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Posts in category 'Africa'

8 June 2011

WHO report on mHealth

mHealth
The World Health Organisation has just issued a major (free) report on mHealth, entitled “mHealth: New horizons for health through mobile technologies“.

Abstract
Only five years ago who would have imagined that today a woman in sub-Saharan Africa could use a mobile phone to access health information essential to bringing her pregnancy safely to term? Mobile phones are now the most widely used communication technology in the world. They continue to spread at an exponential rate – particularly in developing countries. This expansion provides unprecedented opportunities to apply mobile technology for health. How are mobile devices being used for health around the world? What diverse scenarios can mHealth be applied in and how effective are these approaches? What are the most important obstacles that countries face in implementing mHealth solutions? This publication includes a series of detailed case studies highlighting best practices in mHealth in different settings. The publication will be of particular interest to policymakers in health and information technology, as well as those in the mobile telecommunications and software development industries.

According to the Guardian, the reports “finds that 83% out of 122 countries surveyed use mobile phone technology for services that include free emergency calls, text messaging with pill reminders and health information and transmission of tests and lab results. Mobile health is already firmly established enough for the WHO to have set up a special unit five years ago, the Global Observatory for eHealth, staffed by four people in Geneva.”

27 May 2011

Book: The Internet of Elsewhere

The Internet of Elsewhere
The Internet of Elsewhere: The Emergent Effects of a Wired World
by Cyrus Farivar
Rutgers University Press
May 2011

Abstract

Through the lens of culture, The Internet of Elsewhere looks at the role of the Internet as a catalyst in transforming communications, politics, and economics. Cyrus Farivar explores the Internet’s history and effects in four distinct and, to some, surprising societies–Iran, Estonia, South Korea, and Senegal. He profiles Web pioneers in these countries and, at the same time, surveys the environments in which they each work. After all, contends Farivar, despite California’s great success in creating the Internet and spawning companies like Apple and Google, in some areas the United States is still years behind other nations.

Skype was invented in Estonia–the same country that developed a digital ID system and e-voting;Iran was the first country in the world to arrest a blogger, in 2003; South Korea is the most wired country on the planet, with faster and less expensive broadband than anywhere in the United States; Senegal may be one of sub-Saharan Africa’s best chances for greater Internet access.

The Internet of Elsewhere brings forth a new complex and modern understanding of how the Internet spreads globally, with both good and bad effects.

Review by Curt Hopkins in ReadWriteWeb

“Instead of focusing on the capital of the Web, Silicon Valley, or even on one of the Silicon Valleys outside of the original, like Bangalore, India, Farivar has taken a look at our wired world through the lenses of South Korea, Senegal, Estonia and Iran.

There is a tendency to think of the Internet as being a priori and sui generis. This is a new world so powerful and so game-changing that it effects history and culture, no matter where one stands. Farivar’s argument, and it is a well-made one, is that like any other element of the human experience, the Internet is effected by history and culture. If we ignore that fact, if we let ourselves believe that the Internet, not history, is more of a determining factor in our future, we are liable to be surprised by it to an excessive degree.

Each of the places he covers are important to our understanding of the Internet because their histories and cultures have influenced how they have embraced it. In a way, the countries he has chosen to profile are reflections of each other, Senegal of South Korea and Estonia of Iran.”

Read review

19 May 2011

Africa is becoming a test lab for mobile phone development

Vodafone in Mumbai
Lessons in innovation that Vodafone learns from its work in sub-Saharan Africa will be applied to its projects around the world.

For Vodafone, sub-Saharan Africa is proving to be the testbed for R&D development that will transition to the rest of the world. Vodafone’s emerging “Africanized” technology is highly advanced, world-class stuff; unlike other existing technologies that have slowly trickled down into African markets.

Read article

11 May 2011

Exploring mobile-only internet use in urban South Africa

Jonathan Donner
Jonathan Donner of Microsoft Research India, together with Shikoh Gitau and Gary Marsden of the University of Cape Town, have published their ethnographic insights in mobile-only internet use in urban South Africa.

