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Computer cross talk: African bred solutions

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There is one definition of technology that I have always found likable; the application of science to solve ordinary day-to-day problems. Technology should, therefore, offer solutions to local problems. While Africa has a fair share of challenges, the good news is that the continent has a fair share of scientists and technologists as well.

I do not know how many cardiologists we have available for the 16 million Malawians. In Cameroon, they have only 50 cardiologists to go around 22 million people. The problem here is that there are fewer doctors to treat heart diseases for that massive population.

One young Cameroonian engineer, Arthur Zang fused medical science, software and hardware into an intelligent tablet computer that diagnoses heart conditions. Fashioned like an iPad, the Cardio-Pad tablet computer replicates the much fewer doctors of the heart.

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A nurse places the cardio-pad tablet on the chest of a patient with a sick heart; the small gadget goes to work and via a cellular network, sends its results to cardiologist. Within 2o minutes, a diagnosis is returned.

This means that one cardiologist can “see” so many patients in the rural areas whilst in the comforts of his city office or indeed his low density area home. The rural hospital just needs to stock drugs.

This device is “heaven on earth” to developing countries where an estimated 17 million people die ever y year from cardiovascular diseases. The majority of these people live in rural areas which are connected to the cities by some laugh road network infrastructure. Such conditions make the fewer cardiologists who usually work in city central referral hospitals almost inaccessible.

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Other than heart disease, most parts of Africa are plagued with electricity blackouts. The truth is that not all power that is generated by the electricity boards is sold; there is massive electricity theft in the continent.

You must have noticed that ESCOM is installing split meters on poles outside homes. Fundamentally, this is a meter that should mimic the readings of the prepaid meter installed in your home if you are not stealing any electricity.

Eddie Aijuka of Uganda has developed a much advanced method of detecting electricity fraud, Kamata. Just like the split meters, a Kamata is mounted on energy supply outside a house and detects any tapping or irregular activity and sends a signal to alert a control centre. The Kamata allows electricity supply companies to remotely cut off power at properties where tapping is detected.

There is nothing wrong with importing technology wholesale from the west; it is just that Africa has its own unique challenges that may require African bred technology solutions. This should be the way Malawi must be moving technologically. We need to challenge the young scientific minds to come up with solutions that can address our kind of situations.

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