They say every dark cloud has a silver lining, and the same is true for COVID-19. In as much as the pandemic has killed over 2.4 million people as of this writing, had million others spend thousands of shillings in treatment, closed down economies thereby rendering millions others jobless, denied almost every single one of the us the freedom to live freely, the same pandemic has inspired several interesting tech inventions and innovations both locally and elsewhere in the world. Some of these interesting tech inventions and innovations are discussed below.
An innovative handwashing machine by 9 year old Stephen Wamukota
We all have experienced the awkwardness of having to shut down the tap after washing our hands using a public tap usually placed at public toilets. The same awkwardness is true when using a bar soap that everyone else uses. Usually such soaps are placed outside restaurants. This awkwardness was felt by Stephen leading him to invent a handwashing machine that requires one to step on a peddle to dispense water. The machine looks crooked but that didn’t stop President Kenyatta from giving young Stephen a presidential award. He also got covered by BBC and you may read of his story in this article.
Kenyatta University Students’ innovative ventilators
If there was a challenge in hospitals, other than enough beds for COVID-19 patients and relevant supplies to take care of them, it was the shortage of ventilators. Almost every patient who goes to critical condition from COVID-19 requires to be put under a ventilator for oxygen supply, and given that such ventilators are not manufactured in large quantities as their demand is never that high, hospitals across the world had to grapple with the heightened demand for ventilators. Actually the situation became so dire in places like Italy where at one point it was decided that the very elderly would not be given priority – as – it was reasoned, most of them had less than a year to live anyway.
When the need for ventilators arrived in Kenya, Kenyatta University stepped in and helped in making a locally affordable version of the ventilators. “This ventilator detects oxygen and normal air then it gives it enough pressure and volume required to ventilate a patient, then passes it through a humidifier to give it enough humidity and temperature required for the human body”, the students said to the press when asked how their ventilators work.
See through masks
Thanks to wearing of masks, I have mistaken several people for someone I may know, yet they are total strangers. Conversely, I have been greeted by friends whom I didn’t immediately recognise because their faces were all covered in masks. To make people more visible behind the masks that they must continue wearing (see this article), a deaf tailor from Indonesia took the opportunity to make see through masks that would make people’s mouths and nostrils visible.
Door to door delivery boxes on wheels
The requirement that we spend most of our days indoors particularly in places with lockdown means we must learn to love Netflixing and Chilling all day – but most importantly we must get accustomed to ordering stuff from Amazon and other online shopping platforms like Jumia – and that’s because going shopping isn’t in the spirit of social distancing.
But the challenge for many e-commerce platforms is how to effectively deliver goods to millions of online shoppers while at the same time not exposing their workers to COVID-19. To help with this, a U.S. start-up Starship Technologies rolled out food delivery boxes on wheels, an invention that was also done by a Colombian start-up Rappi. These delivery boxes on wheels that are actually robots that replace humans. On arrival at the customer’s door, the customer just opens up the box, picks up his item, and let’s the box go back home.
Innovations around communication
Zoom is an online “meeting” platform that has been here since 2011, but hardly anyone knew about Zoom, well, until COVID-19 happened. COVID-19 made Zoom so popular that in the height of the pandemic when schools and companies had to resort to Zoom calls to conduct classes and hold meetings respectively, Zoom calls got invaded – at times hacked, forcing Zoom to re-innovate it’s security features. (see Calls with saved contacts the only solution to Zoom Bombing).
But the popularity of Zoom didn’t stop there. What happened is that people’s love for Zoom forced big companies including Microsoft, Google and Facebook to introduce their own Zoom like products where Microsoft had to include a “Meet Now” feature to Skype and launch Microsoft TEAMS. Google on the other hand came up with Google Meet whereas Facebook introduced Rooms on Facebook. These meeting platforms have made it possible for people to hold virtual conferences, conduct concerts, and be able to communicate a lot more easily despite being locked indoors.