Essays
on
the
 African
Tech
Scene
–
Volume
1
 On
Innovation

Innovation,
startups,
startup
culture
and
more

Wilfred
Mworia



 Introduction
 Sub‐ Saharan
Africa
is
in
a
state
of
rapid
change
as
far
as
technology
is
concerned.
The
future
 seems
filled
with
possibilities.
The
hope
of
technology
and
the
Internet
creating
a
level
p laying
field
for
the
continent,
at
par
with
the
rest
of
the
world
is
rife.

 From
the
Silicon
Cape
down
south
to
the
Silicon
Shores
of
western
Africa
and
the
Silicon
 Savannah
eastern
countries,
key
hubs
are
emerging;
a
new
generation
of
fearless
innova tors
is
rising.
Empowered
by
the
ubiquity
of
the
Internet,
they
dare
believe
that
this
med ium
can
make
the
difference
for
them;
that
literally,
nothing
is
out
of
the
 reach
of
their
imagination.
And
through
creative
thinking
and
innovation,
they
can
creat e
for
themselves
a
place
to
flourish,
where
the
common
restrictions
of
doing
business
a nd
enterprising
in
Africa
do
not
have
such
a
strong
hold
–
in
their
imagination.
 This
is
a
collection
of
‘essays’
from
a
cross
section
of
blogs
written
by
Africans
either
on
t he
continent
or
in
the
diaspora.
These
Africans
(or
in
some
cases,
non‐ Africans
with
a
passion
for
Africa)
share
their
minds,
hearts
and
passion
for
Africa.
 The
collection
is
classified
into
three
main
themes:
 Volume
1:
On
Innovation
 1. Ethan
Zuckerman
(My
Heart’s
in
Accra):
Innovating
from
Constraint
 2. Dave
Tait
(Design
in
Africa):
Innovation
in
Africa
 3. Ken
Banks
(Kiwanja):
The
‘Emerging
Market’
Handset
Trap
 4. Bill
Zimmerman:
Rural
Internet:
Lessons
from
Radio

 5. Ken
Banks
(Kiwanja):
The
Digital
Divider

 Volume
2:
On
The
State
of
Things
 1. Erik
Hersman
(Whiteafrican):
Hurdles
of
High‐Tech
Entrepreneurs
in
Africa


2. Gbenga
Sesan:
Progress
and
Challenges:
Using
ICTs
in
Nigeria
 3. Matt
Berg
(BuildAfrica):
Africa
Ready
to
Code
 4. Jonathan
Gosier
(Appfrica):
The
Infostate
of
Africa
 5. Matthew
Buckland:
The
Internet
in
South
Africa:
A
Tale
of
Woe
and
Hope
 Volume
3:
On
Funding:
Money
Matters
 1. Erik
Hersman
(Whiteafrican):
There’s
a
Problem
with
Seed
Capital
in
Africa
 2. Justin
Stanford:
Venture
Investing
in
South
Africa
 3. Erik
Hersman
(Whiteafrican):
Finding
and
Funding
African
Innovators
 Volume
4:
The
Future
 1. Juliana
Rotich
(Afromusing):
The
Future
of
Tech
in
Africa
 2. Ethan
Zuckerman
(My
Heart’s
in
Accra):
Calestous
Juma
on
the
Future
of
African
 Communications
 3. Startups
Nigeria:
Can
we
Build
a
Silicon
Valley
in
Nigeria?
 4. Will
Mworia
(Afrinnovator.com):
Stop
Trying
to
be
Silicon
Valley
 
 The
Authors
in
this
Volume
 1. Bill
Zimmerman
http://www.27months.com/

 2. Ethan
Zuckerman
(My
Heart’s
in
Accra)
http://ethanzuckerman.com/blog/

 3. Ken
Banks
http://kiwanja.net

 4. Will
Mworia
http://afrinnovator.com

 5. Dave
Tait
http://designinafrica.wordpress.com/

 


A
quiet
storm
is
brewing
(Barely
there)
 Author:
Will
Mworia
 Blog:
Will
Mworia’s
Blog
 Original
article:
http://wmworia.wordpress.com/2009/10/09/a‐quiet‐storm‐is‐brewing‐ barely‐there/

