Wed, Nov

Another CSIR feat — A tourism app

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That information may be true or false. What is not false is that the gross domestic product (GDP) of South Korea, which was an agrarian economy in the early 1960s, had reached ...

Dear readers, I need help. I need someone to confirm or deny information I have, that in 1961 or thereabouts, Kwame Nkrumah (in Ghana’s fresh days as a Republic) went to the aid of South Korea with a cash bail-out.

I am told that this Asian country, having freshly proclaimed itself independent after the Korean War, was in dire economic straits at the time. The story is that Kwame Nkrumah did for ROK what he did for newly independent Guinea.

That information may be true or false. What is not false is that the gross domestic product (GDP) of South Korea, which was an agrarian economy in the early 1960s, had reached US$11,530 billion as of 2017, making it the 13th biggest economy in the world. In the same 2017, Ghana’s was 47.33 billion, the 79th in the world at 0.08 per cent.

A week ago, I invited myself to CSIR’s Industrial Research Institute (INSTI). For a tourism writer, what a shock!

I was shocked not because I didn’t think CSIR scientists were capable of what I saw and heard. For everything Ghana needs, the CSIR’s institutes have an answer. Name just anything, apart from spacecraft! And their answers are not theory; they have practical evidence. Prototypes of their innovations exist.

As is usual with me, I sang one line from Bob Marley’s Rat Race: “In the abundance of water…(the fool is thirsty”).

At INSTI, Ghanaian scientists have developed two tourism-oriented computer applications (apps). One of them, ‘ghanaportals”, sends a message to the user’s phone indicating that there is a tourist attraction or a national monument nearby, and directs one to the site.

For the Ghana Tourism Authority, what an opportunity to profile its tourists and to know their areas of interest. With their contacts in GTA’s databank, it should be possible to package and direct bulk information to such tourists via social media, categorised according to their areas of interest. I am told that It is this system of categorisation of groups of persons that enabled the Russians to allegedly target segments of the American population and send them damning information about Candidate Hillary Clinton whose email they had allegedly hacked in the run up to the last US election.

In the not-too-distant future, counting on the willingness of Ghanaians to share information, our phones would be directing us to “Undocumented Artefacts” or the graves of “Forgotten Heroes” anywhere in the country. All one needs is to get into the general geographical area where the artefact or the hero lies buried. It will pop up on your phone.

And now something for everybody whose prayer in life is to be saved from the torment of city traffic congestion. The INSTI scientists have developed ‘Kwan so’, an app that will give the user information about areas in the city that are experiencing heavy traffic congestion and offer alternative routes in less-congested areas.

There is a little challenge, however, with this app, and it has to do with inputting the relevant information about routes in our cities. There are two ways to get this information. One way is for the government to install cameras or monitoring systems in our traffic lights. To do this, the government may have to spend a fortune.

Alternatively, Google Maps already has all the information needed. The INSTI are hard at work trying to get through to Google. Hopefully, CSIR, led by the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation (MESTI), should be able to negotiate a deal with Google.

The ‘Kwan so’ app will come in handy to our traffic police who, upon a digital notification, can move quickly to control traffic wherever it is heavy and ungovernable.

‘Ghanaportals’ also comes embedded with a barcode reader which, when tagged onto artefacts, tells the user every detail about an artefact at a tourist site or a museum. Tagged onto a statue of Kwame Nkrumah, for example, ‘ghanaportals’ will give every information about the great leader – in text and images.

As readers may know, one of the CSIR institutes recently demonstrated an app that helps the farmer irrigate his or her farm from a distance - by remote control, using a solar app that triggers sprinklers without the farmer’s physical presence on the farm.

Added to the solar app, there is now a solar incubator, developed by INSTI, that will help poultry farmers hatch their eggs at very minimum cost. The app controls the temperature and humidity in the hatching chamber.

In the absence of such a device, says Ingineer Michael Wilson, lead researcher on the apps project, our poultry farmers have all these years been changing cedis to dollars, pounds or euros to import day-old chicks from countries such as Israel.

This article is written in the hope that industry, thus informed, will move in to commercialise the apps and mass-produce them. This is how other countries developed.

One of them is Korea which I mentioned above. Underlying Korea’s strong economic development has been a consistent effort to create a robust science and technology (S&T) capacity. Today, it has established world prominence in such technology areas as semi-conductors, LCD, telecommunication equipment, automobiles, shipbuilding and so on.

The choice is ours.


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