All posts by mmd4d

Dr Mira Slavova is interested in the use of mobile and electronic information systems within the context of routine productive activities, and particularly in the design of information services contributing to the alleviation of poverty in developing countries. Currently her efforts are focused on the design of mobile markets. Mira holds a PhD in Management Studies from the Judge Business School, University of Cambridge where she worked on Internet auction design and bidding behaviour. She has spent terms as a visiting student and researcher at the universities of Oxford and Stanford, US.

Ericsson Survey: Mobile Use in Ghana, South Africa and Tanzania

Wednesday, 05 September 2012 11:15

by Samuel Nii Narku Dowuona/Adom News

Survey: Only 9% phone users in Ghana use mobile money

A survey carried out by Ericsson on m-commerce (mobile money) use in Ghana and two other African countries indicate even though mobile penetration in Ghana has crossed the 90% mark, only 9% of mobile phone owners use mobile money services in country.

Ericsson’s ConsumerLab Analytical Platform Survey for 2011/2012 sampled a total of 2,048 users and non-users of m-commerce from Ghana, Tanzania and South Africa, out of which 526 were from Ghana, 502 from Tanzania and 1,020 from South Africa.

Those interviewed were between 16 and 60 of age, and they live mostly in Accra, Ghana; Johannesburg, South Africa and Dar Es Saalam, Tanzania.

The survey also borrowed from existing statistical data from the three respective countries, and the report showed that an aggregate of 30 million people from the three countries had neither mobile phones nor bank accounts, but there is a whopping 90 million mobile phone users, out of which 50 million are unbanked and 40 million have bank accounts.

via Survey: Only 9% phone users in Ghana use mobile money.

South Africa: USAASA Telecentre Fail Revealed

By Farzana Rasool, ITWeb IT in Government Editor.

Johannesburg, 31 Aug 2012

Dina Pule, SA Communications Minister

 

The Universal Service and Access Agency of SA (USAASA) aimed to rollout more than 280 telecentres since 2006, but to date only managed to achieve just over half of this, even though millions have been spent.

Responding to a question in the National Assembly earlier this month, communications minister Dina Pule said to date USAASA had 160 centres deployed.

Of the 160 established centres so far, only 96 are operational. This is due to, among other reasons, obsolete equipment, centres burnt down during service delivery protests, vandalism, stolen equipment, disintegrated management structures, failure to pay service providers, part of the buildings being used as taverns and incomplete centres.

via USAASA telecentre fail revealed | ITWeb.

Africa’s first smart-feature phone with 60-day standby time launched

via Africa’s first smart-feature phone with 60-day standby time launched | News | HumanIPO.

The launch of the new smart-feature phone with 60-day standby time is certainly a welcome new development. If anything, it indicates that mobile device manufacturers are taking into account the needs of and the challenges faced by African technology users. I must admit I am somewhat confused by the label “feature-smart”. With the advent of smart phones, feature phones have been on the way out for some time now. I wonder how smart this phone is.

Another remark that comes to mind is that this phone might be trying to be “all things to all people”. Smart-phone use tends to be an urban phenomenon in Africa. It is associated with higher levels of education and literacy. Therefore smart-phone users do not necessarily have electricity supply challenges. So the phone might be a bit too basic for the existing users.

It appears that Mi-Fone sells in countries with fairly advanced telecommunications such as Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ghana, Senegal, South Africa, DRC, and Mauritius. I would interpret the introduction of the new phone as an attempt to facilitate the adoption of advanced services in the rural areas of such countries. Certainly, it is a worthy challenge!

ICTs in Africa: US or China?

The Chinese presence in Africa has received considerable attention recently. The China-Africa Project have been detailing media accounts about China and Africa. In a study cited by the Economist and the Congressional Research Service, NYU’s Wagner Graduate School of Public Service estimated Chinese government aid to African countries in 2007 at $25 billion. A relatively small proportion of Chinese aid can be described as “official government aid”. For the most part, it consists of loans and investments in infrastructure projects, and resource extraction.

The Dilemma at the Heart of America’s Approach to Africa, the Atlantic 15/06/2012

The Chinese presence in Africa, has also given rise of discussions comparing the approach to African development adopted by China to that of the US, and the West more broadly. A recent article in the Atlantic, summarizes the dilemma at the heart of the American approach. With questionable allies in South Sudan, Uganda and Burkina Faso, the role of the US as as an supporter of democratic governance and free institutions is less than obvious. Alternatively, the Chinese have adopted an approach which follows the principle of “doing good, while doing well”. The Chinese discourse is dominated by “win-win” situations and the strong opportunities for economic gains on the African continent. It is largely oblivious of democratic governance and institutional change.