 
 I
stand
in
the
expansive
plain
 There
it
is,
 The
wisp
of
a
slight
breeze
 Barely
there
 Yet,
yes,
it
is
there
 
 I
listen
 A
soft
sound
in
the
distance,
calling
 Barely
there
 Yet,
yes,
it
is
there
 
 I
look
up
into
the
sky
 Blue,
almost
cloudless,
almost
 Barely
there
 Yet,
yes,
it
is
there
 
 The
sun
burns
relentlessly
 And
the
sweat
beads
fall
freely
on
my
face
 


I
reach
out
 Gather
the
dust
in
my
hands
 Let
it
sift
through
my
fingers
slowly
 It
is
barely
moist
 Barely
there
 Yet,
yes,
it
is
there
 
 A
chill
runs
down
my
spine
 A
simple
smile
forms
 
 I
close
my
eyes
 I
stretch
my
hands
out
 I
feel
it
 I
know
it
 I
believe
it
 The
dark
clouds
gather
 The
thunder
echoes
 The
flashes
of
lightning
streak
out
from
heaven
 Igniting
the
earth
 Bringing
it
to
life
 It
breathes
 It
is
alive
 And
the
life
flows
through
the
ground
 Through
my
feet
 Into
my
body
 Surging


Electrifying
 
 I
open
my
eyes
 The
sun
still
shines
 The
heat
still
burns
 The
earth
still
looks
dry
 
 I
turn
around
and
walk
on
 Smiling
sheepishly
but
knowingly
 
 A
quiet
storm
is
brewing
 


Volume
1:
 On
Innovation…

Innovating
from
Constraint
 Blog:
My
Heart’s
in
Accra
 Author:
Ethan
Zuckerman
 Original
Article:
http://www.ethanzuckerman.com/blog/2008/10/17/innovating‐from‐ constraint/

 
 One
of
the
great
fears
as
a
speakeris
that
you’re
going
to
give
a
talk
too
similar
to
the
 person
you’re
sharing
the
stage
with.
Clay
Shirky
and
I
gave
talks
at
an
event
a
year
or
so
 back,
and
discovered
that
we
were
using
two
of
the
same
stories
in
our
presentations.
 (I,
unfortunately,
found
this
out
by
listening
to
Clay’s
talk
and
frantically
editing
mine
in
 response.)
 That
wasn’t
a
problem
today
at
the
seminar
on
the
Information
Society
in
Barcelona
I’m
 participating
 in.
 I
 had
 the
 good
 fortune
 to
 share
 the
 stage
 with
Carlos
 Domingo,
 who
 runs
the
R&D
unit
for
Spanish
telephone
giant,
Telefonica.
Domingo
is
working
hard
to
 bring
some
of
the
most
successful
tools
and
techniques
of
web
2.0
into
a
large
and
often
 conservative
 telehone
 company.
 He’s
 a
 classic
 early
adopter,
with
a
Nabaztag
and
a
Pleo
in
his
office,
and
a
blog
that
he’s
abandoning
 so
he
can
spend
more
time
Twittering.
 Inside
Telefonica,
Domingo’s
hoping
to
unlock
information
and
increase
communication
 between
 members
 of
 his
 team
 by
 aggresively
 embracing
 social
 media.
 Rather
 than
 trying
 to
 dig
 ideas
 out
 of
 a
 giant
 document
 repository,
 the
 knowledge
 management
 system
that
so
many
large
companies
have
embraced,
he’s
instituted
an
internal
video
 sharing
service.
Researchers
working
on
projects
get
two
minutes
to
explain
their
work
 to
their
colleagues
–
some
break
the
rules
and
run
long,
but
most
as
well‐behaved,
and
 it’s
possible
to
get
the
gist
of
most
projects
with
just
a
few
seconds
of
video,
making
it
 far
 easier
 to
 surf
 through
 than
 a
 huge
 document
 repository.
 (I
 assume
 they’re
 heavily


