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Africa’s Tech Firms Take Lead In Fight Against Coronavirus

China was the origin of the novel coronavirus spread. In the Chinese territories, it infected around 80,000 people and killed more than 3,000. In the beginning, the outbreak was massive, but in recent weeks, they managed to contain it.

By Tawanda Chikosi

For a country, the size of China with 1.4 billion inhabitants, reporting 50 cases a day is just a drop in the ocean. Some people have criticised the Chinese system claiming it would never work in the west or anywhere else.

China is known for the massive amounts of data it harvests from its citizens. They have a network of more than 200 million video surveillance cameras distributed around the country. Apart from these, they also installed biometric scanners in the doorway of residential complexes.

When a person decides to leave his apartment, he has to scan his face as a sort of registration. From then on, the Intelligent System processing the data knows that the person is outside and can track his whereabouts via the extensive video surveillance system.

Central databases stores all of this information, machine learning algorithms then crunch the data and calculates the potential social interactions of the person.

The spread of the deadly novel coronavirus across the world has called for greater cooperation of all key players of economies and for much of Africa, Zimbabwe included, the information and technology firms have made strong commitments worth mentioning.

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While the growth of the ICTs in Sub-Saharan Africa has encountered its own fair share of problems given the harsh economic contexts it exists in, tech companies are leading the fight against the coronavirus in various spaces.

This week, Kenya’s biggest telecommunications operator, Safaricom announced to waive transaction costs on mobile money transfers below 1,000 shillings ($10) for customers on its mobile money platform, M-Pesa in a bid to encourage the use of electronic payments and curb the potential spread of the coronavirus through the rampant exchange of hard cash and coins.

To give context, more than 17 million Kenyans live under US$ 2 a day, according to a 2019 World Bank report hence the zero-rated ceiling will help a massive number of ordinary citizens to transact cheaply and avoid unnecessary contact.

This is with regards to the nature of overpopulated its urban markets particularly in the capital, Nairobi.

Similarly, Airtel Kenya also waived transaction charges on transfer from mobile wallet to bank accounts on Tuesday and also increased the limits subscribers can hold in their wallet from $300 to $ 1,400.

Locally, in Zimbabwe, there is a campaign by the Zimbabwe Information Communication Technology (ZICT) Association to capacitate teachers and students during this period following President Emmerson Mnangagwa decree to close schools earlier as a precaution against the virus.

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“As ZICT, the ICT division of the Zimbabwe Institution of Engineers (ZIE) , we want to support teachers, students, and families in any way we can. We are calling on companies that provide e-learning services to contact Engineer Tororiro Isaac Chaza on the email vicechair@zict.org.zw 0782555555, Engineer Jacob Kudzayi Mutisi, chair@zict.org.zw 0772278161 Engineer Ian Mutamiri info@zict.org.org 0772584350 in order to provide our students with the opportunity to continue with their education online during these trying times,” it said in a statement.

Yesterday, leading telecoms company, Econet Wireless Zimbabwe partnered Harare City Council to conduct a disinfection exercise in public areas across the city to curb the spread of the pandemic.

Another telecoms firm, TelOne has provided toll-free numbers directed to the National Emergency Response Centre and all case handling sites.

This will be directly be linked with Wilkins Hospital in Harare, Thorngroove Infectious Hospital in Bulawayo, Mutare infectious Disease Hospital, Gweru General Hospital and Masvingo General Hospital.

Furthermore, online media organizations in Africa have also come to the party, providing factual updates and developments in real-time against the scourge of social media fake news.

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263Chat is a Zimbabwean media organisation focused on encouraging & participating in progressive national dialogue

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