It’s fascinating to be living in a time where the world is not ruled by tyranny or dictatorship, socialism or capitalism, but instead by technology. The Arab Spring which began more than a year ago is a classic example of how technology (such as social media) is proving more powerful than any one government’s laws, or one society’s philosophies. The power being created here is happening through giving the man in the street access to a sophisticated mass communication mouthpiece, something that historically was the exclusive domain of the elite and powerful.
I was recently privileged to attend the 2nd Annual Women in ICT Strategic Development Conference for Africa, which took place last month in Johannesburg. Over its two day duration, I was utterly inspired, exhilarated and mesmerized by the bounty of diverse speakers from across various sectors, both business and social, and from across the continent.
The common thread which clearly emerged was the positive economic and social impact that technology is having across Africa. One such technology driven initiative which is making a hugely positive impact is awareNet. While Internet capacity is growing in Africa, the amount of investment needed to truly bring Africa online is generally unaffordable. Mesh networks have been identified as an interim solution to this limitation in connectivity.
awareNet is a mesh network driven social networking software ideal for underprivileged schools, and underdeveloped areas. It has been developed by eKhaya ICT in cooperation with the Village Scribe Association, and aims to enhance literacy and computer literacy and to improve information flow and awareness.
It allows for the creation of student communities in a safe, information-rich environment that spans the digital divide. It is developed with free open source software which anyone can use, change and redistribute. Its goal is to enable education and learner collaboration through expanding young people's worlds beyond the confines of their local communities, whilst avoiding the high costs of internet connectivity and other infrastructure generally required for online social networking. In South Africa this initiative has been successfully implemented in the Eastern Cape province in association with Rhodes University.
We were also delighted to have Kenyan IT professional and SYSPRO user, Ms. Susan Thuranira, attend the event. Susan is the IT Manager at Brookside Dairy Limited, Nairobi, which distributes 16 million liters of milk per month, and has been a SYSPRO client since 2000. Susan gave an exhilarating presentation on how SYSPRO ERP has revolutionized their business, helping them overcome operational inefficiencies and infrastructural challenges, to become East Africa’s leading dairy. Brookside now boasts operations in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda and has the largest farmers’ network, milk collection and storage capacity in the region.
“SYSPRO has had a profound impact on how we manage our inventory and distribution. Inventory management is a key component in any manufacturing environment, and SYSPRO ERP has revolutionized how we manage our stock,” said Susan. “It is especially useful in tracking products already on retailers’ shelves that are nearing their sell-by dates. Thanks to SYSPRO we can now track and seamlessly recall these expiring products and replace them with fresh stock at no extra cost to the retailer. The near expiring milk is processed into Ghee – a clarified butter used for cooking. So no wastage actually occurs.”
Susan also spoke proudly about the increased number of female IT professionals entering the Kenyan market, and expressed very positive sentiments regarding this.
“I was the very first female IT professional hired at Brookside, but I have now paved the way for others. In fact just recently we appointed a second woman to join our department,” said Susan. “I think the increasing trend of hiring women as IT professionals in Kenya has a lot to do with their general reluctance to ‘job-hop’ as much as their male counterparts, which has historically been the trend. This allows for greater reliability, commitment and dedication.”
After being exposed to a group of such dynamic women shaping ICT in Africa, I’m extremely bullish on the economic growth that technology is facilitating in emerging markets. One needs only look at the other BRICS countries to see what potential South Africa and Africa hold, and I look forward to SYSPRO’s involvement in this African awakening.