tagged
 and
 annotated
 to
 make
 them
 highly
 searchable.)
 Using
Yammer,
 350
 members
 of
 his
 team
 share
 ideas
 on
 a
 Twitter‐like
 network
 that’s
 closed
 to
 the
 company,
 and
 encourages
employees
to
share
what
they’re
working
on
and
what
problems
they
could
 use
help
with.
 I’d
 been
 asked
 by
 the
 organizers
 to
 talk
 about
 how
 NGOs
 and
 social
 change
 organizations
 innovate,
 with
 the
 special
 challenge
 that
 I
 wasn’t
 supposed
 to
 celebrate
 innovative
 projects
 so
 much
 as
 I
 was
 to
 talk
 about
 the
 process
 of
 innovation.
 As
 I
 thought
 about
 this,
 I
 realized
 that
 I
 a)
 didn’t
 have
 much
 understanding
 of
 how
 social
 entrepreneurs
 innovate
 and
 b)
 didn’t
 have
 much
 confidence
 that
 social
 entrepreneurs
 generally
 did
 a
 good
 job
 of
 innovating
 with
 social
 media
 tools.
 Generally,
 I
 think
 that
 social
 entrepreneurs
 place
 far
 too
 much
 faith
 in
 social
 media
 tools
 and
 assume
 that
 they’ll
be
more
popular,
useful
and
powerful
than
they
actually
turn
out
to
be.
 So
I
offered
a
talk
about
some
very
different
types
of
innovation
–
African
innovations
 including
the
 zeer
 pot,
William
 Kamkwamba’s
windmill,
biomass
 charcoal,
 and
 endless
 examples
 of
 innovation
 using
 mobile
 phones.
 My
 argument
 was
 that
 innovation
 often
 comes
from
unusual
and
difficult
circumstances
–
constraints
–
and
that
it’s
often
wiser
 to
 look
 for
 innovation
 in
 places
 where
 people
 are
 trying
 to
 solve
 difficult,
 concrete
 problems
rather
than
where
smart
people
are
sketching
ideas
on
blank
canvases.
 I
 offered
 seven
 rules
 that
 appear
 to
 help
 explain
 how
 (some)
 developing
 world
 innovation
proceeds:
 ‐
 Innovation
 (often)
 comes
 from
 constraint
 (If
 you’ve
 got
 very
 few
 resources,
 you’re
 forced
to
be
very
creative
in
using
and
reusing
them.)
 ‐
Do
not
fight
culture
(If
people
cook
by
stirring
their
stews,
they’re
not
going
to
use
a
 solar
oven,
no
matter
what
you
do
to
market
it.
Make
them
a
better
stove
instead.)
 ‐
Embrace
market
mechanisms
(Giving
stuff
away
rarely
works
as
well
as
selling
it.)


‐
 Innovate
 on
 existing
 platforms
 (We’ve
got
 bicycles
and
mobile
phones
 in
Africa,
 plus
 lots
of
metal
to
weld.
Innovate
using
that
stuff,
rather
than
bringing
in
completely
new
 tech.)
 ‐
 Problems
 are
 not
 always
 obvious
 from
 afar
 (You
 really
 have
 to
 live
 for
 a
 while
 in
 a
 society
where
no
one
has
currency
larger
than
a
$1
bill
to
understand
the
importance
of
 money
via
mobile
phones.)
 ‐
What
you
have
matters
more
than
what
you
lack
(If
you’ve
got
a
bicycle,
consider
what
 you
 can
 build
 based
 on
 that,
 rather
 than
 worrying
 about
 not
 having
 a
 car,
 a
 truck,
 a
 metal
shop.)
 ‐
 Infrastructure
 can
 beget
 infrastructure
 (By
 building
 mobile
 phone
 infrastructure,
 we
 may
 be
 building
 power
 infrastructure
 for
 Africa
 –
 see
 my
 writings
 on
incremental
 infrastructure.)
 The
 most
 experimental
 part
 of
 a
 very
 experimental
 talk
 was
 applying
 these
 seven
 principles
 to
 three
 ICT4D
 experiments
 –
 One
 Laptop
 Per
 Child,
 Kiva
 and
 Global
 Voices.
Ismael
 has
 a
 review
 of
 my
 talk
including
 the
 scores
 I
 offer
 for
 each
 of
 the
 projects
on
these
criteria.
 The
talk
was
pretty
well
received,
and
it’s
great,
great
fun
to
try
out
new
ideas
on
stage.
 I’m
looking
forward
to
thinking
through
whether
these
seven
rules
are
the
best
way
to
 characterise
the
lessons
of
the
sorts
of
innovations
I
watch
on
sites
like
Afrigadget,
and
 just
what
these
rules
mean
for
those
of
us
trying
to
use
internet
tools
for
social
change
–
 thanks
to
my
friends
in
Barcelona
for
a
chance
to
start
playing
with
these
ideas,
live
on
 stage.


