“The mobile laboratories will help assist mobile applications entrepreneurs to start and scale their businesses.
Through the laboratories that will be set up, the bank and Nokia will work with existing organizations in host countries.
The laboratories will offer training and testing facilities, identification and piloting of potential applications, incubation of startups, business and financial services and linkages with operators.”
Posts in category 'Africa'
Given how many Africans are seeking out and using mobile phones, and all they can do with them, enthusiasm about communications technology as a force for economic development and broader advances in human well-being is high: the iconic image of the mobile phone user in Africa is the female trader, surrounded by her goods while making calls to potential clients in the capital city. Peruse any article on mobile phones in Africa today and you can’t help but notice the ambitious claims about impact. Mobile phones are a transformative technology that increases GDp and, quite simply, revolutionizes people’s lives. Equally common are the slogans of mobile phone companies promising better days for those who use their products: “Together We Can Do More,” “A Wonderful Life,” “Making Life Better,” and simply “Tudo bom” (“All is good”).
Do these images, slogans, and sentiments truly reflect what mobile phones can do? Can mobile phones transform the lives of the world’s poor?
Read article (pdf)
Web 3.0 promises a world where people and objects are seamlessly connected through an all pervasive network, no longer controlled through devices such as mouse and keyboards but through speech, gestures and even our very thoughts. It is a web that will become truly mobile and global.
But the will this vision work in reality? How will such an all pervasive network, if it does emerge, be made safe and secure against attacks and corruption?
Who will ultimately control the web – big business or the community? And will the developing world finally take centre stage in this new silicon Babylon?
The problem apparently lies in the taxes levied by national governments that can make the cost prohibitive.
[Muhtar] Bakare launched Kachifo [an independent literary publishing house in Lagos, Nigeria] in 2004, after a successful career in banking. The business started out publishing an online magazine, Farafina. In a paper he delivered in 2006 at the biennial conference of the African Studies Association of the UK (ASAUK), Bakare commented on the decision to launch online: “It proved to be a useful strategy… Start-up costs were low and we had an immediate global reach. Which would prove useful later on, in commissioning new articles or titles, and in contracting out editorial work.”
Five years later, Bakare is still a confident believer in the power of the internet to revolutionize the African publishing industry. “The internet is our own Gutenberg moment,” he told the Oslo audience. “The internet is going to democratize knowledge in Africa.”
“[In Kenya] with a mobile phone, one can pay electricity and water bills, pay for goods at the supermarket, buy airline or bus tickets, withdraw money from an ATM, monitor stocks, and even check bank account balances. [...]
While ordinary Kenyans are quite happy about the hassles the service has spared them, such as long lines, local banks are not amused. [...]
Safaricom recently extended M-PESA services to Britain, allowing Kenyans there to send money to relatives back home. Plans are said to be under way to take it to the United States, too.”
Being cool or being good: researching mobile phones in Mozambique
Julie Soleil Archambault
Drawing on my fieldwork experience in Inhambane, southern Mozambique, where I conducted research on mobile phone use amongst youth, my paper tackles issues of acceptance and rejection. As I sought to gain acceptance amongst youth I found myself participating in various controversial and, at times, dangerous activities that made me the victim of intense gossip and outright rejection by some. The fact that I came to the field accompanied by my husband and daughter only made matters worse. In this paper, I present the challenges of “being cool”, while also “being good”, and the repercussions of my research choices on my social standing. I then discuss how, instead of compromising my research, this predicament had a positive outcome by revealing social dynamics that might otherwise have remained hidden, namely the importance of concealment and the ambiguous role mobile phones play in deceit.
What next after the Mobile revolution in Kenya?
by John Karanja
MPESA will be on its own a major driver of the economic expansion of the Kenyan economy and best of all it will take a bottom up approach because it will empower the mama mboga (woman grocer) by allowing her to manage her finances efficiently.
[Now] MPESA needs to move from a payment system to a payment gateway: Safaricom should develop MPESA into a platform where other software developers can build applications on top of the platform an thereby increase utility and reach of this technology.
(Make sure to check the embedded videos)
Nokia Life Tools – a life-changing service?
by James Beechinor-Collins
Recently we saw the release of a bunch of new entry level devices and alongside their launch in Indonesia, was the introduction of Nokia Life Tools for Indonesia. This follows an already successful launch in India and Africa and forms part of a rollout across select Asian and African countries. So does it make a difference? It would seem so, as our selection of videos below suggest. With over 50 per cent of the population in Indonesia reliant on agriculture to make a living, Nokia Life Tools brings a new level of control to them.
