Category Archives: news

Mobile in East Africa

An interesting study on mobile applications in East Africa. It looks at whats limiting applications fully taking off, with conclusions aimed at recommendations for donors. Mobile Active notes:

While mobile phones are the main channel for information in East Africa, with mobile penetration covering over 40% of the population, sustainable, scalable mobile services for social and economic development are limited. The report is supported by secondary data, statistics, and field work carried out in Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania, along with numerous interviews, meetings and discussions with key stakeholders in EastAfrica. Major trends in mobile usage, barriers for increased use of m-applications, as well as opportunities for scaling are discussed.

Perhaps one of the most interesting innovations it reveals is how the Kenyan M-PESA money sending service M-PESA is being used to send money (in the form of airtime credit) between Kenya and Uganda. A Kenyan Safaricom sim card automatically roams on the Ugandan UTL network, allowing the transfer of credit between the two. Mr Michael Joseph, the Safaricom Chief Executive Officer, later commented the operation: “M-Pesa does not officially operate there [in Uganda]. We are investigating. It’s quite strange” (Telecom Africa 2009).

What does this mean for future remittance activities? Will expanding roaming agreements mean migrant workers can send home remittances cheaper than Western Union, and more directly than the Hawala network?

They also outline examples of mobiles for governance (without defining what they mean by governance). The report outlines aspirational examples of what mobiles could do to strengthen accountability, transparency (presumably with the aim of increasing more responsive political system). It goes on to give examples of how mobiles have supported service delivery such as water, electricity and basic health services.

For me, good governance is politicians and civil servants responding the needs and demands of their electorate. Driving this has to be the political will amongst both to recognise that their constituents needs come first – and not serving their political masters further up the chain as is so often the case.

The report is available here (pdf).

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Pakistan announces mobile developer contest

The COMSATS Institute of Information Technology has launched a new initiative to support mobile innovation in Pakistan. Called Best Mobile Innovation in Pakistan (BMIP) Contest 2010 is open for any “Made in Pakistan” innovation related to the mobile industry and technologies. The winner will receive $10,000.

Laughing at extremism

A recent report by Demos into violent extremism suggests the most effective way to strip the al-Qaeda brand of its glamour mystique is ‘by emphasising the incompetent and theologically incompatible side of al-Qaeda inspired terrorists – including through the use of satire’.

Its interesting that Four Lions, Chris Morris’ comedy about four violent extremists, came out at the same time.

Another good example is the web-based comedy ‘Living with the Infidels’. In a 2009 Guardian interview its creator Aasaf Ainapore said ‘it is only by ridiculing these extremists that you can hope to persuade young Muslims to turn against radicalism.”

See the first episode below:

Twitter returns to SMS

Twitter aims to become one of the largest volume SMS programmes in the world. As Twitter expanded, the number of SMS became too expensive to continue offering as a free service. It currently processes close to a billion SMS based tweets per month.

But Twitter aims to reach beyond this with the acquisition of cloudhopper that according to Twitter’s blog provides a ‘messaging infrastructure company that enables Twitter to connect directly to mobile carrier networks in countries all over the planet’.

What I find interesting about this is that it suggests that Twitter has plans, and increasingly the capacity to offer its service where smartphone and internet access is limited, relying only on SMS. This massively increases its potential in the developing world.