Predicting the Future: the 2012 African Tech Space

Technology in Africa

This semester I am taking a course on "Prediciting the Futures". While I am no expert in the techniques that futurists use, I thought it might be fun to look at some predictions that have been made for 2012 and see how they apply to our field.

This year, Afrinnovator started 2012 by sharing 12 predictions for the African technology scene. These predictions touch on a number of industries such as health care, media, and business (to name a few) and present an exciting 2012 for the continent.

A few predictions that stood out and are bound to have an effect on our work are:

  • The shift from feature phone to smart phone and tablets. This prediction caught my attention because it builds on the findings of a report that was released by Center for International Assistance and the National Endowment for Democracy. As we mentioned a few weeks back, this report finds that by end of the decade virtually all cell phones sold will be smart phones. This shift is bound to impact our work. Take, for example, citizen journalism. With smart phones, citizens can report on issues by sending in a text, or a picture, or a video. Citizens can use their smart phones to capture stories through various mediums and thus bring to light stories that are missed by the mainstream media. This presents an opportunity for us to work with civil society groups and activists in new and exciting ways. Of course, it is not all rosy and it is imperative that we also address the challenges that come with switching to smart phones.
  • Media disruption takes root. This observation builds on the role that Facebook, Twitter, and other social media tools played in the 2011 uprisings and how these tools are increasingly being used to break news stories. Again, huge impact and opportunities for our work especially when thinking of how people will be using Twitter to first hear about breaking news stories. This shift of Twitter being the breaking news source, versus traditional news media outlets, allows partner organizations and activists to be at the forefront of news stories. It also allows them to present their take on events rather than have citizens solely rely on traditional media sources that, depending on the location, can be considered biased.
  • New Africa Tech Hub Challengers. Here, the article talks about Nigeria’s emergence as tech hub and joining the ranks of Kenya and South Africa. Back in the summer of 2011 we blogged about iHub in Kenya as a great example of tech for development in the region. Its open culture, and the fact that it encourages collaboration make it a place were creative solutions are bound to flourish. If Nigeria does indeed emerge as a tech hub it will be exciting to see if more places like iHub are created. This can represent an exciting opportunity for more creativivty and innovation on tech issues to take place.
As 2012 kicks off, I am excited to see how these predictions unfold and how the technology landscape changes throughout the year.