(Make sure to check the embedded videos)
Mythes et réalités des usages mobiles dans les pays en développement
[Myths and realities of mobile use in developing countries] – an article series in French
by Hubert Guillaud
Part 1 – Part 2 – Part 3
Bangladeshis rush to learn English by mobile
By Maija Palmer in London and Amy Kazmin in New Delhi for the Financial Times
More than 300,000 people in Bangladesh, one of Asia’s poorest but fastest-growing economies, have rushed to sign up to learn English over their mobile phones, threatening to swamp the service even before its official launch on Friday.
The project, which costs users less than the price of a cup of tea for each three-minute lesson, is being run by the BBC World Service Trust, the international charity arm of the broadcaster. Part of a UK government initiative to help develop English skills in Bangladesh, it marks the first time that mobile phones have been used as an educational tool on this scale.
The December edition will focus on Mobile Money and Payment technologies for Africa.
Download magazine (November 2009)
“Microsoft and many other companies realize that since it is, after all, people who use technology, it’s critical for the company to understand how people adapt to technology,” notes Kentaro Toyama, who leads the Technology for Emerging Markets research group at Microsoft Research India.
That helps explain why, as [Professor Michael] Wesch [, a cultural anthropologist at Kansas State University] notes, digital ethnography is increasingly being integrated into other majors at universities.
“If there’s one thing I’ve noticed over the past 16 years working on-and-off in Africa, it’s this. Africans are not the passive recipients of technology many people seem to think they are.
Indeed, some of the more exciting and innovative mobile services around today have emerged as a result of ingenious indigenous use of the technology.”
Also read Bill Thompson’s commentary on the same topic.
“Grameen Foundation has launched an initiative to determine how best to use mobile phones to increase the quantity and quality of antenatal and neonatal care in rural Ghana. Funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Mobile Technology for Community Health (MoTeCH) initiative is a collaboration with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and the Ghana Health Service. The two and a half year project will develop a suite of services delivered over basic mobile phones that provides relevant health information to pregnant women and encourages them to seek antenatal care from local facilities. After the birth, the system will address common questions about newborn care. Simultaneously, the MoTeCH system will help community health workers to identify women and newborns in their area in need of healthcare services and automate the process of tracking patients who have received care.”
A just published ethnographic research study sought to assess the initial state of information, communication, and mobile phone use for maternal and newborn health both within the health sector and the general population in the Dangme West District in the Greater Accra Region of Ghana. Key study findings illustrate that there is a strong foundation upon which the MoTECH Project can build to advance the use of mobile telephony to target beneficiaries in the general population.
An older study (January 2008) dealt with “Livelihoods and the mobile phone in rural Uganda.”
CGAP, the independent policy and research center dedicated to advancing financial access for the world’s poor, looked at M-PESA merchants in Kenya for clues about the profit drivers for agents .
“We studied 20 agents with 125 locations. We focused on small stores of the kind found in urban slums and rural areas, which make up the vast bulk of M-PESA agents. We spent 3 weeks in the field. What did we find?”
According to Jonathan, the paper focuses specifically on two questions: what happens when the first and only means of accessing the internet is via one’s mobile? What are the implications for M4D and ICTD?
This study reports results of an ethnographic action research study, exploring mobile-centric internet use. Over the course of 13 weeks, eight women, each a member of a livelihoods collective in urban Cape Town, South Africa, received training to make use of the data (internet) features on the phones they already owned. None of the women had previous exposure to PCs or the internet. Activities focused on social networking, entertainment, information search, and, in particular, job searches. Results of the exercise reveal both the promise of, and barriers to, mobile internet use by a potentially large community of first-time, mobile-centric users. Discussion focuses on the importance of self-expression and identity management in the refinement of online and offline presences, and considers these forces relative to issues of gender and socioeconomic status.
“Already people are recording audio, video, and blogging to keep donors abreast of their work in the field. Imagine making appointments for them to check in for realtime conversations to make sure everything is progressing as planned. Your phone would be a video/chatting device that would allow them to even participate in discussions on the ground in real time. In the image below you can see the AR view more clearly. The top left window has the coordinates of where you are along with the history of that location, and when your organization last visited the spot — all data that could be recorded without the field team ever even knowing it. In the top right you also have photo and video that was recorded by your team at that location at some point in the past, along with notes and files uploaded from that spot.”
