The future is already here. The role of technology in changing our lives for the better

If we are to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals included in Agenda 2030, the world’s poorest countries must have access to the best that technology can offer.

Technology has shaped and transformed our lives since the first humans discovered how to make tools from stones. In this sense, technology has been present throughout the history of humanity, marking the different stages of development and being one of the greatest responsible for the huge human progress leaps that have occurred especially in the last two centuries.

However, today technological advances and developments acquire more centrality for humankind than ever. In the global world in which we live, new technologies play a fundamental role in contributing to the social development and economic growth of nations.

Technology as a factor of transformation

Over the past two decades we have witnessed a very significant evolution of technology, and today it has a major influence on a number of sectors, such as health, education, public administration, infrastructure, telecommunications and financial services.

As UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan wrote in the Millennium Report in March 2000, “the convergence of information technology, the Internet and e-commerce can become as transformative as the industrial revolution”. Eighteen years later, we are going through the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the future, however uncertain it may seem, is promising.

The technology we have available today is more and more powerful and its impact increasingly transformative, ensuring more and better possibilities for accessing knowledge, and above all, an important instrument of social transformation and inclusion.

Extreme poverty and technological advances

Let us analyse the case of extreme poverty. Extreme poverty is synonymous with radical isolation: isolation from material resources to survive, isolation from the social relations necessary to live a dignified life, isolation from existing opportunities for overcoming situations of adversity. This isolation is particularly extreme in rural geographies.

In this context, mobile phones and the Internet have broken down many barriers that exclude large shares of the world’s population, and therefore have been one of the most transformative technologies of our time in terms of economic development.

In fact, the two best examples of how technology is a preponderant factor for developing countries to skip development stages are the penetration of mobile phones and the introduction of mobile banking services.

It is interesting to note that the success of the implementation of these technologies was, above all, linked to market developments rather than social innovation projects. The low cost of mobile phones and the simplicity of the service have met the communication needs of the poorest populations.

On the other hand, traditional financial services were not designed for low-income people, and there was a clear market opportunity to meet this need. Thus, through the development of mobile banking solutions – M-Pesa being the best-known success case in Africa – was possible to promote the financial inclusion of the population as well as to close the existing regional asymmetries in the provision of financial services.

Betting on technology as a pillar of sustainable development

These examples highlight the importance of continuing to focus on technology as one of the pillars of our sustained and sustainable economic and social development process. But in order to do so, it is important to make the best and most-informed decisions regarding the promotion of technologies that can impact positively on citizens’ quality of life while, at the same time, guaranteeing access to these technologies.

This was the purpose behind the creation of MozTech, the largest information technology fair in Mozambique. Our final goal was and still is to contribute to the development, evolution and transformation of our country, putting technology at the service of the people. In a world in constant and rapid transformation induced by technological innovation, we know that the achievements of the past only serve as inspiration and motivation for the future.

We intend to strengthen this initiative, thus placing Mozambique on the map of the digital and technological world, bringing together the public and private sector, civil society and academia in an open debate. We seek to attract the big global technology companies to promote Mozambique as a market for business and investment opportunities. We want MozTech to be a national pride flag, an inspirational event that tests all Mozambicans’ ability to dream and innovate at the service of our development.

Open debate, business and investment, and the ability to dream and innovate. These are the elements that will make it possible to fully exploit the potential technology offers for our development. In Mozambique we are ready and looking forward to taking the next step. All those who want to join are welcomed.