Too often, people are prevented from achieving their best lives by circumstances beyond their control. People without access to electricity, water, the Internet and so on lack tools that the rest of the world takes for granted, allowing them to achieve numerous ends. Thankfully, technology has become cheaper, more accessible and providing more options for users. Indeed, sometimes technology takes directions we never would’ve thought of, such as the massive number of mobile phones in Africa.
The question is: How can tech help break barriers?
One of the most obvious ways tech can help us is providing us with insight into health. Mobile apps can tell us about the latest data regarding diseases and illness, we have easier access to healthcare services and developers are making better products. For example, IBM is developing “smart” inhaler technology, which can “connect a Bluetooth-connected inhaler to [IBM] Watson's cloud-based app for analysis. To get a better sense of a patient's health, the app incorporates population-level health information, coupled with data gleaned from the individual patient's inhaler.”
In Africa, we’ve seen how drones are being used to help deliver medicines and other products, overcoming the barriers of poor roads.
Modern tech has also helped to equalise the playing field when it comes to genders. Since the technology is so new, everyone is starting on equal footing in many cases. This is why we’re seeing more women coders and many women entering the business world, thanks to being able to learn and study with distance learning technology. As activist Allison Kahn told Global Risk Insights:
“Technology definitely holds huge promise for women’s empowerment. It opens doors to learning opportunities, new networks and employment prospects. Our Mentoring Programme uses technology to connect mentees with mentors who can be, literally, at the opposite end of the earth… But whenever we talk about technology we must be cautious. Technology isn’t a silver bullet – it’s just one part of the equation. You mention the need for positive government policy and improved cultural norms – and that’s crucial.”
As societal gender barriers collapse, too, we can only hope technology aids this progress toward a more equal future.
Why it matters in Africa
This is particularly important in Africa, where barriers are long-standing and hard to undermine. Compounded by a lack of resources, African societies can embrace mobile and other tech to allow for these pathways toward progress.