“Using an ethnographic action research approach, the study explores the challenges, practices, and emergent framings of mobile-only Internet use in a resource-constrained setting. We trained eight women in a nongovernmental organization’s collective in South Africa, none of whom had used a personal computer, how to access the Internet on mobile handsets they already owned. Six months after training, most continued to use the mobile Internet for a combination of utility, entertainment, and connection, but they had encountered barriers, including affordability and difficulty of use. Participants’ assessments mingled aspirational and actual utility of the channel with and against a background of socioeconomic constraints. Discussion links the digital literacy perspective to the broader theoretical frameworks of domestication, adaptive structuration, and appropriation.”

Read paper

29 April 2011

Mobile trends in Africa: a collaborative outlook towards 2020

Mobile Trends Africa
A few months back Rudy de Waele (m-trends) got in touch with Ken Banks (kiwanja | FrontlineSMS) and Eric Hersman (WhiteAfrican) about helping to curate a collaborative outlook on the mobile industry in Africa, called “Mobile Trends 2020 Africa“.

Their task was to gather the mobile minds from across the continent and the world and ask them to vision out what they saw happening in the mobile space in Africa in the year 2020.

The result was published yesterday.

Watch presentation

6 April 2011

Africa to be first post-PC continent

 
A convergence of historical circumstance and an increase in innovative mobile applications may make Africa the first post-PC continent.

Low investment in wired telecommunication infrastructure has driven increased mobile penetration, creating a user base that supports a rise in mobile innovation and increased interest in content development, according to observers.

Read article

16 November 2010

How data use and data visualisations can improve our lives

Data life
Data use and smart human-centric data visualisations are becoming the “next big thing” in UX design. A number of posts this week delve into the matter:

Data for a better planet
Now that more people have location-aware smartphones and the Web has made data easy to share, personal data is poised to become an important tool to understand how we live, and how we all might live better.

Citytracking presents data on cities for map, visualisations
Citytracking, created by design and technology studio Stamen, presents digital data about cities that journalists and the public can easily grasp and use, and provides a series of tools to map and visualize data that lets people distribute their own conclusions.

Mobile data will be crucial to economies
In a short video interview on IdeasProject, Ushahidi co-founder Erik Hersman says once the data processing capabilities on mobile devices improve that it will be a huge growth area with huge social implications to economies all over the world.

16 November 2010

The newest web users are changing the culture of the internet

Cybercafe in Brazil
The newest billion people to venture online are doing so in developing countries rather than North America or Europe, writes Erik German in Globalpost, and they are changing the culture of the internet itself.

“Researchers say the web as it was originally, if idealistically, conceived — a largely free, monolingual space where a shared digital culture prevailed — may soon be a distant memory. And it’s happening remarkably fast.”

Read article

11 November 2010

How the cell phone is changing the world

Mobile in Tanzania
In a very general overview article published in Newsweek, Ravi Somaiya reports on how the impact of the ubiquitous device extends from politics to business, medicine, and war.

“More than 4 billion of the 6 billion people on earth now have a cell phone, with a quarter of those owners getting one in just the last two years. And many are using them, in a giant global experiment, to change the way life is lived, from Manhattan to Ouagadougou.

The phones now allow Masai tribesmen in Kenya to bank the proceeds from selling cattle; Iranian protesters to organize in secret; North Koreans to communicate with the outside world; Afghan villagers to alert Coalition soldiers to Taliban forces; insurgents to blow up roadside bombs in Iraq; and charities to see, in real time, when HIV drugs run out in the middle of Malawi.”

Read article

15 October 2010

Innovative ways of appropriating mobile telephony in Africa

Mobile Africa report
The French Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) have jointly published the report entitled “Innovative ways of appropriating mobile telephony in Africa“.

The democratization of mobile telephony in Africa, its availability, ease of use and, above all, the extent to which it has been appropriated by the public, have made it a major success story. Very low-income populations are not only actively demanding access to mobile telephone services but also innovating, by creating the functions and applications they can use. Development is thus happening “from the bottom up” and an entire economy, both formal and informal in nature, has come into being to meet people’s needs. Many different actors – private, public, NGOs – are now mobilized.

