Mimiboard, a virtual noticeboard for Africa
Remember Noticeboards? Outside the library, stuck to the shady tree in the center of town? South Africa-based Umuntu Media, as part of a mission to help communities create and find useful content, decided to bring the news board online.
We first heard of Mimiboard (“my board” in Swahili) after it was the most voted app by participants at the Open Innovation Africa Summit out of more than 10 mobile apps and services that were showcased. Officially launched in mid-2012, the virtual community noticeboard has rapidly gained a strong user base in multiple countries. Millions of users are expected within the next year.
Here’s the lowdown on how the board is allowing African publishers to provide local content while furthering the state of e-commerce and engaging communities using mobile technology:
Community noticeboards have existed for generations. Cumbersome online message boards have been around for decades. Now, Mimiboard is poised to do the same as a “version 3.0 noticeboard”. People may share announcements, news, and advertisements in real-time with other members. Mimiboards advise on goods for sale, lifts offered to other towns, or latest jobs. They carry obituaries, restaurant specials, events or community news. They become the heartbeat of a local area.
Mimiboard marks an evolution of the way local information can be shared. It is simply the digital manifestation of a time-trusted product many Africans can relate to. At the same time, Mimiboard is not just a traditional news portal. It allows for mobile sharing and provides a great user experience – something previous online forums have failed to accomplish. Better yet, Mimiboard is an African innovation.
In order to be successful in the long term, the boards need local support. Anyone can create a Mimiboard with an Internet connection – media owner, blogger, business owner, or community leader. The incentive to produce content comes from the prospect of becoming a valued community resource and the ability to monetize the platform.
Three types of Mimiboard user include:
- Business owners: Can add to their blog, site, or Facebook page to bring the conversation online. Can post ads on boards and earn revenue from the Mimiboard ad network.
- Internet cafes: Can maintain a board. Can print to create a traditional paper.
- Community members: Can read and share local news content. Can pay for featured content. Can add notes via SMS.
Publishers already using the platform include:
- Kanaal 7 (Namibia)
- Radiowave 96.7 (Namibia)
- The Zimbabwean (SA)
- Bok Radio (SA)
- PC Tech (East Africa)
- Ugo (Uganda)
- Capital FM (Kenya)
- LAGbook (Nigeria)
As Johan Nel, founder of Umuntu Media says, “This type of technology we are working to develop is one that we hope will solve African problems while putting Africa on the map for innovative solutions.” To us, this sounds like a formula for success in the African market.
The app currently works on Android, Web, J2ME, SMS, and WAP-enabled devices with Apple and BlackBerry support coming soon.