Amazing view of FB’s accessibility strategy for users of all types of devices.
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!
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.
I have finally come around to revisiting some of the topics that came up during the days of the CTA ICT Observatory, held in Wageningen, the Neatherlands from 2nd to 4th of Nobember, 2009. One topic in particular that reared its head during the first day, concerned the potential of mid-range mobile phone devices to deliver the benefits associated with mobile services.
The topic came up when all participants were asked by the workshop facilitators Pete Cranston and Christian Kreutz to consider the advantages and disadvantages of different technological channels for access to information. Volunteers were asked to collect views regarding the following channels:
- Indirect access i.e. information access mediated by another human being.
- Direct information sharing i.e. CDs, printouts, file sharing.
- Rural access
- Basic phones: devices with two-tone displays and basic functionality. Almost exclusively the functionality is limited to voice and SMS.
- Mid-range phones i.e. phones with functionality exceeding the basics. These devices have multi-tone display and a data channel (GPRS) with a high level of usability. Features such as extendable keyboards, cameras
- Smart phones i.e. phones complete with an operating system and advanced PC-like functionalities such as email and Internet access.
I collected the views of the participants in the workshop on mid-range phones. And after about half an hour we came up with the poster below.
The pros of mid-range phones include that they allow for the development of more interactive mobile applications and services. The use of phones and services with basic functionality have proven their worth and usefulness, as in the many deployment examples associated with FrontlineSMS. Still, many of the areas where SMS services are used can benefit from more extensive interactions. That’s why we put interactivity as one of the advantages carried by mid-range phones. The implementations I envisage would fall somewhere on the orange fraction of “social mobile’s long tail”, as explained by Ken Banks in a recent post on his blog. Arguably, mid-range phones are currently the devices of choice for end-users in the implementation of mid-complexity systems and customised solutions. Yet again, arguably, they have the potential of being the devices of choice for the implementation of simple, low cost systems in the future.
Another advantage of mid-range phones is that through the data channel they allow information to be exchanged way more cheaply than SMS. Steve Song оf manypossibilities.net has posted much on the lack of fairness in the pricing of mobile communication and recently started the initiative Fair Mobile). Mid-range phones allow a cheaper alternative because in terms of the price of data transfer per character, data services based on GPRS are up to 1000 times cheaper. This argument was put forward as part of the presentation of Stephane Boyera from the W3C at CTA’s ICT Observatory. Moreover, the feasibility of extending the use of devices with mid-range functionality in the provision of mobile services is supported by the increased market availability of such devices at prices near the $50 mark.
In a recent analysis of the potential of hybrid devices, Simon Kearney notes that “while smartphones may dominate the mobile growth story in many developed markets, the picture is very different in the much larger developing and emerging world markets.” In these markets products and services such as Nokia’s Life Tools are, in many ways, exploring leapfrogging possibilities by allowing mobile access to the Internet.
The Nokia Life Tools services, deployed in India and Indonesia are examples of mobile services which can be deployed through mid-range phones. These services are targeted at very low earners in developing countries. They allow users access to weather and agricultural market information. A series of phones designed as end-user devices for Nokia Life Tools, and retailing at prices between 20 and 54 Euros – before taxes and subsidies – are shortly due to begin shipping.
by Saeed Kamali Dehghan
Tuesday 14 July 2009 21.22 BST
The mobile phone company Nokia is being hit by a growing economic boycott in Iran as consumers sympathetic to the post-election protest movement begin targeting a string of companies deemed to be collaborating with the regime.
Wholesale vendors in the capital report that demand for Nokia handsets has fallen by as much as half in the wake of calls to boycott Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN) for selling communications monitoring systems to Iran.
There are signs that the boycott is spreading: consumers are shunning SMS messaging in protest at the perceived complicity with the regime by the state telecoms company, TCI. Iran’s state-run broadcaster has been hit by a collapse in advertising as companies fear being blacklisted in a Facebook petition. There is also anecdotal evidence that people are moving money out of state banks and into private banks.
Nokia is the most prominent western company to suffer from its dealings with the Iranian authorities. Its NSN joint venture with Siemens provided Iran with a monitoring system as it expanded a mobile network last year. NSN says the technology is standard issue to dozens of countries, but protesters believe the company could have provided the network without the monitoring function.
Siemens is also accused of providing Iran with an internet filtering system called Webwasher.
“Iranians’ first choice has been Nokia cellphones for several years, partly because Nokia has installed the facility in the country. But in the past weeks, customers’ priority has changed,” said Reza, a mobile phone seller in Tehran’s Big Bazaar.
“Since the news spread that NSN had sold electronic surveillance systems to the Iranian government, people have decided to buy other company’s products although they know that Nokia cellphones function better with network coverage in Iran.”
Some Tehran shops have removed Nokia phones from their window displays. Hashem, another mobile phone vendor, said: “I don’t like to lose my customers and now people don’t feel happy seeing Nokia’s products. We even had customers who wanted to refund their new Nokia cellphones or change them with just another cellphone from any other companies.
“It’s not just a limited case to my shop – I’m also a wholesaler to small shops in provincial markets, and I can say that there is half the demand for Nokia’s product these days in comparison with just one month ago, and it’s really unprecedented. People feel ashamed of having Nokia cellphones,” he added.