Operators and manufacturers have successfully changed their economic model and adapted their products and applications to allow access to services at affordable prices. NGOs have in addition created a range of messaging- based services in different sectors. However, the future evolution of mobile telephony is not clear. A range of different approaches will co-exist, from SMS up to full Internet capacity, including experimental initiatives using smart phones and “netbooks”. Falling costs will lead to an increase in the number of phone devices with data receiving capacity. Individuals and companies involved in creating services or applications for development will need to take account of their users’ demographics and incomes, as well as the pricing systems of telecommunication companies in countries where they wish to operate. In this, States and regulating authorities have grasped the crucial role which they must play in promoting an investment-friendly environment with the goal of achieving universal access and stimulating innovation – key factors in achieving a “critical mass” of users.

The advent on the African continent of high-capacity links via submarine cables will change the ground rules and force operators to seek new sources of revenue. The inventiveness that has already been evident in mobile voice telephony will be needed once again if the “mobile divide” (in terms of costs, power supply, and so on) is not to widen.

This report takes stock of developments in this sector, which is crucial to Africa’s economic development, and suggests a number of possible directions it might take.

Download report

(via MobileActive)

15 October 2010

What the developing world can teach us about technology

mobile + africa
“Creativity, Cost-Cutting & Keeping it Simple: what the Developing World can teach us about Technology” is the long title of a short feature story by Anna Leach on Shiny Shiny, a gadget blog, where she reports on a fascinating talk at CityCamp London.

“We’re selling ourselves short if we think the flow of innovation only goes way. There is a lot we can learn back from the developing world about the inventive uses they find for the technology we take for granted.”

Read article

21 August 2010

Innovation in Kenya’s informal economy

Making Do
In Making Do: Innovation in Kenya’s Informal Economy, Steve Daniels of Brown University illuminates the dynamics of Africa’s informal economy to enhance our understanding of emerging systems of innovation.

“Wandering through winding alleys dotted with makeshift worksheds, one can’t help but feel clouded by the clanging of hammers on metal, grinding of bandsaws on wood, and the shouts of workers making sales. But soon it becomes clear that this cacophony is really a symphony of socioeconomic interactions that form what is known as the informal economy. In Kenya, engineers in the informal economy are known as jua kali, Swahili for “hot sun,” because they toil each day under intense heat and with limited resources. But despite these conditions, or in fact because of them, the jua kali continuously demonstrate creativity and resourcefulness in solving problems.

In Making Do: Innovation in Kenya’s Informal Economy, Steve Daniels illuminates the dynamics of the sector to enhance our understanding of African systems of innovation. The result of years of research and months of fieldwork, this study examines how the jua kali design, build, and manage through theoretical discussions, visualizations of data, and stories of successful and struggling entrepreneurs. What can we learn from the creativity and bricolage of these engineers? And how can we as external actors engage with the sector in a way that removes barriers to innovation for the jua kali and leverages their knowledge and networks to improve the lives of those who interact with them?”

Download book

15 June 2010

The innovative use of mobile applications in East Africa

Apps in Africa
The Swedish International Development Corporation Agency (SIDA) has published a report by Johan Hellström (blog) that gives an overview of the current state of mobile phone use and services in East Africa.

The report outlines major trends and main obstacles for increased use as well as key opportunities and potential for scaling-up mobile applications. It draws on secondary data and statistics as well as field work carried out in Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Kenya during 2008 and 2009.

It identifies relevant applications in an East African context for reaching and empowering the poor and contribute to social and economic development. The identified mobile applications range from small pilots to scaled-up initiatives – from simple agricultural, market or health information services to fairly advanced financial and government transaction services.

From the executive summary:

“The ‘killer application’ in East Africa is peer to peer communication, i.e. voice, SMS and beeping. The number of subscribers who use their phones to access internet is however steadily growing, which opens up for a whole range of new applications and possibilities. Many of the existing SMS based applications that could benefit the poor the most are still in their infancy in the region. A few successful cases, namely mobile money transaction systems and various health related solutions are being used at scale, but the fact remains that the number of scaled-up mobile services are still few and/or limited geographically.

So, what hinders the take off of mobile applications for economic and social development in East Africa?

