Tag Archives: Mobile Apps

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.

Mobile Information Services for agriculture and rural development: The Esoko Initiative

Wageningen, 2 November 2009. During the CTA ICT Observatory 2009 we interviewed Mike Davies from Esoko, in Ghana. Esoko is a software platform licensed to facilitate the flow of market information between farmers, governments, researchers and other stakeholders involved in agriculture and rural development. It is used to share information on prices, offers, price of fertilizers etc. It is managed by the web, but delivered via mobile phones. Mark underlines the potential positive effects that Market Information Services such as Esoko can bring about, both in agriculture as well as in for other sectors. He then concludes talking about the difficulties he has encountered in this initiative, such as the lack of content available and the lack of right capacities to build and develop such software.

See more at observatory2009.cta.int/

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Nokia announces finalists in 2009 “Calling All Innovators” global developer competition

The news below was announced yesterday by Nokia. The finalists in the mobile apps competition seem to be bringing some interesting mobile solutions to mobile payments, job search problems and location aware services.

Espoo, Finland – Forum Nokia Developer Community (FNDC) today announced the finalists in its 2009 Calling All Innovators contest, a global mobile developer competition designed to generate applications and solutions that enhance the use of Nokia mobile devices in real-world scenarios.
The total cash and prizes for the 2009 Calling All Innovators contest are worth more than $250,000. The top three submissions in each category will receive a cash award, and prizes that include premium placement featuring the winning application in Nokia’s Ovi Store, and the opportunity to demo their winning apps at Nokia World.
Over 1,700 submissions were received from developers in 85 countries signaling a strong answer to Nokia’s challenge to think big and create mobile applications and services that can help build a better mobile user experience. More than 421,000 visits to the contest website from around the world engaged with FNDC, the world’s largest mobile developer community.
“The quantity and quality of the applications we received are astounding,” said Purnima Kochikar, vice president, Forum Nokia Developer Community, Nokia.  “We encourage our developer community to work with us to extend their market reach, taking advantage of our global presence, global distribution through Ovi Store and local market knowledge. Turning the spotlight on our developers in marketing efforts like Calling All Innovators is just one way we can expose the best mobile applications from our developer community to consumers around the world.”
A complete list of Forum Nokia’s Calling All Innovators finalists including video demonstrations of the applications can be found online at http://www.callingallinnovators.com.  Following are the finalists in the 2009 Calling All Innovators global contest:
Internet Innovation – Developers were asked to submit either web applications known as Web Runtime widgets, or websites which are optimized for mobile browsing with Nokia devices.
– Pixelpipe for Share Online – This WRT widget application from San Francisco-based Pixelpipe, enables individuals to create and configure Nokia Share Online to use the Pixelpipe Media Gateway to distribute photos, video, audio and files to more than 90 popular social networking, photo/video, and blog services directly from the built-in phone gallery and camera applications. Developer website: http://pixelpipe.com/
– Dianping – This widget for one of the top websites in mainland China provides information about more than 275,000 restaurants, including descriptions, recommended dishes, address, phone number, price range and more. Individuals can search for restaurants by districts, categories, price range and key words. The application includes access to more than 7.5 million restaurant reviews, and coupons for restaurants, too. Developer website: http://www.dianping.com/citylist
– Tech Buzz Homescreen Widget – The Tech Buzz Widget from UK-based Mippin, is a fast, elegant way to reliably access the latest tech news anywhere on Nokia mobile devices. It regularly downloads tech stories from across the web, displaying the headlines and images in rotation on the Nokia N97 home screen, to give users immediate access. Developer website: http://www.mippin.com/web/index.jsp?p=2
Flash – Developers were asked to submit applications that expand the capabilities of Adobe Flash Lite on Nokia devices.
– FLORIN – Personal Finance Tracker – With the FLORIN flash-based application from UK-based BlueskyNorth, consumers have access to a highly capable, but easy to use personal finance tracker for use on Nokia Series 60 5th Edition devices. Developer website: http://www.blueskynorth.com/index.php