Innovation
in
Africa
Tips
 Blog:
Design
in
Africa
 Author:
Dave
Tait
 Original
Article:
http://designinafrica.wordpress.com/2008/10/23/innovation‐in‐africa‐ tips/

 



 From
Ethan
Zuckerman’s
post
‘Innovating
from
constraint‘:
 1. Innovation
 (often)
 comes
 from
 constraint
 (If
 you’ve
 got
 very
 few
 resources,
 you’re
forced
to
be
very
creative
in
using
and
reusing
them.)
 2. Don’t
fight
culture
(If
people
cook
by
stirring
their
stews,
they’re
not
going
to
use
 a
 solar
 oven,
 no
 matter
 what
 you
 do
 to
 market
 it.
 Make
 them
 a
 better
 stove
 instead.)
 3. Embrace
market
mechanisms
(Giving
stuff
away
rarely
works
as
well
as
selling
it.)
 4. Innovate
on
existing
platforms
(We’ve
got
bicycles
and
mobile
phones
in
Africa,
 plus
 lots
 of
 metal
 to
 weld.
 Innovate
 using
 that
 stuff,
 rather
 than
 bringing
 in
 completely
new
tech.)


5. Problems
are
not
always
obvious
from
afar
(You
really
have
to
live
for
a
while
in
 a
 society
 where
 no
 one
 has
 currency
 larger
 than
 a
 $1
 bill
 to
 understand
 the
 importance
of
money
via
mobile
phones.)
 6. What
 you
 have
 matters
 more
 than
 what
 you
 lack
 (If
 you’ve
 got
 a
 bicycle,
 consider
 what
 you
 can
 build
 based
 on
 that,
 rather
 than
 worrying
 about
 not
 having
a
car,
a
truck,
a
metal
shop.)
 7. Infrastructure
can
beget
infrastructure
(By
building
mobile
phone
infrastructure,
 we
may
be
building
power
infrastructure
for
Africa.)
 And
Amy
Smith
on
rules
for
design
in
the
developing
world:
 1. Try
 living
 for
 a
 week
 on
 $2
 a
 day.


That’s
 what
 my
 students
 and
 I
 do
 when
 I
 teach
 my
 class
 about
 international
 development.
 It
 helps
 them
 begin
 to
 understand
 the
 trade‐offs
 that
 must
 be
 made
 when
 you
 have
 only
 very
 limited
 resources.
 More
 broadly,
 it
 was
 in
 the
 Peace
Corps
in
Botswana
that
I
learned
to
carry
water
on
my
head,
and
noticed
 how
heavy
the
bucket
was;
and
I
learned
to
pound
sorghum
in
to
flour
and
felt
 the
 ache
 in
 my
 back.
 As
 a
 designer,
 I
 came
 to
 understand
 the
 importance
 of
 technologies
that
can
transport
water
or
grind
grain.

 2. Listen
 to
 the
 right
 people.
 Okay,
 so
 you
 probably
 don’t
 know
 what
 it’s
 like
 to
 carry
 fifty
 pounds
 of
 firewood
 on
 your
 head.
 Well,
 don’t
 pretend
 that
 you
 do.
 Talk
 to
 someone
 who
 has
 done
 it.
 I
 believe
 that
 the
 key
 to
 innovation
 in
 international
 development
 is
 truly
 understanding
 the
 problem,
 and
 using
 your
 imagination
is
not
good
enough.
 3. Do
the
hard
work
needed
to
find
a
simple
solution.
As
Leonardo
da
Vinci
said,
 “Simplicity
is
the
ultimate
sophistication”—and
it
is
the
key
to
this
type
of
design
 work.


4. Create
“transparent”
technologies,
ones
that
are
easily
understood
by
the
users,
 and
promote
local
innovation.
 5. Make
 it
 inexpensive.
 My
 friend
 Paul
 Polak
 has
 adapted
 a
 famous
 quote
 to
 the
 following:
“Affordability
isn’t
everything,
it’s
the
only
thing”
and
there’s
a
lot
of
 truth
in
that.
When
you
are
designing
for
people
who
are
earning
just
one
or
two
 dollars
a
day,
you
need
to
keep
things
as
cheap
as
you
can
and
then
make
it
even
 cheaper!