  • First the cost of communication must go down – SMS is very overpriced and so is voice and data traffic.
  • Secondly, many applications and services never reach out to the masses due to poor marketing and the non-existing meta data about the available applications. Subscribers must know what solutions are available, why and how to use them. This will lead to volumes intensive which will eventually lower the price of the particular service. In other words, there is a huge need for marketing (of the product) and education (for the end user) in order to make mobile applications sustainable.
  • Thirdly, many interventions are not designed with scale in mind. Few implementers are familiar with all the costs involved and seen from a technological point of view, the requirements on networks and different requirements on handsets and end-users that mobile applications have must be understood better.

Despite these challenges, we are witnessing a small revolution regarding new applications and services added to the mobile phone.

Some high potential application areas include financial services and various governance related services. After successful implementations of mobile money services in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and most recently in Rwanda, m-banking is set to grow. As it grows, there will be an integration of m-transactions systems into existing applications and services and m-commerce in general will thereby take off rapidly and widespread. Public service delivery can be improved by integrating services with m-transactions and facilitating interaction between the state and its citizens.”

- Download report
- Read article

8 June 2010

Rapid prototyping at UNICEF

UNICEF
On 10-11 May, UNICEF New York organised the Design Days, where they invited designers and engineers who have worked with UNICEF to discuss the organisation, the (rapid prototyping) design process, and recommendations for future design collaborations.

They have now produced a video that is a synopsis of the projects, themes and trouble-shooting expressed at the event.

“We have edited down a conversation between UNICEF sponsored rapid design prototypers to profile what they have created in order to respond to and alleviate actual needs of families and children. This video is intended to help make transparent the iterative process that development must undergo in order to create a new device that can respond to global concerns. Also touched on are ways for the organization to make the process of creating prototypes more streamlined, and to take what is developed and make it open source in order to create a sustainable and beneficial outcome to those that need it.”

Watch video

3 June 2010

Video on how telecommunications are revolutionising east Africa

Tanzania
Filmmaker Declan McCormack looks at how mobile phones and the internet are changing lives in east Africa.

McCormack is a filmmaker who has spent much of the last five years documenting the successes and failures of business-oriented development projects in developing countries. Reports from various parts of the world can be seen on his website Flooded Cellar.

Read article and watch video

22 May 2010

Africa – on the road to technology perdition?

Tech in Africa
Let’s face it, says Bright Simons, Director at IMANI-Ghana and President of the mPedigree Network, Africa is on the downward slope to perdition as far as technology is concerned.

“Many people who are not directly confronted with this reality on the continent are usually lured into a false sense that things are looking up because of the fountain of good news that is the telecom sector.

The truth though is that the seeming proliferation of ICT success stories across the continent masks the real picture, which is one of a splattering of embers in a desolate patch of darkness.”

Read article (alternate link)

16 May 2010

UX reflections in UX Magazine

UX Magazine
UX Magazine keeps to its high standards with these three well written contributions:

Curators of the Real-Time Web: Distilling the chatter to relevant, actionable information
By Jonathan Gosier (Appfrica)

“Information wants to flow and it wants to flow freely and torrentially. Twitter, SMS, email, and RSS offer unprecedented access to information. With all these channels of communication comes a deluge of overwhelming retweets, cross-chatter, spam, and inaccuracies. How do you distinguish signal from noise without getting overwhelmed? Can we somewhat automate the process of filtering content into more manageable portions without sacrificing accuracy and relevance?

These are the exact questions I attempted to answer during the recent earthquakes in Haiti and Chile. As the Director and System Architect of SwiftRiver at Ushahidi, we’re working on an open-source software platform that helps journalists and emergency response organizations sift through real-time information quickly, without sacrificing accuracy. These earthquakes, however unfortunate, offered extreme use-cases for testing ideas internally, as small nonprofits and organizations as large as the U.S. State Department were relying on us for verified information.

The approach SwiftRiver takes is to combine crowdsourced interaction with algorithms that weight, parse, and sort incoming content.”

