In 1999 when I was in Form 3, my elder brother sent me a brand new calculator all the way from the UK. At that time, having a good scientific calculator was like having an iPad or Smartphone today. When I received that calculator, I spent about two hours carefully reading the manual to understand how the calculator works.
At the same time, my brother had sent the same type of calculator to my sister who was at home. I was then in boarding school at Sacred Heart College. I was in school making good use of the calculator until holidays when I went home, met my siblings, and found out how they were enjoying this new gadget.
To my greatest surprise, nobody had been able to use the calculator. In fact, they could hardly power it on. They just could not understand how it worked. So, they reverted to using their normal “Purpo” calculator and could not wait for me to show them how to use their new gadget; I was more than eager to help. Within seconds, I began showing them how to use it. They were more than amazed at how good the thing was and how it made their work easier and faster than ever.
Ignorance is dangerous
The part that shocked me more was that throughout all that time, nobody cared to read the manual that came with the calculator. Ignorance is dangerous. It was so funny to see how a very good tool could stay in the hands of people, yet, they still suffer like people living in the dark ages. It is one of the reasons why until today, I do not use a new device without reading the manual that comes with it.
I am a great user of technology. Those close to me know that, for any gadget I have, I ensure that I make maximum use of it to simplify my work. This has defined my involvement in tech at all levels. For me, it is for productivity. I use technology to solve problems, simplify life and maximize productivity.
It also defines how I see the evolution of technology in our beloved continent, Africa. I must say that I have never had an interest in building technology. My interest has been in its usage for solving real problems.
Which brings me to where I am now and why I am involved.
The limitations of technology in Africa
A lot of good technology developed outside Africa has great limitations in their effective use on the continent. These, I believe, is because of two reasons:
- Lack of knowledge about the technological tools themselves.
- Lack of customized technology for the local environment.
I could add a third reason, which is a combination of the two–which is the “Lack of knowledge about customized technology available to solve local problems. This has been my experience ever since I got involved in the domain of technology.
A few years ago (working with an experienced UK-based Cameroonian software engineer and investor, Mr. Gerald Nupa), we launched SureSoft Solutions (currently Panus Software Company), an enterprise solution provider based in Buea with a vision to develop software solutions that are adapted and customized to solve local problems in our community.
The very first sector we sought to bring change through technology was the healthcare system in the country. We did an extensive study of the operations of a local hospital to understand how it operated. This was my first real effort to build customized software solutions adapted to our local realities. The result was our first Hospital Information Management System called MediTrak – built for Cameroon by Cameroonians. This experience taught me many lessons, which I would love to share in a separate article – among many things, it affirmed the three reasons I mentioned earlier about the use of technology in Africa.EN FR