“Last month, the Rockefeller Foundation announced a $100 million initiative to strengthen health systems in Africa and Asia by building capacity, supporting policy interventions and promoting health IT applications.
As part of its health IT strategy, the foundation intends to leverage mobile phone-based technologies to improve health care access, quality and efficiency.
Karl Brown, Rockefeller’s associate director of applied technology, explained that the foundation sees mobile health technologies “as sort of the front lines of e-health.” He said that although servers, databases and Web sites will be necessary to support the mobile phone applications, health workers can use the devices to extend their reach to regions that lack adequate health care infrastructure.”
“However, the mobile phone revolution continues to leave large parts of the continent behind.
While countries like Kenya, South Africa and much of North Africa are approaching 100% mobile penetration, in Burundi, the Central African Republic, Eritrea, and Rwanda it is less than 30%.
Low incomes, illiteracy and large signal black spots are all obstacles to the sale and use of mobile phones. Taxes, which can be as high as 30% in countries like Tanzania and Uganda, are also a disincentive.
Telecoms experts say that many African markets remain too risky for mobile phone companies, which have targeted more stable and wealthy countries first. “
In which contexts do alternative uses, e.g. savings, become popular and why?
The final report will be presented during autumn 2009 and made available at the project blog. Meanwhile, they sent a dispatch to the CGAP blog:
“While M-PESA in Tanzania has had a hard time competing with its sibling in Kenya in user uptake, there is one way of sending money via the mobile phone that is very popular in the country. That is by using airtime top-up vouchers. The most common way to do this is to buy an airtime voucher, scratch it in order to get the code and then text the code in an SMS to the person you want to send money to. It is then up to the recipient to go out and sell the code to people who want to buy airtime, or resellers and shops that in turn will sell it to people wanting airtime.”
(TED stands for technology, entertainment and design, and it’s an exclusive conference that brings togethers thinkers and doers from around the world. The TEDGlobal edition is directed by Bruno Guissani.)
Here are some selected highlights:
An interaction designer at Nokia, Lima looks at how complex interconnectedness can be understood. He is compelled by the divide between information and knowledge. So he looks at information visualization.
In her talk at TEDGlobal, cognitive neuroscientist Rebecca Saxe presented her breakthrough discovery of a particular section of the brain that becomes active when we contemplate the workings of other minds.
Aza Raskin is the head of user experience for Mozilla Labs (the people who created Firefox), and today he’s giving us a demo of a whole new kind of Internet browser. Instead of asking us to become computer literate, he’s making the browser learn our language.
Technology anthropologist Stefana Broadbent analyzes how we text, IM and talk.
TEDGlobal director Bruno Guissani takes the stage to welcome Jonathan Zittrain who is a lawyer that specializes in technological, and of course, Internet-based law.
Gordon Brown (video)
Speaking to an international conference of technology entrepreneurs, academics and artists at Oxford, Prime Minister Gordon Brown called for the creation of global institutions to deal with the global problems.
>> See also Guardian PDA post
Also check out the Guardian PDA blog post on a new mobile phone search service for Uganda. It talks about the work of Jon Gosier of Appfrica, who has launched a simple project using a corp of mostly volunteers with mobile phones to find out what Ugandans want to know.
“The research for this project began a year and a half ago at the Application Laboratory, AppLab, which was set up in Kampala, Uganda, by the Grameen Foundation. It has done field research, quantitative needs assessments, prototyping, and focus group testing to figure out how to design and structure mobile applications that could deliver the information.
Since most cell phones in Uganda have only voice and SMS capabilities, the technology was built for SMS. A person texts a question to a specific code, which goes to the database built by AppLab, then using Google’s algorithms, keywords are identified and the most suitable answer is sent back to the cell phone. ” [...]
“For the next few months, there is a promotional period and all texts are free, which helps AppLab continue to build its database of queries. When the promotional period ends, MTN and Google have agreed to charge agriculture and health queries at half the cost of a normal SMS message, while all the other services will have the standard rates. Meanwhile, Google will be supporting an on-the-ground assessment to make sure these services are having a beneficial impact for the people of Uganda.”