The FedEx UX Journey, Part 1: The genesis and early progress of FedEx’s UX practice
By Thomas Wicinski and Brice Stokes (Digital Access, Fedex Services) and Mike Downey (UX Magazine)

“Underlying FedEx’s global shipping and logistics business is a complex technological infrastructure with many digital customer touchpoints. FedEx has recognized the need to improve the user experience of its systems, and has taken strong steps toward not only creating a UX practice area, but also toward moving the entire company to pay closer attention to UX in its customer-facing products. This interview is the first in a set of articles we’ll be running over the coming months to examine how FedEx is building its UX competency and practice. They’re still early in what they call the UX “maturity model,” so this interview focuses on the genesis of the effort and some of its early goals and successes.”

How UX can drive sales in mobile apps
By Jeffrey Powers, Vikas Reddy and Jeremy Olson

“This is an interview with Jeff Powers and Vikas Reddy, the founders of Occipital and creators of the popular iPhone app, RedLaser. We became interested in their story when we learned the differentiating factor between a somewhat unsuccessful first version and a wildly popular second version was due to their attention to UX.”

16 May 2010

The trust economy: A world of P2P money-lending

P2P money lending
Wired UK has published a long article on P2P money-lending in its June issue:

The article devotes particular attention to Kiva.org, a San Francisco-based peer-to-peer (P2P) non-profit, which uses the principles of social networking to connect individual or group lenders to entrepreneurs via microfinance institutions (MFIs) around the world, and Zopa.com, a British matchmaker for borrowers and lenders.

“Just as eBay shook offline retail to its foundations, P2P lending models such as Kiva, though still marginal, threaten to disrupt high-street banking. Although the public’s faith in banks has been damaged and credit remains hard to come by, evidence suggests that a new trust-based economy is proving more efficient than traditional lending. [...]

If P2P finance has yet to prove scalable or profitable, it’s also true that, not so long ago, the same was said of other web ventures which went on to change the world.”

Read article

12 May 2010

The future of news

Daedalus
The Spring 2010 issue of Dædalus, the Journal of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, is dedicated to the Future of News.

Front Matter

Introduction
Loren Ghiglione, Professor of Media Ethics at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University

News & the news media in the digital age: implications for democracy
Herbert J. Gans, Professor Emeritus of Sociology at Columbia University

Are there lessons for the future of news from the 2008 presidential campaign?
Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Professor of Communication at the Annenberg School for Communication, & Jeffrey A. Gottfried, senior researcher at the Annenberg Public Policy Center

New economic models for U.S. journalism
Robert H. Giles, Curator of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University

Sustaining quality journalism
Jill Abramson, Managing Editor, The New York Times

The future of investigative journalism
Brant Houston, Chair in Investigative and Enterprise Reporting at the College of Media at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

The future of science news
Donald Kennedy, President Emeritus and Senior Fellow of the Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford University

International reporting in the age of participatory media
Ethan Zuckerman, senior researcher at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University

The case for wisdom journalism – and for journalists surrendering the pursuit of news
Mitchell Stephens, Professor of Journalism in the Carter Institute at New York University

Journalism ethics amid structural change
Jane B. Singer, Associate Professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Iowa

Political observatories, databases & news in the emerging ecology of public information
Michael Schudson, Professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism

What is happening to news?
Jack Fuller, former President of Tribune Publishing Company

The Internet & the future of news
Paul Sagan & Tom Leighton, Fellows of the American Academy

Improving how journalists are educated & how their audiences are informed
Susan King, Vice President for External Relations at Carnegie Corporation of New York

Does science fiction suggest futures for news?
Loren Ghiglione, Professor of Media Ethics at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University

poetry: In a Diner Above the Lamoille River
Greg Delanty, poet

Contributors

12 April 2010

Mobile app developers tackle Africa’s biggest problems

Africa phones
Mobile app developers are sprouting in Africa to help tackle that continent’s problems. Many create applications that can be used with phone text messages. The African technologists say local knowledge is key to their successes. CNN reports:

“While developers in the United States rush to make flashy games for Apple’s latest gizmo, the iPad, these young developers are trying to tackle Africa’s most vexing problems.

Many are doing so with simple text message applications on phones that cost no more than $25.

Text message phone apps now help African people check market prices, transfer money, learn languages and alert authorities to the need for food or other aid in the event of a disaster. And this all comes despite Africa’s reputation as the “least wired” continent in the world.”

Read article