It is a well-established narrative that Zimbabwe still lags behind in terms of technological advancements. The other day I was at a friend of mine’s office – she works for a big quasi-governmental organization. I was struck by how manually-run most of the operations there are. We then had a discussion where we explored some reasons why tech uptake in most businesses or companies is taking time locally. I will not dwell on that talking point because it is a whole subject on its own. Rather, herein I will highlight some local industries that seriously need tech revamps.
The education sector is a pivotal pillar for the growth of any nation. Though there are some efforts locally to remake the sector to conform to the fourth industrial revolution (4IR), it is still infantile. We need to see e-learning becoming a common feature from early childhood development (ECD) to tertiary. I remember at some point laughing with a primary school teacher about how they are still using manually written scheme books. You still find schools grappling for a few textbooks or not even having any because they are looking for printed copies. Yet this can be resolved by migrating to e-books as opposed to print copies. The use of tablets and laptops should be the norm at any academic institution.
Local long-distance learning also needs to be revamped technologically. Most of what is termed long-distance learning in Zimbabwe is still left behind in terms of technology. Ironically, it is not yet widespread that one can apply for a place at an academic institution wholly online without having to physically go to it. The use of audio-visual tools such as slide-based presentations is still much a preserve of tertiary institutions yet it should be commonplace even in primary schools. So, these are just some few examples but a lot needs to be done to revamp this sector technologically.
Where I can say there is marked progress in this sector is in terms of mechanization. However, this is not even widespread as most manufacturing businesses still heavily rely on manual labour. The tech side of things is still not fully up to date with current tech trends. In other countries, things like artificial intelligence (AI), augmented or virtual reality (AR/VR) and robotics are now centre stage in manufacturing. Those are some of the reasons why countries like China have boomed economically due to supersonic production rates. Thus we need an infusion of such new-age tech and innovations in order to revamp our manufacturing sector.
You will be amazed to learn that basic processes such as patient records management are still being done manually in most healthcare facilities. I have often pictured a scenario where several databases are synched in such a way that if, say, one is involved in an accident the police can in real-time pull up the individual’s medical record. I really long for a time like that because that is where we ought to be by now. The concerns I have for tech deficiency in healthcare also ring true for various other sectors such as law and law enforcement amongst others. Anyways, back to healthcare; we still mainly use equipment that is not as advanced as what is in use in other countries nowadays. Even local medical research is so frail because there is a lag with respect to new-age tech innovations. On manufacturing, I mentioned about AI, AR, VR and robotics – these are elements also critically needed for the healthcare sector to measure up to modern-day standards.
Hospitality And Tourism
Sometime last year I spoke on how the government was wrong to think there was looming hotel room unavailability. I pointed out that some of the facilities providing occupancy services are just not on the grid. That right there speaks of a shortcoming emanating from lack of tech innovations. There is a need for tech initiatives such as mapping to be done so as to know every service provider in existence and their location. Just as a side note, we are yet to have widespread street view navigation apps for users to find your way around – something that can be of immense value to this sector. For this to be possible there is a need for local people with the expertise to do mapping and partner with Google Maps. I will not even go into operations of most service providers which are predominantly manual. Most service providers’ online presence is poor or non-existent. It should be easy to check room availability, to book and to pay all online – this is not the case for most service providers in this sector. So, there is a lot that needs to be done to enhance the use of tech in this sector.
Food And Agriculture
I think one of the reasons why local people are so relaxed is because there is an abundance of arable land. In other countries, this is not the case and it has forced them to innovate technologically. No wonder we are seeing the rapid spread of vertical farming – an indoor farming approach that eliminates the use of soil and only requires small amounts of water. Due to the menacing weather conditions borne out of climate change I think considering tech-based options will become imperative locally. There is also a need to step up research in this domain and this requires the adoption of the latest technologies.
I have just touched on 5 industries but virtually every industry locally requires a certain level of technological revamping. We need to see the adoption of tech innovations such as big data, machine learning and data analytics amongst others. More importantly, these are all business opportunities that enterprising entrepreneurs can take up. Ensuring that all these concerns (and more) that I have raised are well addressed it will take entrepreneurs to come on board to provide the solutions. In so doing lots of money can be made from that.