Two weeks ago, the UNDP and the Japanese government donated three robots to be used in the fight against Covid-19 in Kenya. The three, Jasiri, Shujaa, and Tumaini have already adapted to their roles at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. The three have been assigned various roles from disinfecting the airport to monitoring arrivals for signs of the virus.
“I have every confidence that all our travelers, foremost the tourists visiting Kenya, will appreciate the ability of these robots. As a country, we are open to any and all innovations that add value to our health care services and ask them not to stop there,” Health CS Mutahi Kagwe said when he received the robots last month.
One of the robots, Jasiri, which means brave in Swahili, sprays jets of sanitizer from containers attached to his sides and uses a camera mounted on his extended neck to take infrared pictures while scanning hundreds of passengers every minute.
He reminds passengers to wear masks and maintain social distance while taking passengers’ temperatures and recording data storage.
“Jasiri’s role in this airport is to enhance the safety of international travel,” airport operations manager, Simon-Peter Njoroge told Reuters.
“This is one more example of how the future is going to look. The future is going towards contactless travel, it’s going towards automation, it’s going towards a greater focus on health security…. I see that as a powerful force for the enhancement of air travel.”
The robots screen temperatures of about 200 people per minute, fast-tracking traveler clearance at the airport.
Health personnel and ICT staff working in areas where the robots have been deployed have since undertaken training.
“Jasiri is in honour of the courage it takes for healthcare workers to serve the nation while risking their lives, while Shujaa represents not only the 32 HCWs we have lost so far but also those of us that continue to heed the protective measures we propagate daily,” Kagwe said.
“If you have sacrificed visiting an elderly parent because you don’t want to risk their life, you are a hero. Equally, if you have continued to wear a mask in public places, maintain social distance from others, and sanitize, you are our hero.”
Another robot, Tumaini, which means hope, represents the collective hope that Kenyans have, that through the following the Covid-19 protocols, we can triumph over the pandemic.
“Some of you may recall my discussing robotic surgery during my vetting a year ago and my goal to catapult Kenya into the medical space where we would join leagues of those who benefit from surgical procedures from remote distances,” Kagwe said.
The CS noted that some countries had advanced in the use of robots, keeping their personnel secure from hazardous jobs.
“The first industrially successful robot performed automated tasks that were dangerous to humans on an automobile assembly line. We have robots aiding firefighters with restricted visibility and others patrolling dangerous border lines or nuclear environments and, in this era more than ever, we now have the presence of robots in healthcare.”
Working together, the robots help in curbing the spread f the pandemic, while saving passengers considerable time taken for arrival formalities.
“There was a long queue but …we have a system which can take more than one hundred people’s temperature at the same time,” said Major Pascal, from Burundi. “That is good.”