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Tech

Impact of Covid-19 on the Emerging Technology Development

One of the positive outcomes of the Covid-19 pandemic is the accelerated the uptake of new technologies that would have taken longer to be adopted. For both corporations and individuals, the technological leap has been remarkable.

Virtual meetings have been normalized and there has been an increase in uptake of cashless transactions. Remote working and cloud solutions are now common words. For corporates, the leap has been huge. Reports show that corporates have accelerated the digitization of their internal operations by up to three or four years. In creating digitally enhanced offerings, some companies have made leaps of up to ten years. It is like the world has made a ten-year leap in the form of technology adoption. All this is thanks to the pandemic.

Tech Adoption Fueling Development

How did the increased uptake of different technologies during the pandemic impact the development of the same?

Usually, user adoption is one of the factors that dictate the speed of development of new technologies. One classic example is the cloud meeting service provider Zoom which existed before the pandemic. Zoom was a little-known company before the pandemic struck. Once Covid-19 hit, social distancing measures and limits on physical gatherings meant that people could not meet as often as was necessary. Zoom had its big moment when it emerged as the market leader in cloud meetings.

But that was just a start. The Zoom that was before the pandemic is not the Zoom that we have today. It has undergone a lot of changes to suit mass usage. It is now more secure to use. Zoom can allow conferences to run smoothly. It has mechanisms for registration and to prevent meeting gate crashing (Zoombombing). Other meeting cloud meeting providers such as Meet, Skype, Teams and others have also undergone intensive development to make them easier to use. All this has been accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Covid-19 and Emerging Technologies

The rapid development of new technologies triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic is not limited to cloud meeting solutions. Individuals and corporates have been looking for solutions in the areas of education, healthcare, production, business, productivity, research and development, among others.

This has led to rapid use of technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things, and Big Data. Today, we see the Big Tech rushing into the world of virtual reality and increasingly talking about the metaverse. This is in anticipation that the world will need to embrace virtual reality even more, with Covid-19 having acted as a dry run.

The supply of goods and services was also widely disrupted by Covid-19, with both manufacturing and supply chain systems taking a direct hit. Consequently, more firms are embracing increased automation to guard against such disruptive events. Labor shortage is being mitigated by the use of cobots and this has opened an opportunity for the growth of the automation industry.

Robotics has also found useful applications and accelerated development. A case example is Boston Dynamics creating robots that helped reduce exposure of frontline health workers to the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Another technology that has received a shot in the arm from Covid-19 is the 5G technology. As people moved to work from home and cloud meetings became more necessary, robust communication networks were necessary to ensure that people remained connected. One such technology is the 5G network, which allows for better internet speeds and more devices to be connected to the internet. The period after the pandemic marked a huge growth in the adoption of 5G technologies.

There are many other cases of technology application driven by Covid-19. Online civic education has accelerated. Online entertainment services such as Netflix had tremendous growth. Ecommerce and food delivery services peaked. Chatbots have been used to provide Covid-19 related information, as well as for mental health support. Hospitals started using robots to minimize human contact. 3D printing helped to quickly produce components for ventilators. Drones have found a place in delivery services. The list is long.

Kenyan Context

Locally, EdTech startups are experiencing momentous growth. Parents and schools are finding it necessary to employ AI-based learning platforms that can provide an individualized learning plan for their children. AI-based learning platform M-Shule has experienced remarkable growth. In areas where skills and resources have not enabled remote learning, people are working on simple solutions that can work on basic phones and do not consume a lot of resources. A case example is the growth of the M-Lugha app which is helping students in Northern Kenya to continue learning even when schools are closed.

In the health sector, startups like AfyaRekod employ AI and various blockchain modules to help health facilities work around health data. Covid-19 pandemic made their services even more necessary as people adopted e-health, something that was picking up sluggishly before the pandemic. As this happens, more health startups are focusing on the same.

Conclusion

The impact of all these is people are exposed to new technologies, and developers start to focus on these people since they have increased capacity to use different technologies. The other direct impact is that prompted by the pandemic, there are more venture capitalists committed to investing in the same areas. This further fuels the adoption of several of these emerging technologies locally and globally.

It is not easy to precisely quantify the extent to which Covid-19 has impacted the development and adoption of many of these emerging technologies, but there is a clear indication that it has increased both adoption and development. Technologically, the pandemic has helped the world leapfrog several years ahead.

