 07: The wave of disruptive technological manifestations

Today’s Kenya has become host to a flourishing ecosystem where numerous software applications, services and even social habits have emerged from the country’s aptitude, and appetite, for mobile transaction platforms.  The startup development scene in Kenya is partly advancing because of its contribution to social change but as technology in Africa is used to be part of the solutions in Africa.

As handsets and data become more affordable, greater accessibility to mobiles – which have outpaced other forms of communications infrastructure on the continent – is changing the way in which public services are delivered and business and politics are being conducted. We recognise an emerging industry of political and social initatives within the civil society in Kenya riding the wave of civic engagement that has spread across the country and over both sides of the aisle.

The growth in access to smartphones leads to the creation of networks that are broader, deeper and more durable than we have seen in the past” says John Githongo, one of Kenya’s leading anti-corruption campaigners.

Selamtamagazine.com: Cnbc.com; theguardian.com


Technologies role in Kenyan Politics: As Kenyan elections proved, breaking news is now often the domain of social media, not traditional media.  Kenya’s increasingly wired society is demanding faster, better and more interactive information exchange. Internews in Kenya has been a forerunner in promoting the spread of data journalism in Africa and after nearly two years of workshops. Other initiatives like Wana Data-Ke have emerged. WanaData-Ke is a network of female journalists working on changing the digital media landscape by producing and promoting data-driven news and applying digital technologies in their storytelling. In January 2018, 10 journalists have been awarded grants to work on investigative pieces thanks to Transparency International Kenya through the Action for Transparency Project. Data journalism  is a collaborative effort and requires long-term investment.  Internewskenya.org codeforkenya.org tikenya.org

Data collection app that finds poachers in Kenya: Launched in 2016, Fulcrum is being used to protect elephants in the Amboseli and Tsavo national parks in the south of Kenya. The app was developed to collect geospatial data quickly and easily over a large area. It can also be gather data and gain the world around them. collect forms and field data. It is with this in mind that the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) piloted the tenBoma project, which uses Fulcrum to track the location of poachers and ivory smugglers.  The anti-poaching project was endorsed by the American Geographical Society, and is being carried out by IFAW in partnership with the Kenya Wildlife Service. techcabal.com

Accelerating the humanitarian response: In 2016  Kenya Red Cross Society launched an app that would facilitate their humanitarian services closer to the people of Kenya. The mobile application, which is available on Android and iOS platforms, is an initiative that demonstrates their positioning and diligence as one of the leading national societies in Africa using innovation and technology to address humanitarian needs and mobilise humanity into the 21st century. This platform, a first of its kind, streamlines membership and volunteer enrollment worldwide, facilitate emergency management locally and globally, improve communications within and across national societies, increase member and volunteer engagement, build communities of members and volunteers; and most importantly provide real-time life saving information or assistance during an emergency or crisis. Allafrica.com: techweez.com

Social media Information and action remedies for crisis responders:  Derczynsk et al., ( 2017) paper ‘Helping Crisis Responders find the Informative Needle in the Tweet Haystack’ presents a successful automatic approach to handling this problem. Messages are filtered for informativeness based on a definition of the concept drawn from prior research and crisis response experts. Informative messages are tagged for actionable data – for example, people in need, threats to rescue efforts, changes in environment, and so on. In all, eight categories of actionability are identified. The two components – informativeness and actionability classification – are packaged together as an openly-available tool called Emina (Emergent Informativeness and Actionability). arvix.com

  • iHub partners with Adeso and MasterCard to set up innovation hubs in Marsabit and Garissa ihub.co.ke
  • Let’s talk Coding:. Nation.co.ke
  • Pangea Accelerator’s program: Call for Applications deadline 19th Feb. ihub.co.ke
  • OLX shuts down offices in Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya. Itnewsafrica.com
  • Unique approach to data needed in Kenyan healthtech itnewsafrica.com



Melinda Gates engages in #MeToo debate: In a recent interview, the wife of Microsoft founder Bill Gates publicly contributed to the ongoing #MeToo debate on sexual harassment and discrimination against women. The 53-year-old spoke out in favor of the movement and said that she too had experienced discrimination and bias because she was a woman, and there were a few cases of sexual harassment, although her experiences were not „particularly appalling“. Gates has been campaigning for women’s rights around the globe for years. She sees changes in this regard at Microsoft as well. Together with her husband, she chairs the largest private foundation in the world, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which also advocates for women’s rights. heise.de

The Robots of the 2018 Olympics: In South Korea, it’s already unremarkable to see robots cleaning the airport, teaching English and working assembly lines. At the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, the country demonstrated its robotic prowess with 85 robots. 47-inch humanoid robot Hubo drove a car in December’s torch relay, then got out and carried the torch to a wall, punched through the wall as a demonstration of his rescue skills, and passed the flame to his creator, Professor Oh Jun-ho. Oh, who is in charge of managing robots for the Games, then handed the flame to FX-2, an eight-foot-tall humanoid riding robot. At the beginning of the week, the world’s first Ski Robot Challenge took place and the sight of robots skiing unaided down a slalom course has proved to be one of the biggest headline grabbers of the Games so far. smithsonianmag.com, telegraph.co.uk

Self-driving truck drives Los Angeles to Jacksonville: Embark, a San Francisco start-up, completed a coast-to-coast test drive of its autonomous semi-truck, the company has announced. It drove from Los Angeles to Jacksonville, Florida, in the test drive, covering around 2,400 miles without relying on a human driver on the freeway. According to co-founder and CEO Alex Rodrigues, Embark has already integrated its self-driving systems into 5 trucks. It doesn’t manufacture its own vehicles, but instead created a self-driving system that can be integrated into Peterbilt, and possibly other vehicles. Embark plans to acquire 40 more semis within the year for further testing and long-haul deliveries. cnbc.com

South Korea and bitcoin: South Korea’s government gave the strongest signal yet that it will allow cryptocurrency exchanges to keep operating in the country, a welcome development for traders who had feared an outright ban in one of the world’s biggest markets for digital assets. Policy makers will focus on making cryptocurrency trading transparent rather than outlawing it altogether, Hong Nam-ki, minister of the Office for Government Policy Coordination, said in a video a posted on the presidential website. Hong also stressed that fostering blockchain development will be one of the primary focuses of the government in the coming year. He said the country has increased the government budget associated with blockchain technology for 2018. bloomberg.com, coindesk.com

  • Economy: How blockchain can end poverty wsj.com
  • New startup-program: Microsoft to invest $500 million in the next two years seattletimes.com
  • European Commission: Facebook and Twitter criticized for neglecting EU consumer rules europa.eu
  • European Central Bank: ECB president optimistic about blockchain reuters.com