 6. If
 you
 want
 to
 make
 something
 10
 times
 cheaper,
 remove
 90
 percent
 of
 the
 material.
 7. Provide
 skills,
 not
 just
 finished
 technologies.
 The
 current
 revolution
 in
 design
 for
 developing
 countries
 is
 the
 notion
 of
 co‐creation,
 of
 teaching
 the
 skills
 necessary
 to
 create
 the
 solution,
 rather
 than
 simply
 providing
 the
 solution.
 By
 involving
 the
 community
 throughout
 the
 design
 process,
 you
 can
 help
 equip
 people
 to
 innovate
 and
 contribute
to
the
evolution
of
the
product.
Furthermore,
they
acquire
the
skills
 needed
 to
 create
 solutions
 to
 a
 much
 wider
 variety
 of
 problems.
 They
 are
 empowered.
 And
Paul
Polak
via
Nextbillion;
 1. Go
to
where
the
action
is
 2. Talk
to
the
people
who
have
the
problem
–
and
LISTEN
to
what
they
have
to
say
 3. Learn
everything
there
is
to
know
about
the
specific
context
 4. Think
and
act
big
–
don’t
do
anything
that
can’t
reach
a
million
people
 5. Think
like
a
child
–
children
have
no
limit
to
their
thinking
 6. See
and
do
the
obvious


7. If
somebody
already
invented
it,
you
don’t
have
to
 8. Design
to
critical
price
targets
 9. Design
for
measurable
improvement
in
the
lives
of
more
than
a
million
people
 10. Work
to
practical,
three‐year
plans
 11. Keep
learning
from
your
customers
 12. Stay
 positive
 –
 don’t
 be
 distracted
 by
 what
 other
 people
 think
 (if
 there
 were
a
need
for
it,
the
market
would
have
already
created
it)
 So
here
are
my
7
hints/tips/rules:
 1. Understand
 by
 observing
 the
 environment,
 infrastructure,
 culture
 and
 lives
 of
 people
by
being
there.
 2. Think
 creatively:
 start
 big,
 use
 constraints
 as
 a
 filter
 and
 find
 the
 simplest
 solutions.
 3. Increase
user
acceptance;
build
on
existing
platforms,
lower
costs
and
beware
of
 radically
different
ways
of
doing
things.
 4. Deliver
 value;
 what
 are
 the
 benefits
 for
 people
 using
 the
 end
 product,
 does
 it
 improve
a
persons
life?
 5. Economic
sustainability;
provide
financial
motivation
for
continued
growth
over
 time.
Empower
people
by
improving
their
economic
or
social
status.
 6. Share
knowledge
and
skills
to
continue
the
innovative
process
both
to
and
from
 people
and
communities.
 7. Peripheral
vision;
keep
a
look
out
for
other
challenges
or
new
solutions
all
the
 time.
 


T
he
‘Emerging
Market’
Handset
Trap
 Blog:
Kiwanja
 Author:
Ken
Banks
 Original
Article:
http://www.kiwanja.net/blog/2010/02/the‐emerging‐market‐handset‐ trap/

 
 Today
at
Mobile
World
Congress,
Vodafone
announced
“the
world’s
cheapest
phone”.
At
 $15
it
certainly
scores
low
on
the
price
tag
–
which
is
good
–
but
it
also
scores
low
on
 functionality
–
not
so
good.
Not
only
is
this
a
problem
for
any
end
user
who
might
need
 (or
want)
to
use
it
for
things
beyond
voice
calling
and
SMS,
but
it’s
also
perpetuating
a
 long‐standing
problem
in
the
social
mobile
world
dating
back
over
five
years.
 
 With
 the
 ICT4D
 community
 putting
 an
 increasing
 focus
 on
 “smarter
 phones”
 –
 ones
 which
 feature
 downloadable
 applications
 and
 allow
 for
 cloud‐based
 solutions,
 for
 example
 –
 where
 do
 phones
 like
 today’s
 Vodafone
 150
 fit
 in?
 Aimed
 specifically
 at
 emerging
markets,
these
are
the
kinds
of
phones
Vodafone
are
hoping
will
end
up
in
the
 hands
of
the
very
patients
or
farmers
the
ICT4D
world
is
itself
working
hard
to
reach.
 