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Social Media: The Fellowship of the Vile

Posted on 3 min read

While peace of mind is desired by most people, it can be elusive if you are constantly using social media. This is also the case if you follow the mainstream media, where negative news dominates the timelines.

I stopped actively following the news for this reason, because I do not find any benefit when my evening starts or ends with the information that a young man butchered his brother in a remote part of Kenya, followed by the information that a child died because a certain clinic in another remote part of Kenya lacked syringes. I know such things happen everyday but having to know about them every evening is not good for my peace of mind.

But I still use social media, and its effects seem to be worse.

Demons of Social Media

Social media has exposed some very dark sides of people. As soon as you log in, decency logs out, and you are exposed to some of the worst of human beings.

You are fat. You are short. You have a big forehead. I wish you were aborted. Stop using your head only as a cover for the neck…

Those are mean words to use in life, but not on social media. These are some of the posts that get likes and shares. People have pledged allegiance to violence and hate. They attack one another. They say mean things. They post profanity and insults. They insult innocent strangers and demean people they have no idea what they are going through.

They shame the poor, and the next moment, they promote mental health forums. It’s a paradox but who cares? That is social media.

Social Media exposes the lowest of the low.

Bloodthirsty

It is not just the demons of social media that traumatize me. It is the many applauders who seem to enjoy the violence.

There are people who are there only there to fan violence, then sit back to enjoy the wildfire. Those spewing venom end up with likes and followers. Because they cannot see and relate to the human beings behind the username, they find it easy to insult and attack.   

They join the hate wagons even when they do not know what is happening. If an influencer insults you on social media, their bloodthirsty followers will follow through and bring it to your inbox.

Intelligent and Arrogant

We also have intelligent people who seem to have everything but empathy. Armed with wits, superior knowledge and cosmic pride, they demean and shame. When they see foolishness, they go ahead to highlight it in order to clear every doubt that the person is a fool. They show little grace or empathy. They thrive by demeaning.

Making Social Media a Positive Experience

There are the good sides of social media, but it does not come automatically. One must use it objectively, but I am yet to figure out what counts as objective.

I can block, I can choose who to follow, I can log in only when necessary, and I can mute some topics, but it is hard when some of the work you do depend on social media. The worst part is when you start acting like the people you dislike on social media.

I can relate this with what happens in real life. You can choose a good neighborhood where you are isolated from muggers, thieves, noisy people or just the people you do not like, but you cannot completely cut off the world. It is impossible.

Some part calls for one to flee, another one calls for one to have a thick skin.

It is not easy.

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Web Development Course for Form Four Leavers

Posted on 2 min read

Fifteen years ago, creating a website was a preserve for a few techies who played with some code like a magician. This has largely changed.

Today, anybody with some level of commitment, focus and some will can create a website. The enabling factor is that most websites today do not need any coding at all, but ability to understand the platforms in which they are built. Thus, any willing person can create a website or a blog such as this one, with ease.

Aslan Academy is offering a course that gives form leavers web development skills.

Why Learn Web Design/Development

The ability to create websites and publish web content is a useful digital hack today. I have found myself doing this for my businesses, for other people, to communicate important information, or even for fun. I have launched and ran a business online, just because I could. I still design website today as a side hustle, and a simple website that takes me a few hours to put together can easily earn me KShs 10,000. I have friends who are always asking me to design their websites.

This course from Aslan is especially suited for high school graduates who want to explore the world of web design. It will give you enough knowledge to make a website such as this one, and give you a base from where you can venture into more advanced web design and development skills.

The course does not promise to make you a wizard in web development. Like any good skill, it takes time and practice to become an expert. But how can you become an expert when you do not know where to start? This course will give you the basics information and proper hands-on skills to build a website using WordPress and other popular website builders.

Course Details

Objective

Equip learners to create a website or blog (such as this one) without necessarily learning to code.

Requirements

  • Computer
  • Internet connection
  • Basic Computer literacy

Course Duration

One Week

Cost

This course being offered at a discounted cost of KShs 4,999 for form four leavers.

Dates

Varied dates every month. Check the Course Page.

Mode of Delivery

Online

Registration

You can sign up for the course HERE.

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Beware of this WhatsApp Scam

Posted on 2 min read

A socially engineered attack is taking over WhatsApp accounts. In the scam that is now going round in Kenya, WhatsApp users receive an SMS from WhatsApp with a code, then a WhatsApp message from one of their contacts asking them to send them the code which they ‘sent to them by mistake.’

