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Posts in category 'Africa'

2 April 2010

Mobilizing markets

Innovations
The Winter 2009 issue of MIT’s Innovations Journal is focused on “Mobilizing Markets.” All contents are available online.

Prerequisite to Prosperity
Why Africa’s Future Depends on Better Governance
by Mohamed (Mo) Ibrahim

Harnessing the Mobile Revolution
by Thomas Kalil

Phone vs. Laptop: Which Is a More Effective Tool for Development?
by Iqbal Quadir and Nicholas Negroponte

Connecting a Nation
Roshan Brings Communications Services to Afghanistan
by Karim Khoja

From Operations to Applications
Advancing Innovation in Mobile Services (Innovations Case Discussion: Roshan)
by Al Hammond, Loretta Michaels

CellBazaar: A Market in Your Pocket
by Kamal Quadir, Naeem Mohaiemen

Can CellBazaar Survive without an Urban Marketvand Fulfill Its Development Potential?
(Innovations Case Discussion: CellBazaar)
by Kim Wilson

Mobilizing Money through Enabling Regulation
by David Porteous

Blurring Livelihoods and Lives
The Social Uses of Mobile Phones and Socioeconomic Development
by Jonathan Donner

The Case for mHealth in Developing Countries
by Patricia N. Mechael

A Doctor in Your Pocket
Health Hotlines in Developing Countries
by Gautam Ivatury, Jesse Moore, Alison Bloch

Large Companies, ICTs, and Economic Opportunity
by William J. Kramer, Beth Jenkins, Rob Katz

Download the entire journal

2 April 2010

Mobile-based livelihood services in Africa

Mobile-based livelihood services in Africa
“Mobile-based livelihood services in Africa: pilots and early deployments” is a new paper by Jonathan Donner, a researcher in the Technology for Emerging Markets Group at Microsoft Research India,

The paper describes a collection of initiatives delivering support via mobile phones to small enterprises, small farms, and the self-employed. Using a review of 26 examples of such services currently operational in Africa, the analysis identifies five functions of mobile livelihood services: Mediated Agricultural Extension, Market Information, Virtual Marketplaces, Financial Services, and Direct Livelihood Support. It discusses the current reliance of such systems on the SMS channel, and considers their role in supporting vs. transforming existing market structures.

It was published in Communication technologies in Latin America and Africa: A multidisciplinary perspective (pp. 37-58), edited by Mireia Fernández-Ardèvol and Adela Ros.

Download chapter (all other papers are also online)

There is a also a youtube video of Donner’s paper presentation at the original conference in Barceona.

1 April 2010

Jan Chipchase (Nokia) guest blogging for CGAP

Ahmedabad
The title might be a bit cryptic for some readers, but Jan Chipchase is a well-known user researcher/anthropologist at Nokia. He spent a decade exploring the intersection of technology, people and culture for Nokia, and specializes in turning insights into opportunities.

CGAP is an independent policy and research center dedicated to advancing financial access for the world’s poor, housed at the World Bank.

His first post, which obviously deals with the topic of mobile banking in emerging markets, is just an introduction, but we will surely follow his contributions.

26 March 2010

World Bank, Nokia fund mobile app labs in Africa

InfoDev
The World Bank in partnership with mobile handset maker Nokia is set to fund the establishment of mobile applications laboratories in Africa in a move to boost innovation in the field.

“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.”

Read article

25 March 2010

Africa Calling: can mobile phones make a miracle?

Ghana girl calling
Africa Calling: Can Mobile Phones Make a Miracle? is the title of a long article by Jenny C. Aker (Assistant Professor, The Fletcher School) and Isaac M. Mbiti (Assistant Professor, SMU), published in the March/April 2010 edition of the Boston Review.

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)

(via Ken Banks and Fondapol)

11 March 2010

BBC on the future of the internet

Discovery
Twenty years after the emergence of the world wide web, Rory Cellan-Jones of the BBC World Service’s Discovery series looks at the science driving its third decade.

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?

Listen to programme

16 January 2010

Are mobile phones Africa’s silver bullet?

