Nation Dreams Big to Lessen Lag in Tech





Khalid Seid and Yeabtsega Mekonen, who are awaiting the results of the national higher education qualification exam, were among the cheering crowds awed at the appearance of a Saudi Arabian humanoid robot.

The first and only robot to receive legal personhood as well as a United Nations title – Sophia appeared at Millennium Hall last week. The occasion was the five-day long ICT Expo, hosted by the Ministry of Communication & Information Technology (MoCIT).

“This is a good inspiration for students like us,” says Khalid. “We have waited long to witness innovations such as this.”

Yeabtsega feels the same, “after a dozen years of schooling, we do not know the basics of software programming, which our peers have enjoyed in private schools,” expressing her experience in public schools.

The state giant Ethio-telecom sponsored Sophia’s visit to Ethiopia at the cost of 1.4 million Br, and she appeared at the expo dressed in traditional Ethiopian outfit designed by Sara Mohammed. well known Ethiopian designer

Her high profile arrival and meeting with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) have helped boost the number of attendance at the Expo to around 300,000. Having improved by half compared to that of last year, where110 developers, startups and firms showcased their products at the exposition.

The humanoid, a globally recognised figure that has attended some public events, is one of the latest technologies in Artificial Intelligence (AI) from the Hanson Robotics Ltd, headquartered in Hong Kong, Guangdong. Her defining feature has been her cognitive response capacity, which includes dozens of facial expressions.

She was partly programmed by computer scientists at iCog Labs, a research and development firm in AI founded by Ben Goertzel, an Israeli and chief scientist at Hanson and Getnet Assefa. The pair have helped develop the robot’s gesture and sensory systems, vision and audio with other developers such as Petersburg Group, Open Cog, and Mind Cloud.

The state giant Ethio-telecom sponsored Sophia’s visit to Ethiopia at the cost of 1.4 million Br, and she appeared at the expo dressed in traditional Ethiopian outfit designed by Sara Mohammed. well known Ethiopian designer



iCog, headquartered in Sidist Kilo, has up to 14 software and computer engineers from public universities and a capital of 15 million Br. It also gives internship opportunities to two candidates from 29 universities in the nation.

“iCog has long been trying to promote project-based learning in Ethiopia,” says Hiruy Tsegaye, 31, project manager at the company which currently works with 29 public universities and six high schools in Addis Abeba.

The capacity of our higher learning institutions in capturing technology and encouraging innovation is low, according to Getahun Mekuria (PhD), minister of Science & Technology.

“Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain Technology should guide our policy decisions in the future. It seems a miracle, but there is a talent that can lead the country in the direction of science and innovation,” Getahun told Fortune.

The Ministry has rented 900Sqm floor at the Tracon Tower around Churchill Avenue in Addis Abeba for this purpose. It will be used to house the MoST Talent Incubation Centre, where the government hopes to support innovations in AI, robotics and e-business.

The centre aims to train 70 to 100 students every six months after its expected opening in mid-July.

“We should have well coordinated and focused programs to attain outcomes in technological advances. We cannot lag behind our peers, such as Kenya or Rwanda,” says Getahun.

ICT Park, a.k.a Lemi Valley was opened in 2015 and occupies 200ha of land. It is equipped with 10 gigabits of fibre optic cable, and the government provides support to incentivise technological innovations there.

The government also invests up to 200,000 dollars annually in research and development and executes an average of 20 projects a year with direct linkage to science and technology.



The government also invests up to 200,000 dollars annually in research and development and executes an average of 20 projects a year with direct linkage to science and technology. A fifth of the resources is set aside for women that engage in the field.

The government’s optimism is matched by students of ICT such as a team from AAU’s Department of Computer Science that call themselves 4k Bots. They believe that innovations in software programming can help the low-income group of the economy.

“We are very much interested in collaboration with the government on new applications and software that can help the government in the agriculture and industry sector,” the team told Fortune.

There is a perceptible thirst to grow in the field, according to Michael Byamugish, director at ITES BPO of the Ugandan National Information Technology Authority (NITA-U), who attended Sophia’s showcase.

“The nation seems to be following along the footsteps of Uganda, which has already established 15 technology hubs and ICT centres,” he says. “But only one of these is government funded; the rest are private initiatives.”

It can be said that advances in technology and science have reached an adequate level when there is a visible impact on the daily lives of low-income groups, according to Byamugisha.

Achieving technology and innovation-based economic and social transformation, as was the case with China, South Korea, and Singapore is critical in Ethiopia, suggests Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

In Rwanda, drones are being used to distribute medical supplies. Kenya has developed mobile-phone technologies that were able to bring changes in retail and the financial sector.

“Digital revolutions in public finance holds even more promise for countries, in terms of increasing transparency, accountability and efficiency,” she explained.

For Yihenew Wondie (PhD), assistant professor at AAU’s School of Electrical & Computer Engineering, although the coming of Sophia could be motivating, there is work left undone at the grassroots level.

“Digital and technological literacy at a young age, by infusing it with the education system,” he says. “There is also a need to centralise and make data readily available to create an impact.”

The East African nation is also working to implement Blockchain Technology, a digital ledger that is used to record transactions across multiple computers, in a bid to make the coffee trade smoother. The Science & Technology Ministry is collaborating with the British based technology company, IOHK, for the project.

 

By YARED TSEGAYE
FORTUNE STAFF WRITER





SHARE :
               

MORE FEATURED STORIES

Local Growers Look f...

How Hotels Earn thei...

A Choice of Fine Fur...

Axumite Sisters’ M...

'Tis the Season for...

New Channels Abundan...

Social Media Springs...

Mobile Booksellers K...

Reeling It In: Cinem...


SUBSCRIBE TO ADDISFORTUNE

ADDISFORTUNE INDEPENDENT NEWS & MEDIA © COPYRIGHT. ALL RIGHTS RESERVEED 2017.