Sunday, April 14, 2024

Modern Technology Solves Old Problems


When someone is in need of a medical emergency speed is everything. In sub-Saharan Africa, most roads are unusable during the wet seasons, therefore, medicine cannot be accessed easily. It becomes a challenge to access critical supplies and in some instances, goods fail to reach the market on time so as to get a sustainable income. Investments are being made but it’s estimated to take 50 years in order to catch up. Can there be a better way? Most regions in Africa have excellent communication despite lacking copper lines in the ground. Can this be applied in the transportation sector? Imagine a scenario where a newborn baby in remote areas of northern Kenya is in need of urgent medical supplies. In today’s world, one would place a request via a mobile phone and a request placed immediately. this is the part that works. However, the supplies would take hours or even days to arrive due to factors such as bad roads and this is the part that is broken. To step in the place of infrastructure, some African countries have embraced the use of Unmanned Aerial vehicles popularly known as drones. These devices have changed lives as seen in some East African countries.

launching a drone: image source:

Tanzania, a country whose population according to the United Nations stands at an estimated 60 million, is surrounded by rivers and lakes. Most of its population resides in rural areas. The Tanzanian government has embraced the use of drones to solve medical, infrastructure and land issues in areas that have geographical challenges.

Ukerewe Island located at the midst of Lake Victoria is home to about four hundred thousand people. Diseases such as malaria and typhoid are a great threat to the residents and snake bites are also common in the area. Infrastructure is an issue and accessibility by road takes a lot of time. Easy accessibility to the area is by lake in a situation where medical supplies are to be deployed. However, vessels in the lake are not allowed. The medical store department in Mwanza which is in charge of supplying medical supplies to the area has employed use of drones to improve on the delivery of medical services. The drones deliver blood packs, anti-venoms and spare parts for medical equipment.  This has saved a lot of lives by reducing mortality rate as many lives are saved on time.

Drone technology seems to offer a solution to Land issues and this is witnessed in most parts of Tanzania. They have reduced issues on land tenure. This simple technology has an installed camera that takes a lot of images while recording the geo-location of every photograph that it takes. People monitoring then unmanned aerial vehicles merge the photographs and launch it into another software that merges the images as one. Because of the use of this technology the land tenure team in Tanzania is set to issue over 300,000 land titles to local residents.

Kenya has also embraced the use of drone technology but is still struggling in terms of the rules and regulations needed in order to have effective results. Nairobi is home to an estimated 3.5 million people according to world population review. Over 300 000 private vehicles go through the central business district in Nairobi every week. However, there are only 14, 000 documented parking slots. A lot of parking revenue is never collected which could be a good economic boost to the country. Drone technology can go a long way in solving this issue. Jambo pay, which offers a platform for payment of parking fee wrote to Kenya civil authority in 2017 seeking permission to use drones in gathering of parking fees.

traffic jam in Nairobi. Image

A Kenyan worker who relies on public means to get to work at 8. AM has to leave home as early as 4 AM in order to arrive on time. Traffic updates in the morning radio show mostly include “jam has already started along Thika road” or “if you are getting into the central business district it is advisable to use another route or seek an alternative.” A survey conducted by JICA in 2018, indicated a rise in private car ownership in Nairobi higher than any other cities. According to a World Bank report of 2014, the value of time wasted in this traffic jams ranges from 0.8 million to over 4 million dollars per day. Picture a scenario where an accident has occurred and patients referred to a hospital that requires access to the capital in order to get blood donations. They may use an ambulance one may say but in a situation where medical supplies are urgently required, it may prove hard with traffic jams playing a key role.

Kenya can borrow lessons from Tanzania and have the use of drone technology saving such a situation by delivering the medical supplies to the location other than sending life threatening situations to the mercies of traffic. This will reduce mortality rate significantly.

However, the license and registration rules involving drone technology need to be emphasized and made friendly to the people. Reliance on traditional methods of air traffic controls is still an issue. More or less drone technology offers a modern solution to an old problem. Hopefully, the technology will spread to other regions in Africa.

Let’s choose convenience over the buzz.

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