Today we were back at KINU, a fledgling ICT hub in Dar es Salaam and fast becoming our favorite hangout. Yesterday and today we attended the Tanzanian edition of the 5th Annual South African Innovation Summit, a conference talking about design, business and the role of ICT and systems thinking innovation. The topics covered were not necessarily new, but the African context was enlightening for us. Today especially validated our need to optimize solar energy for creating new pathways for consistent connectivity.

Our workshop team after a rapid prototyping exercise. “Superfoot – your secret mobility weapon” or an enhanced artificial leg.

As is common for live streamed events, the connection turned spotty mid-morning and we switched  to a more “workshop” format earlier than scheduled. I preferred the workshops because it allowed us to take the themes from the streamed South African plenary talks and discuss them for Tanzania: a much different technological, infrastructural and financial national landscape.

The workshop facilitator asked “what defines Tanzania?”
People … Weather … Lack of Technology … National Parks … Lack of Infrastructure … Youth … Corruption, etc.

“What defines Tanzania?”

We then separated the answers as “positives” and “negatives” and were asked to focus on the negatives and figure out how technology could play a role in creating solutions to overcome these negatives.

My group focused on corruption and we came up with a solution that focused on exposing public departments or companies who have employees that request bribes. Using a crowd sourced web site the content would be aggregated and made available to the public. Public shunning is taken very seriously. There were plenty more details discussed within our group and with the larger group that led to a rich and lively conversation, but too many to list for now.

Our brainstorm visualization on how ICT can help curb corruption in Tanzania

What was most relevant to me was how mobile phones fit into all these solutions when considering how a solution could be made easily accessible for a broad spectrum of people in Tanzania. A corruption web site is only good for the limited number who have access to the internet, others would need to use SMS to contribute and participate. Our takeaway is that the mobile phone is more and more becoming a tool to facilitate new solutions to old systemic problems. Based on the conversation we had today with Tanzanian ICT developers, they are well aware that mobile comes first in developing new solutions to serve the needs of the local environment.

At juabar, we think access to connectivity is only going to get that much more pertinent as these types of solutions are built. We’ll help to keep the renewable power on to allow for greater participation. Over and out from the 5th Annual South African #InnovationSummit.