Browsing through the submissions from Africa for the ‘Apps for Development’ competition, I realized the solutions to my continent’s development challenges are not to be found in wordy policy papers; instead, the solutions are alive in the innovation of Africa’s ICT sector.
The World Bank competition challenged the public to create innovative software applications that address the world’s development challenges. To the surprise of many, software developers from Africa submitted the most apps. Out of the 107 global submissions, one third of the apps came from Africa (more than North America and Europe). From the region, Uganda submitted the most, followed by Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, South Africa, Niger and Rwanda.
The apps were inspirational: For agriculture in Nigeria, there’s an app for that – that allows farmers to advertise their products to buyers around the world. For health in Ghana, there’s an app for that – where health care professionals can share best practices on maternal and child health. To measure the impact of Africa’s diaspora on economies, there’s an app for that – where payments made from diasporans to the continent can be tracked, mapped and visualized on the Internet. It has been said that Africa’s future is up to Africans. Forget the future, with apps like these, the future is now.
More and more, the innovation of my peers is what inspires me. Kenya’s Ory Okolloh, co-founder of Ushahidi and policy manager for Google (Africa), has paved the way for African women to be viewed in a new light: as ICT experts with solutions. When Teddy Ruge organized ‘Villages in Action’ in his hometown of Masindi, Uganda, with a laptop and limited bandwidth, he was able to give his community a global stage to voice their opinions on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Even in music – when Ghanaian artist Wanlov Kubolor utilized web portals such as YouTube to post his new video “Human Being (Just Like You)” for his 50,000 Facebook fans, I visualized every conflict nation in Africa and thought Wanlov’s message should be embraced by these countries’ leaders...as too often it is not.
Africa’s real leaders are standing up. They are not fighting over power sharing. They are not watching people die to satisfy their own ambitions. Instead, the continent’s real leaders are using technology to provide solutions to the challenges facing their home countries. They need to be recognized. They need to be applauded. And more of them need to be inspired – until they number in the millions.
To all government entities, international agencies, private sector companies – these innovators are your answer. In fact, they are Africa’s answer; they are answering a call and standing up – and one of them just won an award at the World Bank’s ‘Apps for Development’ competition.
Apps for Development Gallery