Turn your Challenges into Opportunities. Prof George Wiafe advises Start-ups in Earth Observation, Internet of Things and Open Source Technology

 Start-ups in the Earth observation (EO), Internet of Things (IoT) and Open Source Technology (OST) industry were called upon to turn the challenges faced within the industry into opportunities to solve problems and become money-making businesses. This call was made at a meeting organised at the University of Ghana from 12 -14 May 2021.

Prof. George Wiafe, Director of the Regional Marine Centre, University of Ghana

Indeed, the Regional Marine Centre in partnership with the Department of Computer Engineering of the University of Ghana (UG) has organised three days meeting to assess technological needs within the region to enable the creation of Earth Observation businesses in the marine and coastal environment. The meeting brought together representatives from industry, government institutions, academia and the private sector from Ghana and Nigeria.

Group photograph of a section of participants at the meeting

To successfully engage the EO, IoT and OST start-ups, there was a need to listen to the key actors and find sustainable solutions to the seeming lack of interest in addressing the marine and coastal challenges. The meeting is part of the specific tasks of Beacon Maritime Safety, Security & Logistics Consultancy Services Limited (BMSSL), a private company that was tasked to assess technological needs for creating an earth observation business in West Africa.

Section of participants during the deliberations


Section of participants during the deliberations

Discussions between participants and organisers

Key issues with the highlight on challenges and opportunities were discussed. The type of capacity building required to strengthen a critical mass of developers and users of the IoT tools, were also presented and discussed as well as the role of the government in creating an enabling environment for technological innovations. The resource persons presented on topics such as:
  • Technological Needs for Monitoring and Managing Coastal and Marine Resources in West Africa
  • Capacity Building Needs for IoT and Open-source Development in Africa
  • National Policy to Support Technological Innovations in Ghana
  • IoT and Open Source Tools in Fisheries and Oceanographic Data Acquisition
  • Incorporating Sensors/IoT/Open-Source Tools in Coastal Ecosystem Monitoring
  • Use of IoT and Open Source Tools in Managing the Environment.

Mr Kwabena Quaison, Director, Ministry of Environment, Science and Innovation

Prof. F.K.E. Nunoo, Head of Department, Marine and Fisheries Science, UG
Formal Chief Director at the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development, Ghana

Dr Wiafe Owusu Banahene, Head of Department, Computer Engineering, UG

Ms Gifty Buah, Tutor, Computer Engineering Department, UG

Selected start-ups shared their insightful experiences. These start-ups were mostly set up by young entrepreneurs, tech enthusiasts, innovators, engineers, builders, etc from various backgrounds with the desire to solve problems in Africa through innovative technologies.

Mr Joshua Agyeman, Founder and  President of IoT Network Hub Africa

Mr  Ezekiel Donkor, Co-Founder of Identif
Isaac  Newton Acquah, Innovation Spark, IoT and OPS enthusiast

Recurrent challenges that were identified among others through the deliberations are:

  • Absence of mentorship programmes for the youth and start-ups in the industry
  • Weak platforms and programmes for technical capacity strengthening
  • Poor knowledge of the business and marketing strategies
  • Poor knowledge of the issues in the marine and coastal environment
  • Difficulties in accessing available data
  • Unavailability of tools and items to create IoT tools
  • Financial challenges
Group picture of Participants

The organisers assured the gathering of the support of the GMES project together with the Department of Computer engineering to put in place an enabling environment, tools and channels for the growth of the industry in the West Africa region. They further urged the participants to complete and share the needs assessment survey forms (https://bit.ly/IoTandEONeedsAssessments  or https://bit.ly/EvaluationDesBesoinsIoDandOT) that is being conducted for the whole of West Africa. 

 The meeting is to launch a series of programmes to help Earth Observation, Internet of Things and Open Source Technology start-ups in West Africa to grow and to be able to propose solutions to the marine and coastal challenges.