 Low‐cost
 phones
 have
 certainly
 achieved
 one
 thing
 –
 low
 cost
 –
 and
 in
 price
 terms
 they’ve
 done
 exactly
 what
 they
 said
 on
 the
 tin.
 Over
 the
 past
 five
 years
 or
 so,
 prices
 have
 indeed
 steadily
 dropped,
 as
 we
 can
 see
 if
 we
 pick
 an
 early
 “emerging
 market
 handset”
winner
from
2005
(the
Motorola
C113),
a
ZTE
phone
widely
available
in
East
 Africa
in
2008,
and
today’s
Vodafone
150.



 The
prices
may
have
changed,
but
functionality
has
largely
stagnated.
You
couldn’t
 browse
the
web
on
the
Motorola
in
2005,
nor
the
ZTE
in
2008,
and
today
you’d
have
the
 same
problem
on
the
Vodafone
150.
You
can’t
download
applications
onto
any
of
them,
 either.
They
all
have
monochrome
screens
and
look
pretty‐much‐the‐same
despite
 having
a
five
year
gap
between
them.
Very
little
has
changed
other
than
price,
it
would
 seem.
Voice
and
SMS
remain
king
at
the
bottom
of
the
pyramid,
or
so
it
would
seem.
 
 The
real
trick
is
to
reduce
the
price
of
these
phones
whilst
at
the
same
time
increasing
 (or
at
very
least
maintaining)
functionality,
a
combination
which
no
manufacturer
has
 yet
managed
to
crack.
Nokia’s
announcementlast
week
of
their
cheapest
3G‐enabled
 phone
for
the
Indian
market
shows
prices
are
shifting
downward
for
data
enabled
 phones,
but
at
$90
it’s
still
some
way
off
what
most
would
consider
affordable
for
the
 remaining
1.5
billion
people
in
the
world
without
a
phone.



 From
today’s
announcement,
a
sub‐$40
smart
phone
–
which
really
would
change
the
 game
–
looks
to
be
as
far
off
as
ever.
 


Rural
Internet:
Lessons
from
Radio
and
FidoNet
 Blog:
27
Months
 Author:
Bill
Zimmerman
 Original
Article:
http://www.27months.com/2009/02/rural‐internet‐access‐ lessons‐from‐radio‐fidonet/

 
 I’ve
been
mulling
over
this
topic
in
my
head
 for
quite
awhile.
Yesterday,
Dibussi
provided
 the
 inspiration
 I
 needed
 when
 he
tweeted
a
 story
 about
the
 impact
 a
 community
 radio
 station
has
 had
 on
 a
 remote
 village
 in
 Cameroon’s
 North
 West
 province.
 London‐ based
 social
 enterprise
RadioActive
worked
 with
 the
 local
 council
 to
 build
 the
 radio
 station,
Donga
 Mantung
 Community
 Radio
 105.0
FM,
which
reaches
more
than
600,000
listeners.
“For
as
little
as
a
£1,000,
you
can
 set
up
a
station
that
reaches
people
up
to
25
miles
away
in
every
direction,”
says
Max
 Graef,
 RadioActive’s
 founder.
 “In
 places
 where
 there
 are
 no
 roads,
 no
 electricity,
 no
 phones
and
low
literacy
rates,
radio
is
the
cheapest
and
easiest
way
to
reach
people.”
 Community
 radio
 is
 an
 enormously
 powerful
 ICT4D
 tool
 for
 the
 developing
 world.
 The
BBC
World
Service
Trust
has
worked
with
NGOs
on
a
range
of
these
projects,
from
 emergency
 response
 following
 disasters
 such
 as
 Cyclone
 Nargis
 in
 Burma
 last
 year,
 to
 post‐conflict
 zones
 like
 Sierra
 Leone,
 promoting
 government
 transparency
 in
 Nigeria,
 training
 reporters,
 and
 improving
 women’s
 rights
 in
 Afghanistan.
 It’s
 often
 a
 two‐way
 exchange—engaged
 listeners
 call
 in
 with
 news
 and
 opinions
 and
 some
 host
 their
 own
 programs.