Cape Town phone
Whether it’s checking market prices of crops, transferring money or simply making a call, mobile phones are transforming Africa. But, asks The Guardian, could this new technology end up bypassing the poorest?

The problem apparently lies in the taxes levied by national governments that can make the cost prohibitive.

Read full story

9 January 2010

The Internet is Africa’s “Gutenberg moment”

Muhtar Bakar
Publishing Perspectives reports on a recent panel discussion on the African publishing industry at this year’s African Literature Week (16 – 21 November) in Oslo, Norway.

[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.”

Read full story

(via @jranck)

7 January 2010

Kenya: Taking money out of banks’ hands – with cellphones

mPESA
Since cellphones became widely used in Kenya five years ago, they’ve become the bank card du jour. The Christian Science Monitor reports.

“[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.”

Read full story

13 December 2009

Anthropology Matters

Anthropology Matters
The latest issue of Anthropology Matters contains an interesting article on the use of mobile phones in Africa:

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.

19 November 2009

Various articles on the power of the mobile phone in emerging markets

mPesa transaction
A number of articles illustrate the power of the mobile phone in emerging markets:

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 1Part 2Part 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.

9 November 2009

Banking the unbanked Africans – the mobile initiatives

Banking the unbanked Africans
The November 2009 edition of Mobile Money Africa, “Africa’s leading online resource for mobile financial inclusion”, is entitled “Banking the unbanked Africans” and is entirely available for download.

The December edition will focus on Mobile Money and Payment technologies for Africa.

Download magazine (November 2009)

(via David Tait and Niti Bhan)

22 October 2009

Human behavior: the key to future tech developments

Ka-torchi
As trained observers of how people in a society live, ethnographers can help companies figure out what people need and then work with designers to meet those needs with new (or more often tweaked) products and services. CNN reports.

“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.

Read full story

19 September 2009

Mobiles offer lifelines in Africa

Kiwanja
Ken Banks, creator of FrontlineSMS, wrote a guest piece for BBC News. His main claim: “If you want to see how east Africa may respond to the arrival of high-speed internet links, look no further than the mobile phone market.”

“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.”

Read full story

Also read Bill Thompson’s commentary on the same topic.

16 September 2009

Grameen Foundation: mHealth ethnography report

MoTeCH
One of the projects of AppLab, the application laboratory of the Grameen Foundation, is focused on mobile technology for community health (MoTeCH) in Ghana:

“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.

Download research report

(via Tech4Dev)

An older study (January 2008) dealt with “Livelihoods and the mobile phone in rural Uganda.”

10 September 2009

Understanding what drives profits for agents – M-PESA

Agent
In emerging markets, agents are the customer-facing element for mobile banking providers, “who rely on them to open accounts, do customer care, and (crucially) stock adequate amounts of cash and e-float to enable clients to deposit and withdrawal. Yet, there is no consensus on how to build a viable agent network.”

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?”

Read full story

2 September 2009

Exploring first-time internet use via mobiles in a South African women’s collective

Jonathan Donner
Jonathan Donner, a researcher in the Technology for Emerging Markets Group at Microsoft Research India, has submitted a paper — together with Shikoh Gitau and Gary Marsden — on first-time mobile internet use in South Africa to the upcoming (3rd) conference of the International Development Informatics Association, to be held at Berg-en-Dal in Kruger National Park here in South Africa on 28-30 October 2009.

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?

Abstract

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.

Download paper

24 August 2009

Augmented reality in Africa

The future of giving
Jonathan Gosier, a software developer, writer and social entrepreneur in Kampala, Uganda, shares his ideas on what augmented reality could mean for Africa.

“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.”

Read full story

24 August 2009

Mobile phones drive health IT innovation in developing countries

 
Paula Fortner, iHealthBeat senior staff writer, reports on how innovative mobile technologies are helping to fundamentally transform health care in many developing countries.

“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.”

Read full story

24 August 2009

Africa’s mobile banking revolution

M-Pesa
Millions of Africans are using mobile phones to pay bills, move cash and buy basic everyday items. So why, asks the BBC, has a form of banking that has proved a dead duck in the West been such a hit across the continent?

“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. “

Read full story