News of the boycott has appeared on the front page of Iranian pro-reform papers such as Etemad-e Melli, owned by the reformist candidate Mehdi Karroubi. Hadi Heidari, a prominent Iranian cartoonist, has published an image of a Nokia phone on a No Entry traffic sign.
A Nokia spokeswoman refused to comment on the company’s sales in Iran.
The Iranian authorities are believed to have used Nokia’s mobile phone monitoring system to target dissidents. Released prisoners have revealed that the authorities were keeping them in custody on the basis of their SMS and phone calls archive, which was at officials’ disposal.
One Iranian journalist who has just been released from detention said: “I always had this impression that monitoring calls is just a rumour for threatening us from continuing our job properly, but the nightmare became real when they had my phone calls – conversations in my case.
“And the most unbelievable thing for me is that Nokia sold this system to our government. It would be a reasonable excuse for Nokia if they had sold the monitoring technology to a democratic country for controlling child abuse or other uses, but selling it to the Iranian government with a very clear background of human rights violence and suppression of dissent, it’s just inexcusable for me. I’d like to tell Nokia that I’m tortured because they had sold this damn technology to our government.”
NSN spokesman Ben Roome said: “As in every other country, telecoms networks in Iran require the capability to lawfully intercept voice calls. In the last two years, the number of mobile subscribers in Iran has grown from 12 million to over 53 million, so to expand the network in the second half of 2008 we were required to provide the facility to intercept voice calls on this network.”
In other sectors, state-run TV has also been targeted by protesters who have listed products advertised on its channels and urged supporters to join a boycott. Companies are running scared, and viewers have noticed the number of commercials plummet.
“We don’t have many choices to show and continue our protests. They don’t let us go out, they have killed many, we are threatened to text people or distribute emails, they have summoned people who shout Allahu Akbar [‘God is great’] on rooftops at nights, so we need to look for new ways,” said Shahla, a 26-year-old Iranian student.
“I can obviously see on the TV that they are facing an [advertising] crisis. This at least shows them how angry people are,” she added.
The SMS boycott, meanwhile, has apparently forced TCI into drastic price hikes. The cost of an SMS has doubled in recent days. Protesters view the move as a victory.
May 18, 2009
Espoo, Finland – Nokia brings the Internet in emerging markets closer to reality with the announcement of three new mobile phones that open the door to information, entertainment, family and friends. The Nokia 2730 classic, Nokia 2720 fold and Nokia 7020 each come Internet-ready, and work with Nokia’s range of emerging market services such as Nokia Life Tools and Ovi Mail, creating solutions that help people get ahead.
“The power of the internet is undeniable,” says Alex Lambeek, Vice President at Nokia. “We’ve seen mobile technologies catalyze the growth of the informal sector across the world, empowering local entrepreneurs and having an immediate and lasting impact on people’s lives. Services like Nokia Life Tools and Ovi Mail, combined with the mobile phones we’re launching today, bring powerful solutions that can be the gateway to knowledge, entertainment and people, without the need for a PC.”
According to extensive Nokia consumer research, nearly half of emerging market customers state that they would rather connect to the Internet over a mobile phone than a PC. As a result, Nokia has developed locally relevant solutions that consist of affordable mobile phones and applications, designed and built from the ground up to meet the specific needs of customers in the developing world. Lambeek continues, “Whilst many people are still primarily using voice and text, the Internet does offer a whole new range of opportunities.”Nokia Life Tools is a service that enables people to make better informed decisions, find timely and relevant information, access learning opportunities and enjoy entertainment regardless of time or place. In a pilot study in India, results showed that the services had high appeal for livelihood and life improvement services. Another service aimed at the developing world is Ovi Mail, which has the potential to be the first digital identity for many people in emerging markets. Unlike most other email services, an Ovi Mail account can be created and used directly on a Nokia device without ever having to use a PC. Since the launch of the beta service in December 2008, around 90 per cent of the accounts have been created on a Nokia phone.Nokia 2730 classic
Competetively priced and equipped at EUR 80, the Nokia 2730 classic is Nokia’s most affordable 3G phone offering faster access to the internet and a richer browsing experience. With the steady spread of 3G data networks across the developing world, the Nokia 2730 classic is ideal for staying connected with friends and family, and sharing one’s life with others. The Nokia 2730 classic is expected to start shipping in the third quarter of 2009.
Nokia 2720 fold
The Nokia 2720 fold is a compact fold phone with an exciting mirror-effect design, which helps people stay organized with easy access to email, calendar, Internet connectivity and file sharing applications. Email can be activated by completing a simple three step set-up process, and in select markets will be offered with Nokia Life Tools. The Nokia 2720 fold is expected to begin shipping in the third quarter of 2009 for an estimated retail price of EUR 55 before subsidies and taxes.Nokia 7020A fashionable fold phone that uses light, color and metal finishes to convey personal style, you will never miss a thing with the stardust effect when you get a call or message, or tap twice to have the cover light up. Connect to social networks, and share pictures taken with the 2 mega pixel camera and shown on the bright display. The Nokia 7020 is expected to beging shipping in the fourth quarter of 2009 for an estimated retail price of EUR 90 before subsidies and taxes.Lambeek concludes, “With our longstanding commitment to emerging markets, a Nokia customer can be confident that any product we offer meets a strict and consistent set of high-quality standards. This is particularly important in markets where technical assistance and repair shops are not easily accessible.”