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African Tech Tidbits: press freedom to branding to entrepreneurship and more

March 4, 2012  »  UncategorizedNo Comment

On our mind this March 4th, 2012 are a range of themes:

  • Kudos to Nigeria for moving along with the draft process for a national ICT policy. Numerous IT and communications policies already exist and in many cases, constructing a comprehensive policy is a matter of integrating these laws and practices. Many nations are not in such a position for rapid ICT policy creation.
  • Certain parts of Alex Muriu’s infographic summarizing the Mobile Web East Africa conference stand out. Especially of interest are the lack of registered domains, the ability for the internet to bring current news to rural areas, the lack of businesses that are online (10%), and the success of the iCow mobile agriculture app. Of course, we’d like to see infographics from every African nation someday.
  • Someone (news outlet or even blogger) in every nation should conduct a monthly customer service review of the respective nation’s telecom operators. (MyBroadband does this in South Africa.)
  • Development or freedom? We often debate this dilemma as we promote the positive side of technology, but Mohamed Keita’s piece on CPJ made us re-think the balance. Examples from Cameroon, Malawi, Uganda, the Gambia, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, South Africa support the author’s view that the suppression of a free press has done nothing to promote development or cure poverty.
  • Every school (at least secondary) in Botswana could have a computer by June. The government hasn’t been as vocal about training teachers who will, in turn, train the students. Over in Zanzibar (Tanzania), the government stresses how learning via ICT relies on the teachers (and provides all primary schools with computers).
  • Kenya’s Konza City, a beacon of progress, is expected to mirror many elements of USA’s Silicon Valley. Kahenya Kamunyu of The Nation aptly worries whether Konza City will lack appeal to young designers.
  • Vodacom operates 3,000 43Mbps enabled sites in South Africa. (5,000 3G in total). Good for general coverage, perhaps, and good for marketing too, but how many towers can actually provide end-user speeds of half of that?
  • It’s great news that Swaziland is focusing on the establishment of a telecoms regulator to boost investor confidence. We fully support regulators, especially if they act independently of the government.
  • African brands like Ubuntu, M-Pesa, and Ushahidi are paramount to securing future African investment. Not only are these products vital to the lives of millions, but the media heavily promotes such successes.
  • Airtel and Google are a powerful team worth watching. The companies recently partnered to launch Google+ and Chat SMS. Airtel is well on the way of building the largest 3G network on the continent. Google has a substantial presence as well, especially considering the growing presence of the Android platform in Africa.
  • An article in the Swazi Observer notes that children often know more about the communication that comes with technology than civic institutions. Conservative societies, beware.
  • The Rwandan government is setting a good example by using the recent undersea cable woes to improve bandwidth routing among operators. Perhaps other nations already have such plans in place, but even then, now is the time to review as similar disruptions are likely in the future.
  • Zambia-based Mobile Transactions just received US $4 million in Series A funding from U.S. investors. Here’s to a cashless Africa!

Finally, Russell Southwood’s prediction that Africa’s ICT entrepreneur scene could be on the verge of a “Summer of Love.” The facts certainly support such optimism.