Technology is rapidly advancing, so it’s essential to continually ask, “are we using this technology to address structural changes and empower locals in Africa and change the continent for the better?”
This was an opening question to the first webinar organized by South Africa Flying Labs, themed ‘Tech for Good—the African Way.’ This webinar was matchless from any other tech for good webinars worldwide. Instead, it focused more on acknowledging Africa and how we approach emerging technology to instill a positive impact in society and solve some of the world’s most critical challenges.
South Africa Flying Labs Managing Director and host of the webinar, Queen Ndlovu, highlighted the importance of collaboration for accelerating progress and reducing inequalities in the tech for good space. “This webinar is trying to use tech for good initiatives to benchmark what works in Africa and in which areas does Africa require attention when it comes to the deployment of technology. We are looking at ways we can improve as a continent and be able to have good use of technology as far as we can,” she said.
The webinar was designed to educate, inspire, and elevate the people involved with emerging technology projects making a difference in the world. It also included industry experts on panels covering three sessions: Drone technology in Disaster Management, Social Impact Investments, and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).
Disaster Management Using Drones
Drones have the potential to become a commonly used standard in disaster response. A pioneer in the use of drones at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Jack Shilubana, operations director for South Africa Flying Labs, moderated the disaster management session. Jack set the tone by highlighting disaster management as one of the critical interventions that South Africa Flying Labs would like to be part of locally and globally.
We are looking at ways we can improve as a continent and be able to have good use of technology as far as we can.
One of the speakers in the disaster management panel, Fabian Higgs, a staff of the Western Cape Government, spoke about the importance of using drones to help them find missing people in emergencies. With 28 missions, 63 total flights, seven positive missions, and one successful rescue mission, they deployed drones to help guide their team members to safety after being caught in between the fire that was raging from the mountain where they were trying to save people underground. The Western Cape Government is also one of the first government agencies in South Africa to acquire the Remote Operator Certificate (ROC), further strengthening their work in disaster management using drones.
According to Mr. Fabian Higgs, “we cannot deny the fact that drone technology is doing a lot of good out there. We are not saying drones will take over, but we are accessing places quicker, which is why we are excited about investing in this technology. Drones increase the chances of being found quicker.”
Other government institutions such as Gert Sibande District Municipality shared their new aero plans to utilize drones in disaster management and acknowledge they have a lot to learn from institutions such as Western Cape Government.
You cannot speak about ‘tech for good’ without mentioning STEM. The session was moderated by Zimbabwe Flying Labs Managing Director Tawanda Chihambakwe. Tawanda’s opening speech emphasized the importance of helping young people prepare for the future. “We want to see a space where young people get these opportunities, not only for prospects of employment but also as participants in setting up their enterprise,” he said. Furthermore, creating an authentic learning environment where young people can actively participate is essential to developing their skills to use technology for social good. In attendance were industry STEM partners such as Forged Academy, Ifly Global, and Tshimologong Maker Place.
Derrick Ntseko from IFly Global says that they are building STEM programs in Africa through their academy, which focuses on STEM and Aviation to prepare young people for future careers. “Most of the careers in the current environment require a level of knowledge of STEM. Today, technological innovations largely drive the world. I believe that if we are trying to prepare the future leaders in this industry, we need to evolve with the new technology that is transforming this world.”
We want to see a space where young people get these opportunities, not only for prospects of employment but also as participants in setting up their enterprise.
In an article about how to make the most of the technological opportunities in Africa, Forbes Council Member, Mohammed Ibrahim Jega, believes Africa is on its way to solving its problems despite all the digital transformations around the world. “I believe Africa is at a point of technological opportunity, and what we should focus on is how to take advantage of it.” He further expressed that we should think long term, be pragmatic with challenges, and adapt to a changing environment in his article.
Drones for Social Impact
This session, moderated by Southern African Electrotechnical Export Council (SAEEC) CEO Chiboni Evans, focused on sharing the best practices in investing in social impact projects. This topic resonated with most participants at the webinar, especially in Africa, where logistical issues and the digital divide are highly alert. The World Food Programme (WFP) and The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) South Africa were amongst other panelists who shared their experience of using drones to reach remote areas, to improve people’s livelihoods.
Other experts and industry stakeholders included WeRobotics Co-Founder Patrick Meier, Cloudline, SAYMCA, Delta Scan, and Tiamiyou RADJI from Senegal Flying Labs.
The webinar was a huge success, hoping for future collaborations to make this tech for good in Africa a reality. The guests were thrilled by the caliber of speakers who shared important content within the Tech for Good scenario. South Africa Flying Labs will continue to use emerging technologies and 4IR related initiatives to positively impact society and the world around us. Ms. Ndlovu concluded by thanking the participants, panelists, and moderators for their attendance and contributions.