Staying
connected
to
the
outside
world
 One
of
the
best
case
studies
of
a
community
radio
project
enhanced
with
Internet
was
 recently
revisited
by
Matt
Berg
(born
in
Cameroon,
incidentally),
who
helped
build
Radio
 Beeray
with
Geekcorps
Mali.
He
describes
how
their
project
leveraged
Internet
with
 radio
with
a
weekly
connection
to
the
outside
world.
Using
a
Desert
PC
coupled
with
an
 R‐BGAN
Satellite
Modem,
the
station
was
able
to
periodically
connect
to
the
Internet
to
 collect
local
and
regional
news
of
interest
to
their
audience.
Says
Matt,
“Using
a
lot
of
 clever
engineering,
we
were
able
to
limit
the
radio’s
bandwidth
consumption
to
about
 200K/day
or
$6
(1MB)
a
week,
which
the
Radio
Director
was
able
to
use
to
connect
his
 community
to
the
outside
world—certainly
a
lot
of
‘bang
for
the
byte’.”
 This
 “bang
 for
 the
 byte”
 is
 the
 key
 to
 sustainability,
 and
 one
 of
 the
 principal
 reasons
 satellite‐based
 connections
 fall
 short
 for
 rural
 connectivity
 projects.
 VSAT
 stations
 can
 be
potentially
transformative
in
bridging
the
digital
divide.
There
was
a
recent
inspiring
 account
 of
bringing
 Internet
 to
 a
 remote
 Kenyan
 village,
 but
 this
 was
 an
 experiment
 backed
by
Google,
who
covered
the
equipment
costs
and
monthly
subscription
fees.
 The
costs
of
a
dish
and
related
hardware
(minus
the
solar
equipment
used
in
the
Google
 experiment)
 can
 be
 upwards
 of
 $10,000
 with
 monthly
 fees
 starting
 at
 $700
 for
 a
 128
 kbps
 connection.
 Google
 itself
 is
 uncertain
 whether
 VSAT
 stations
 can
 pay
 for
 themselves
in
rural
areas,
given
these
prohibitive
costs.
Communities
may
surely
benefit
 from
the
connection,
but
at
these
rates
affordability
is
out
of
the
question.
 Surely
mobile
is
the
future,
but
until
cheap
iPhone
knockoffs
and
WiFi
penetration
arrive
 in
 remote
 villages,
 something
 is
 needed
 to
 fill
 the
 gap.
 One
 promising
 cost‐effective
 alternative
for
rural
areas
involves
asynchronous
Internet
access.
 Good
dog,
Fido
 I’m
probably
exposing
my
age
here,
but
back
in
the
day
before
Internet
there
 was
FidoNet.
For
die‐hard
BBS
users
in
the
1980’s
like
yours
truly,
FidoNet
did
 something
extraordinary;
it
enabled
the
exchange
of
emails
&
attachments
between
 bulletin
boards.
This
was
achieved
by
using
a
point‐to‐point,
store‐and‐forward
WAN


that
used
dial‐up
modems
and
plain
old
telephone
(POT)
lines.
Later
on,
FidoNet
was
 connected
to
the
Internet,
typically
with
the
UUCP
protocol.
Interestingly,
FidoNet
and
 UUCP
became
popular
for
bridging
the
digital
divide
that
once
existed
in
remote
parts
of
 the
United
States
and
Europe.



 FidoNet
 solved
 the
 “last
 mile”
 problem
 of
 Internet
 access
 for
 BBS
 users
 in
 rural
 communities.
Today,
this
store‐and‐forward
concept
has
been
modernized
and
adapted
 for
 the
 developing
 world.
 The
 pioneer
 in
 this
 space
 is
United
 Villages,
 who
 has
 commercialized
 their
 “drive‐by
 WiFi”
 service.
 The
 service
 uses
 what
 they
 term
cached
 WiFi
intelligence,
which
relies
on
couriers
who
act
as
digital
postmen
by
carrying
queued
 data
 (emails,
 web
 searches,
 downloads,
 etc.)
 between
 rural
 telecenters
 and
 access
 points.
 Motorbikes
 equipped
 with
 a
 mobile
 storage
 device
 serve
 as
 a
 mechanical
 backhaul
alternative
to
miles
of
cables
or
a
costly
VSAT
connection.
It’s
an
elegant
and
 cost‐effective
solution.
 Not
online,
but
still
connected
 Asynchronous
Internet
may
not
be
instantaneous,
but
it’s
capable
of
moving
gigabytes
 of
 data
 to
 rural
 communities
 at
 a
 fraction
 of
 the
 cost
 of
 an
 always‐on
 connection.
 What’s
most
interesting,
in
my
view,
is
how
communities
have
responded
to
the
service.


