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African Societal Challenges Transformation Through IoT


Very limited trials have been conducted either industrially or academically in trying to uncover the potential of Internet of Things (IoT) in leveraging the societal problems in Africa. Based on the review of the current status of IoT implementation in Africa, we highlighted the potential opportunities to be taken into consideration by different stakeholders to leverage the living standards in the African nations.

The study also identified some of the impending challenges that need to be addressed for a successful implementation of IoT solutions. The study proposes a framework that includes the relevant stakeholders, who need to cooperate harmoniously to alleviate the African countries challenges in areas such as agriculture and healthcare. This paper also proposes a multi-perspective research framework and aims to test it empirically to understand the views of IoT among users and practitioners in Africa.


We examined the literature from 2008 till now for searching the terminologies “IoT” and “Africa”. Databases such as Science Direct, Scopus, Business Source Complete, and Inspec were included. The search generated 255 results. Among them, there were 34 articles in academic journals and one conference paper. Thirty-three of the journals were in English, and two were in French. The French language articles were excluded. The rest were in the categories of news, magazines, and other trade publications. In removing the duplicated articles from the research outcome, 22 articles remained. Among them, only two articles were relevant to the investigation of IoT in Africa. These two articles are inspiring, but further studies are required to enrich our understanding of the paradigm and the potentials of IoT in Africa.


Figure 1. Proposed Research Model

Figure 1. Proposed Research Model

The research model is based on the integration of two theories, namely: Social Shaping of Technology (SST) and Actor Network Theory (ANT). SST is associated with the explanation of technologies and the processes surrounding innovation. The theory covers a wide array of factors including political, social, organizational, and cultural issues. The theory explains the impact of these factors on the technological and social change (Williams and Edge 1996). ANT describes the actors that have a common interest in a heterogeneous environment.


As discussed above, this study has proposed SST and ANT as possible theoretical foundations for exploring the potentially positive impacts that IoT could have for the alleviation of societal challenges in Africa. The field study will be based in Tanzania where we have available resources and social background to initiate the research. We plan to conduct case studies, observations, and analysis of documents and materials. The field study will also include semi-structured interviews with various people including individuals in communities, decision-makers in the local municipalities, government policymakers and experts in the area of IoT application.


The paper also proposes a research model and pursues suggestions from the research community. Future field studies are required to evaluate the impact of the implementation of IoT technologies in different societies in Africa. This paper acts as an agent for change by highlighting some of the areas where IoT can make significant contributions to the standing challenges in areas such as agriculture and healthcare. We hope the message of this paper can reach the IoT providers and articulate their business strategies in transforming not only ‘things’ to services but also people from miserable situations to more favourable situations.


This paper contributes to alerting the research community of the significance of IoT-enabled transformation in Africa. The discussed challenges require a collaborative effort from various stakeholders to convert the potentials that these promising technologies have upon practical solutions. We believe that enhancing the performance of sectors such as education, healthcare, and agriculture through the use of IoT technologies would help in leveraging the prosperity of the African countries.

Source: University of Wollongong
Authors: Salim Al Ismaili | Mengxiang Li | Jun Shen |Qiang He | Abdulaziz Alghazi

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