Juliana Rotich: Harnessing Africa’s potential with technology

Kenyan technologist Juliana Rotich lays out the tangible ways that governments can harness technology’s power to deliver services efficiently.

In this video interview, Kenyan technologist Juliana Rotich balances big-picture positivity about Africa’s potential with a realistic outlook about how much more can be done.

With trademark grace and characteristic clarity, she sums up for us just how technology can help address some of the continent’s fundamental problems. It boils down to the fact that technology is a tool – and in Africa it can help us get to know each other, share best practices and solve inefficiencies.

“Technology can help us gather data about where the inefficiencies lie,” says the executive director of crisis information-mapping platform Ushahidi. She points to specific areas such as access to information, free and fair elections, and to information flow systems, democratic processes and health care delivery.

These are all tangible ways that governments can harness technology’s power to deliver services more effectively. Rotich singles out the Kenyan government’s Huduma service delivery centres, which have dramatically sped up the fulfillment of basic services.

“When a friend of yours goes to the service delivery centre and gets their driver’s licence renewed within 15 minutes, you have to applaud that,” she says.

It serves as a very positive and inspiring example that it’s possible to use technology to serve citizens in such a manner. Now we need to do more.

Rotich counters this with a reminder that real person-to-person contact between African countries is vital on our disconnected continent.  

“We need to open up to experiences and to visiting other African countries to learn about them, so that when we talk about intra-African trade – from the macro perspective and coming back to sector specific – it’s not just the thing that people talk about at the World Economic Forum Africa,” she notes.

“We each need to know our part in what we’re trying to do with our companies, our communities and us as individuals. How are we contributing to us realising our potential in our individual countries and as a whole as a continent?”