Tag Archives: africa

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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SMS Newspapers

MobileActive has a good piece on  how the Namibian, an independent newspaper with 27,000 sales a day, launched SMS pages – pages in the newspaper dedicated to printing submitted messages.

MobileActive notes that the SMS program originally started as a way for readers to respond to a small number of articles – the editors placed a mobile phone logo beneath certain stories in the paper and invited readers to text in their responses to it. The program grew so popular that the paper now dedicates two pages of the paper three times a week and a section of their website to publishing SMS responses. The messages cover everything from direct responses to articles to more general quality-of-life comments.

Carmen Honey, sub-editor for the Namibian sums up the goal of the SMS Pages as: “To give as many readers as possible, whoever and wherever they are, a chance to take part in the democratic process by sharing their views at the lowest possible cost.”

As mobile phone penetration expands, traditional media will increasingly find convergence opportunities with new media. Radio stations running call-in programmes, newspapers printing SMS messages. What other examples of convergence will emerge?