While the WhatsApp message is genuine and appears to come from one of your contacts, the contact has had their WhatsApp hacked and it is a scammer who is controlling the account. If you forward the code provided, you are doomed.

The verification code that the hacker wants you to send is a One Time Password that will be used to register your WhatsApp on another number, or even set up a WhatsApp Business account. Once they do this you will lose access to your WhatsApp and although they will not access previous chats and conversation, they will have access to your groups, from where they can target more people because they have the contact.

They will use those contacts in the groups to initiate more hacks and use your WhatsApp to contact the new hacks to request that they forward the attackers the WhatsApp code that was sent to them by mistake. This nets more victims who fall for the scam.

I am not sure what the hackers are after, but they could make use of the personal data that they collect, or request your contacts to send them money.

What do you if you have already Shared the Code?

If you have received a request to share a code, the best you can do is to ignore the message and alert the person who was hacked to take action.

If you have been hacked, you end up losing access to your WhatsApp. The next course of action is to reinstall WhatsApp on your phone. This will deny the hacker access to your account and restore your WhatsApp to you.

How can you prevent such an attack from happening? You can set up a two factor authentication for your WhatsApp. This was, some will need a PIN in order to set up your WhatsApp on another phone. To do this, go to WhatsApp > Settings > Account > Two-step Verification.

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The Evolution of Electricity and Home Appliances

Posted on 3 min read

In 1879, Thomas Edison had a light bulb moment – literally. He invented a working light bulb. It was a major disruption to a world that was used to expensive and dirty oil lamps. Only the rich could afford to stay up late at night burning the mid night oil. The world was on the blink of a revolution.

To make the invention work, several things needed to be done. One of them was a method of electrical production and distribution. In 1882, Edison switched on the first power station that would produce electricity and distribute it to neighboring factories. This was the beginning of the long journey towards commercializing electricity and a lot of work went into inventing and designing the infrastructure that would make that a success.

Transmission over long distance was a problem until a Swedish Engineer Jonas Wenström came up with a solution that was in form of Three Phase AC current. This allowed for industries to be build away from Power generation sites, such as rivers. Prior to that, electricity needed to be produced near where it would be consumed and this would involve playing about with the location of the consumers (industries), or the power plants. Today, electricity can be transported over thousands of miles with minimal losses.

As electricity became a popular source of energy, one area that had a slow application was in the home appliances.

The Start of Home Appliances

Initially, electricity was being supplied in homes only for lighting purposes and it remained so for a long time. There were no electric appliances to be used at home. It was a lighting affair.

Appliances started showing up with the electric fan in 1890. Electric iron, vacuum cleaner, toaster, and a washing machine showed up. All these were primitive devices, very different from what we have today. The vacuum cleaner as so bulky that it needed at least two people to operate. It was the beginning of an age that people realized that they could use the newly available energy to make work easier at home.

The development followed an interesting path because houses were only wired for lighting. This means that all the appliances that were available would all be screwed into the bulb holder. There were neither electric sockets/receptacles nor switches that could regulate the flow of power. Devices were meant to be unplugged when not in use.

With time, home appliances became more affordable, available and safer to use. This necessitated planning for them, and building services providers started to design the house wiring in a way that could accommodate the appliances.

With the advent of consumer electronics, home appliances increased and today there are tens of appliances that are used at home. These include air conditioners, dishwashers, clothes dryers, drying cabinets, freezers, refrigerators, kitchen stoves, water heaters, washing machines, trash compactors, microwave ovens, and induction cookers.

Other smaller appliances include juicers, electric mixers, meat grinders, coffee grinders, deep fryers, herb grinders, food processors, electric kettles, waffle irons, coffee makers, blenders, dough blenders, rice cookers, toasters and exhaust hoods. Consumer electronics include radio receivers, TVs, cameras, computers, smartphones and many more.

Advancement in Home Wiring

House wiring has been standardized to allow for the adoption of various home appliances that may be needed. One of the needs today is to allow for smart devices that are interconnected and possibly connected to the internet.

However, the current wiring practices applied today are very rigid and possibly fit for the late 80’s. Even houses that are being built today fail to plan for the increasing number of appliances that are in use today and with little planning for smart devices. Even with simple devices like home theaters, one is forced to run cables under the seats and in awkward places. CCTV installations force one to start drilling and fitting conduits in places where they could have easily been provisioned for during the design. Getting the WiFi signal in different parts of the house is usually a hectic task.

It is like we are still living in the age when everything was plugged into the light bulb holder.

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