In China, Mobile Trumps PCs In Web Access, Reuters

Within this background, it is informative to situate developments in ICT adoption and use in Africa. Telecoms and IT are sector which can be very closely related to political upheaval and change. US Internet giants such as Twitter, Facebook and Google have been present within the context of the Arab Spring uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Lybia.  USAID, alongside with development agencies such as SIDA and CIDA, is a leading development partner in Africa which supports information technology interventions. Even though they are funded from the West, the success of IT interventions in Africa is largely dependent on cost-efficient solutions, offered in Africa by Chinese suppliers. The market for devices is flooded by Chinese phones, with features and functionalities developed in China which match the developing country context much more closely than products targeted at Western consumers. See box 2.7 for the review “Mobile Phones with Features Attract Rural Users in China and Beyond”.

Recent reports show that mobile has surpassed PC as a channel for access to the Web in China. Mobile phone access to the Internet rose by 22.2% and in rural areas 60% of Internet users were doing so via a mobile device. These trends, alongside with the specific technical advantages of Asian and Western ICT suppliers, and the strong political positions of the leaders on either side – China and the US – raise the question of dominance in the emerging ICT sector in Africa. The answer will unfold at the intersection of the rapidly evolving technology landscape and the much more inert paradigm set in politics and development aid.

A Noble Use for Mobile Phones

with Meika Jensen

As ‘the Internet of things’ becomes more pervasive and as wireless connectivity becomes more widely available, the possibilities for what can be done with is are constantly growing. Someday it may be the case that someone in rural Africa could remotely earn an accredited online masters degree, or could start a Fortune 500 company. For the time being, information technology use in Africa is a little more immediate and pragmatic. Although the industry is still in its nascent stages, we have witnessed more than a few creative technology applications, aimed at ambitious impact goals in terms of African development and welfare.

It is not a surprise to anyone that mobile phones are extremely popular among the fluid and changeable populations of urban and peri-urban Africa. But what about poorer rural communities? As a matter if fact, rural and traditional communities in Africa are strongholds of deep-seated oral cultures which have adopted the use of the mobile phone as much as it has become part of our own Western culture. The value of basic mobile functionalities (voice and SMS) to rural communities has been well documented. Increasingly, the mobile channel is becoming a channel for direct access to the Internet and the information service opportunities it can offer. As mobile network expansion opportunities are coming to their natural limits, intensifying rural-based use of value added services is becoming a priority. Multimedia channels combining mobile functionalities (voice and data) with traditional broadcasting methods (radio, TV) hold considerable promise.

The earthquake in Haiti, the civil unrest in North Africa, the natural disasters and tsunamis that hit the Pacific over the past few years are considered “game changers” in terms of our understanding of mass communication with poorly-resourced and poorly-organized groups of people, reachable exclusively via mobile signal. Not only were cell phones and their use of text messaging essential for coordinating relief efforts and letting victims stay on top of rescue updates, they allowed those with limited access to reach out directly to relief agencies or to get support indirectly, through their social networks, thereby finding hope and organization rather than chaos and tragedy.

mPedigree has put itself on the cutting edge by using cell phone technology and text-back messages based on short codes and SKU #s so Africans can verify weather malaria drugs are legitimate or counterfeit. And before cell phone use became widespread across the African continent, groups like the World Health Organization wouldn’t have been able to organize a mass database of cell phone users and cell phone numbers to organize vaccination stations and reminders, schedule health check-ups, and push reminders to massive numbers of people.

In 2001, a mere 3% of Africans had access to cell phone. By 2004 that number had grown to 7% and represented 50-million cell phone users. Four years later, in 2008, that number ballooned to nearly 350-million and it continues to grow at the quickest rate in the world. And these numbers are just scratching the surface as new cell phone contracts are projecting at 550% growth over the next five years.

The role of mobile phones in daily life ranges from busting counterfeit drug suppliers, getting emergency weather alerts, to breaking local, national, and international news. But experts predict mobile will play a key role in the development of Africa’s rural and isolated communities. Nigel Scott and his colleagues wrote a report in 2004 called “The Impact of Mobile Phones in Africa” and argued that mobile phones are becoming increasingly important to African countries in areas such as infrastructure service, as a household investment that improves the quality of life via social capital and personal finance management, as a source of jobs and reinvestment from mobile operators with a vested interest in improving the quality of life for their customers, and finally as a tool for building a nation. Their research showed how mobile phones could increase the efficiency of news and service delivery to the poor (weather, education trends, market prices, news and health updates). The very definition of “third world” is being redefined as the gap between the haves and have-nots is shrinking.

