USIU-Africa holds the inaugural Technology and Society Conference 2021 in partnership with Google and ACAT
Photo: Edson Macharia
By Diana Meso
Imagine our dynamic world without technology! Somehow impossible right? Technology is an ever-changing essential tool that we cannot avoid, it affects the way we learn, communicate and think. It is at the heart of human development and impacts greatly on our societies.
With this in mind, USIU-Africa through the School of Science and Technology (SST), in partnership with Google Africa and Africa Center for Advanced Technology (ACAT) held the inaugural Technology and Society Conference 2021 in USIU-Africa on Wednesday, November 3. Bearing the theme “The Impact of Digital Economy and Emerging Technologies on Society”, the event brought together heads of Government and technology companies, policy makers, African and diaspora academics, students, industrialists, researchers, regional and national stakeholders in the technology space, foundations, development agencies and multinational corporations to deliberate on the opportunities that technology presents for Africa’s development agenda, how to identify and maximize these opportunities and what is required to develop, nurture and sustain innovation.
Prof. Valerie P Adema, Dean, School of Science and Technology thanked all the participants and welcomed them to the conference saying that the School is privileged to host such a conference and added that the school and the university at large is promoting partnership with other institutions to promote technology advancements.
In his remarks, Prof. Munyae Mulinge, Ag. Deputy Vice Chancellor Academic and Student Affairs acknowledged and appreciated technology providers like Google and promoters like ACAT who have reached out to seek partnerships to ensure that technology does not remain a misery. He further urged participants to acknowledge the role played by education sectors in maximizing access to technology, improving its quality and equity and reducing its cost.
Prof. Mulinge further said that USIU-Africa’s ability to fully embrace technology enabled the university smoothly transition to online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. He urged participants to focus their minds on how they can make technology an inclusive tool that creates opportunities for all.
Also present at the event, Michael Murungi, East Africa Government Affairs and Policy Lead, Google Africa said that Google is honored to collaborate with USIU-Africa and ACAT in finding ways on how technology can drive digital transformation.
Focusing on the “The role of new Technologies on the future of Africa”, the keynote speaker, Prof. PLO Lumumba, Advocate of the High Court of Kenya and Tanganyika. Notaries Public and Commissioner for Oaths, said that if any nation desires to grow economically or politically, it must include technology as an essential ingredient.
He agreed that technology has indeed improved and made life easy, for instance, through MPESA one can easily send money beyond geographical restrictions, also through UBER, BOLT and JUMIA one can easily request for transport or delivery of goods at the comfort of their homes. Prof. Lumumba also mentioned that technology has enabled a lecturer in University of KwaZulu- Natal in Durban, South Africa to share their lecture across the globe.
However, Prof. Lumuba expressed his disappointment that Africa is still a consumer of technology that is invented outside the continent, pointing out that until and unless Africa becomes the home of innovation and invention, she will continue to face most of the problems that are currently there. He encouraged participants to come up with technologies that are African based and tailor-made to solve the needs of Africa.
The conference saw Prof. Amos Njuguna, Dean, School of Graduate Studies, Research and Extension, chair a panel discussion where Prof. Meoli Kashorda, Executive Director, Kenya Education Network, Prof. Ilesanmi Adesida - Provost, Nazarbayev University, Kazakhstan, John Kamara, Founder, Adalabs and Dr. Abiud Mulongo, Advisor and Mentor at Human Sense discussed the application and impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) as well as trends in Research and Innovation.
Additionally, Dr. Mark Mutunga, CEO, Africa Center Advanced Technology (ACAT) led another discussion where our very own Prof. Audrey Mbogho, Associate Professor - Machine Learning, Dr. Faye Briggs, Co-Founder and Lead Technology Architect, Lunna Africa,Mr. Henry Ndede, United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) and Dr. Bienvenu Agbokponto Soglo, Regional AI Policy lead, Intel Corporation discussed the Nexus of Artificial Intelligence and Climate Change.
Moreover, Ben Zevenbergen, Responsible Innovation Ethics & Policy Advisor. Responsible Innovation, Google presented a workshop by Google on Artificial Intelligence-Machine Learning for Policy Leaders.
Various faculty from the School of Science and Technology including; Prof. Jimmy Macharia Associate Professor of Information Systems and Technology, Dr. Patrick Wamuyu, Chair Department of Computing, Dr. Leah Mutanu, Lecturer, Information Systems and Technology and Dr. Collins Oduor, Assistant Professor, Information Systems and Technology moderated paper presentations from various scholars in two breakout sessions; Artificial Intelligence and Technology as a driver for economic growth.