– Reuters Slideshow – The Reuters Slideshow app from UK-based Tui Interactive Media, combines Flash and WRT widget functionality to deliver a constantly updated feed of pictures and news. Coupled with its mini-view for use on S60 5th Edition devices, the application offers an engaging way to catch up on the latest news. Developer website: http://www.tui.co.uk/
– ActiveChinese – This mobile educational application, from the company of the same name, is comprised of 10 flash-animated lessons for English speakers to begin to learn how to speak Chinese. A series of built-in flashcards provides the most useful word and phrases, and includes: the Chinese character, Chinese pronunciation, PinYin, and the English translation. Developer website: http://www.activechinese.com/
Emerging Markets and Mobile Necessities – Developers were asked to submit applications or solutions that are the most innovative application using Nokia platforms, ranging from SMS through Series 40 and S60 device platforms. All applications would be evaluated, including those developed using Java, Python or open source.
– Mobile JobHunt – Inspired by Nokia Life Tools in India, Mobile JobHunt from LEG aims to help people in rural areas in China. JobHunt provides timely and accurate job information from major cities on Series 40 Nokia phones. Other related services include employment news, skills training, employment legal rights, and entertainment. Developer website: http://www.leg3s.com
– Mobile Credit Card Terminal – Mobile Credit Card Terminal from 2C2P in Singapore gives business owners the ability to charge a credit card/debit card, and to manage transactions securely from Nokia S60 devices without additional equipment. Developer website: http://www.2c2p.com/
– Blue Home – Created by Binu Johnson in India, Blue-Home installed on a Nokia S60 mobile device, and hardware in the home that can be purchased for approximately $30, an individual can monitor and operate six home appliances via Bluetooth in the mobile device. Developer website: http://www.bluehome.info/
Apps on Maps – Developers were asked to submit new ideas that harness the power of location-aware services using Ovi Maps on Nokia devices. From all of the ideas submitted, 14 developers were given exclusive access to the Ovi Beta SDK to turn their ideas into a completed application for use on Nokia devices.
– PocketLife – from Wanaka, New Zealand, is an established location-based social network for web and mobile. As a location-based lifestyle app, with Pocket Life for Ovi Maps on your Nokia device, individuals can always be in touch with their closest friends, down to knowing precisely where they are at that given time. Using Pocket Life, individuals can discover new places, share photos, and quickly know their way around like a local. Developer website: http://www.pocketlife.com
– Ground Guidance – How do you navigate when there are no roads? Ground Guidance with Ovi Maps solves this problem. With technology originally built for the U.S. Army, St. Paul, Minnesota-based Primordial uses an innovative, patented technique, combined with a wide range of data sources to create a walk-able route where no road data exists. Pick any two points in the app, and the user will be presented with a walk-able path to take. Developer website: http://www.primordial.com
– Smart Eggs – submitted by Forum Nokia PRO member company, MSCorp based in Coral Springs, Florida, will bring the thrill of discovery and surprise to your explorations when using Ovi Maps. Crack open a Smart Egg to get a multimedia review of the latest movie, or tips about special promotions from nearby shops. Engage in a mobile treasure hunt with your friends, collecting codes inside Premium Smart Eggs. This mobile app for brands, artists, and venues interacts with consumers at the local level, while promoting the use of multiple Nokia services and platforms, including Ovi Maps and more. Developer website: http://www.mscorp.com/
The winners in the Internet Innovation, Flash, and Emerging Markets and Mobile Necessities categories will be announced on September 1, in the evening prior to Nokia World 2009 in Stuttgart, Germany at an awards ceremony being held at the Porsche Museum. The Apps on Maps winners will be announced on September 3, during Nokia World.
In the Flash category, there is an additional prize of $10,000 USD for one application that also received funds from the Open Screen Project Fund (http://openscreen.forum.nokia.com/) this year.
Finally, the top 10 submissions in all three categories will receive the “Judge’s Choice Award”, which provides a one-year membership in Forum Nokia Launchpad (value of 300 euros). All Forum Nokia Launchpad members receive access to exclusive resources and support.