Sustainable Energy

The tech saving lives in Africa

Anmar Frangoul | Special to
Transforming lives with technology

In Africa, mobile technology is transforming the way people live and work. Mobile payments – which can be made using 'dumb' phones – are becoming incredibly popular, and phones are even being used to monitor the health of pregnant women.

Toto Health is a Kenya-based company looking to help expectant mothers and parents of young children. Their app sends text messages tailored to stages of pregnancy or a child's age.

To give one example of how the app works, a mother in her ninth week of pregnancy could receive a text informing her that vitamin D can help to prevent a miscarriage as well as help a baby's brain develop, and can be found in everything from fish and eggs to sunlight.

Tearing down the house to make it greener

"Toto Health works over texts and voice messages, we've built an intelligent system," Felix Kimaru, CEO of Toto Health, told CNBC's Sustainable Energy.

"Based on the date of birth of the child, or the state of pregnancy, the system is able to send information that is relevant to you at that particular point," Kimaru added.

The impact of technology on our planet, and areas such as Africa, is significant.

"It's opened up a huge technology opportunity for entrepreneurs and especially young entrepreneurs in Africa to solve our problems at large scale and reach African populations using mobile technology," Sheilah Birgen, team leader of m:lab East Africa, told Sustainable Energy.

m:lab East Africa is a group of four organizations that is seeking to identify and develop sustainable enterprises.

In terms of Africa's potential, there is a considerable amount when it comes to technology and how it can transform people's lives.

In Kenya, for example, the cell phone is being used to transform the way that people consume energy. M-KOPA Solar – the word 'kopa' is Swahili for 'borrowed' – is a Nairobi-based business that has pioneered the idea of "pay-as-you-go" solar energy in Africa.

The amount of worldwide mobile phone subscriptions has rocketed in the last 15 years, from under one billion in 2000 to seven billion in 2015, according to the International Telecommunication Union (ICT). The ICT also states that 3.2 billion people use the internet, with two billion of these users from developing countries.

"There's a huge chunk of the population which has never been digitally connected to anywhere on the planet, so suddenly that little small phone becomes a window to the world, it becomes a one stop shop… to do a lot of things," Mischa Dohler, head of the Center for Telecommunications Research at King's College London, told CNBC's Sustainable Energy.

"We can do banking there, we can do ordering stuff, we can communicate as well, there's a lot of things we can do, we don't need the legacy infrastructure (in Africa) we have here in Europe," Dohler added. "We have banks here, in Africa we can replace that with a little screen."