Unlike almost any time in its history, Africa is becoming connected to itself and to the world at large. As mobile phones and mobile Internet continue to shape rural Africa’s next decade and century, it won’t have to struggle in order to have its voice heard.

Africa’s business technology revolution gathers pace

By Egon Cossou Editor, Africa Business Report, BBC World

Think African economies and you may think commodities, like oil and gas. But it may be time to start thinking tech innovation.Countries around the continent have identified technology as a key weapon in the battle to boost prosperity – and that has sparked a tech revolution.

Sky high ambition

The continent’s biggest economy has sky high ambitions.

South Africa is a serious contender to be home to a massive deep space telescope project called the SKA – or Square Kilometre Array. If the country beats off competition from Australia, its aerospace industry would receive a massive boost.

In fact, science and technology minister Naledi Pandor says the project would be “the largest science-based capital injection” Africa has ever seen.

That could mean more jobs and training in a cutting edge sector.

Young guns

But Africa’s tech revolution could run out of steam unless it produces a new generation of innovators. That is why Kenya is taking steps to develop the talent that could help it get ahead of the game.

It is doing so with projects like m:lab – a consortium of stakeholders, including Nairobi University, which aims to hothouse talented mobile application developers.

Manager John Kieti says he is convinced Kenya is now a major world technology hub.

“[The mobile] is much cheaper to get, plus it can be used outside where there is no infrastructure like power,” he says.

“Essentially, the mobile is going to be huge for us in terms of innovation, much more than the PC was a few years ago.”

But it’s not enough just to come up with good ideas – m:lab encourages innovators to focus on “demand driven” applications so they can be turned into viable businesses.

Pay it forward

Kariuki Gathitu

Kariuki Gathitu is one of the hottest properties in Kenya’s tech sector.

He is a 27 year old software developer who has come up with an application to build on the country’s already sophisticated mobile payments market, called M-Payer.

“It has come into the mobile money scene to solve a huge challenge,” he says. “This challenge is basically the interoperability, aggregation and integration of mobile money.”

It streamlines the whole process from start to finish and so aims to benefit consumer and business operator alike.

Mr Gathitu demonstrates how subscribers can pay bills, receive cash and transfer funds with just a few taps on a mobile, and cash will clear in minutes, not hours or days.

M-Payer claims it can end the ‘cheque in post’ culture that has ruined many small African firms, often operating on tiny margins, with little or no access to bank credit.

Wider markets

But the revolution is not only happening in Kenya.

Right across the continent, developers are coming up with applications designed to reflect local needs. In Ghana, it is now central to the health of both companies and individuals.

ShopAfrica53

The country has no shortage of enterprise, but smaller operators can struggle to gain access to wider markets.

And that access can make the difference between stagnation and prosperity.

One company in Accra is itself making a living by using technology to boost the prospects of other businesses.

ShopAfrica53 is a kind of web-mall – advertising goods and services from a range of small businesses in Ghana.

This means the tiniest and most remote operator now has access to an international market. The website also handles logistics like collection and delivery of goods, and takes payment on behalf of the vendors.

The technology being used by ShopAfrica53 can be a lifeline for small entrepreneurs ranging from tailors to artists.

Fighting the fakes

IT is even being used to protect the health of individuals by tackling the potentially deadly problem of fake medicines. An application called mPedigree allows you to check the authenticity of drugs.

Mobile phone using mPedigree

You simply examine a special verification code on the bottle or packaging and send it, via free text, to a central online registry. An automatic response confirms whether the product is the real deal.

So far, only two of Ghana’s major pharmacies have actually joined the system, but mPedigree says others have expressed interest.

“The drug industry in Ghana is worth about $750m (£465m) a year,” says mPedigree’s Selorm Branttie.

“Assuming about 10% of those are counterfeit drugs, we are talking about $75m a year going into the wrong hands… being invested into the wrong industries.”

So whether it is fighting fake medicines or developing cutting edge telescopes, it’s clear that Africa’s technology is increasingly important in changing the lives of people across the continent.

“We cannot miss this train,” says ShopAfrica53’s chief executive Herman Chinnery-Hesse. “It’s the only way to go.”

via BBC News – Africa’s business technology revolution gathers pace.