“Yes, Internet of Things technology has already been applied in Africa” ​​(interview)

(Ecofin Agency) – Muriel Edjo has just produced a report entitled ” The Internet of Things, the next big evolution of the data market in Africa “. He explains how this technology will change daily life and the continent’s economy, which sectors are most affected and the path that remains to be followed to take full advantage of these opportunities. Maintenance.

Ecofin Agency: Is Internet of Things (IoT) technology already being applied in Africa?

Muriel Edjo: First of all, it is necessary to specify that the Internet of Things defines both the process of connecting physical objects to the Internet and the network that connects these objects. IoT connects any element capable of transferring data through a network, without necessarily requiring interactions between humans or between a human and a computer.

Transferred data is often necessary for informed decision-making. Yes, this technology is already being applied in Africa in various scenarios. In Senegal, for example, the National Electricity Company (Senelec) operates smart meters through its Woyofal service. They allow the company to remotely assess the electricity consumption of a building, business or household in a detailed, accurate and real-time manner and bill accurately. These devices help to combat fraud.

Since 2012, the National Roads Agency (SANRAL) has operated an Internet of Things-based electronic payment system on certain highways. It collects transit fares without human intervention by scanning rechargeable electronic tags installed on vehicles. The technology reduces tolling times and combats traffic congestion in these high-speed lanes. In Africa, there are already some practical cases of the Internet of Things, which are not always really perceived by the population. The technology is used by both public services and private companies.

AE: How much can IoT change the daily life of an average African?

I: It depends on the sector in which IoT is put into practice. In the service sector, it has the power to improve the way we live, interact with our immediate environment. Imagine getting real-time information about your home when you’re not there, about your consumption or your health, thanks to the Internet of Things. Connected cameras let you keep an eye on your kids or babysitter from your phone. A connected smoke detector alerts you to a fire hazard in your home when you’re not there, so you can intervene accordingly or call a loved one. Connected watches are becoming a little more sophisticated every day in monitoring the health parameters that some specialists rely on to make decisions. Locating your vehicle, your children, your pets through a tracker placed under the hood, in a backpack or on a collar is also an application of the Internet of Things.

Locating your vehicle, your children, your pets through a tracker placed under the hood, in a backpack or on a collar is also an application of the Internet of Things.

In The Gambia, in rural communities that struggled to access clean water and suffered from diseases related to poor water quality, eWATER, a company that uses mobile technology for sustainable water maintenance, has leveraged IoT to solve this problem. It has set up drinking water points that only work with a smart sign. The latter, rechargeable with mobile money, must be attached to the faucet in order to deliver the amount of water purchased. Used well, IoT indeed offers many opportunities in Africa.

AE: How should IoT stimulate the economy? and better in which sectors?

I: The Internet of Things has the power to improve the operational efficiency of many economic sectors, thereby increasing their profits. In 2019, the World Telecommunication Operators Association (GSMA) estimated that the global gain generated from productivity efficiencies generated by the Internet of Things will be more than $370 billion per year in 2025. This is 0.34% of production world gross domestic product (GDP). With Covid-19 increasing digital adoption and bringing more value to the internet, these numbers should certainly have been revised upwards since then. The most likely sectors to benefit from the advantages of this technology are the manufacturing industry, logistics and transport, health or even agriculture.

The most likely sectors to benefit from the advantages of this technology are the manufacturing industry, logistics and transport, health or even agriculture.

In the industrial sector, IoT has the ability to improve factory production by supporting the automation and optimization of production chains, to better predict breakdowns thanks to predictive maintenance performed after data analysis, also to improve employee safety.

In logistics and transportation, the big advantage of IoT lies in cargo tracking, inventory analysis, warehousing or storage optimization. It is currently a highly valued solution by port shipping companies, freight forwarders, etc.

In health or agriculture, Internet-connected facilities improve the quality of care and agricultural interventions. In both cases, IoT promotes better operational monitoring. Even environmental protection has opportunities to benefit from the Internet of Things (monitoring air quality, monitoring tides, weather, etc.). There is also the consumer sector. More and more people appreciate connected TVs, connected cars, voice assistants, etc. Energy and finance (payment terminal, etc.) as well.

AE: Compared to other continents, where does Africa stand in the adoption of this technology?

I: Africa still lags behind all other continents in IoT adoption. The GSMA estimates that mobile IoT connections alone will already be more than 4 billion by 2025 globally, with only about 25 million connections in Africa. However, it should be noted that things may change by then. In 2019, 5G was not seen as a technology that would appear on the continent before 2025. Today it has already been launched in a dozen countries. For IoT, public and private actors are aware of the role that technology will play in Industry 4.0. It is certain that they will take the necessary measures, both in terms of regulation and investment. As of 2021, more African countries are thinking about IoT possibilities. Among them Senegal or Ivory Coast.

AE: What skills will her deployment in Africa require?

I: Africa is currently the continent where digital skills are most lacking in the world. The various education systems are just beginning to adapt to the new needs of the labor market. IoT is among the technologies where the workforce is just beginning to emerge on the continent due to growing market interest. This assumes that training will have to be oriented towards technological knowledge related to systems development, connection to infrastructures that communicate with objects, data access and management, new standards. Cyber ​​security is one of the key skills to be emphasized in training in Africa. Any digital network without integrity is a risk to both the economy and consumers.

AE: What is the most popular application of this technology in the world?

I: In my opinion, the smartphone is currently the most popular IoT application in the world. The principle of IoT can be reduced to three points: an object, connectivity and data provision. Our smartphones meet all these conditions. They are objects that are connected to the Internet and that constantly transmit a lot of information about us thanks to the many applications that we have installed in them.

Leave a Comment