Katherine
Nightingale
reported
on
an
innovative
use
of
United
Villages’
service
in
rural
 India.



 Rather
than
use
the
service
for
sending
emails
and
surfing
the
web,
villagers
“prefer
to
 email
their
questions
to
someone
who
will
do
the
surfing
for
them
and
return
the
 answers
in
a
pdf
(portable
document
format)
file.”
This
is
not
unlike
how
Question
Box
is
 used,
which
also
had
its
origins
in
India.
 Implications
for
Village
Diary
 As
we
prepare
for
our
work
in
the
community
with
Village
Diary,
I
anticipate
that
we’ll
 leverage
a
combination
of
asynchronous
Internet,
SMS,
community
radio
and
citizen
 journalism
to
help
bring
stories
from
the
village
to
a
global
audience.
Our
primary
focus
 remains
on
empowering
women
by
recording
cases
of
abuse
and
providing
access
to
 social,
legal
and
health
services.
At
the
same
time,
we
hope
to
help
provide
a
window
 into
cultures,
communities
and
individual
stories
from
the
village
that
might
otherwise
 go
unnoticed.


We’re
actively
looking
for
partners,
so
if
you
or
your
organization
is
interested
feel
free
 to
drop
us
a
note.
You
can
also
grab
a
button
for
your
blog
or
website.
 In
the
meantime,
comments
are
welcome.


The
Digital
Divider
 Blog:
Kiwanja
 Author:
Ken
Banks
 Original
Article:
http://www.kiwanja.net/blog/2007/09/the‐digital‐divider/

 
 People
 tend
 to
 get
 pretty
 excited
 around
 mobile
 technology.
 In
 developing
 countries
 most
 of
 this
 excitement
 has
 centred
 around
 their
 proliferation
 into
 poorer
 rural,
 communication‐starved
areas,
and
their
new‐found
potential
in
helping
close
the
digital
 divide.
Handset
giants
such
as
Nokiaand
Motorola
believe
that
mobile
devices
will
“close
 the
 digital
 divide
 in
 a
 way
 the
 PC
 never
 could”,
 industry
 bodies
 such
 as
 the
GSM
 Associationrun
 their
 own
 “Bridging
 the
 Digital
 Divide”
 initiative,
 and
 international
 development
agencies
such
as
USAID
pump
hundreds
of
millions
dollars
into
economic,
 health
and
educational
initiatives
based
around
mobiles
and
mobile
technology.
 But
 what
 do
 we
really
mean
 when
 we
 talk
 about
 the
 mobile
helping
close
the
digital
divide?
Clearly,
mobiles
 are
 a
 relatively
 cheap
 device
 –
 when
 compared
 to
 personal
 or
 laptop
 computers,
 anyway.
 They
 are
 small
 and
 portable,
 have
 good
 battery
 life,
 provide
 instant
 voice
 communications,
 have
 SMS
 functionality
 and
 they
 have
 thepotential
to
 provide
 access
to
the
internet.
 Even
 the
 poorest
 members
 of
 society
 find
 ways
 to
 own
 one.
 But
 Houston,
 we
 have
 a
 problem.
 I’ve
 been
 lucky
 over
 the
 past
 few
 years
 to
 have
 spoken
 at
 numerous
 conferences,
 workshops
 and
 companies
 about
 the
 uses
 of
 mobile
 technology
 in
 international
 conservation
 and
 development,
 and
 it’s
 something
 I
 truly
 enjoy
 doing.
 However,
 I’ve
 slowly
noticed
a
knowledge
gap,
or
should
we
say
an
awareness
gap.
In
the
West,
when


we
talk
of
mobiles
helping
close
the
digital
divide,
many
people
make
a
hugeassumption
 about
the
technologies
available
to
users
in
developing
countries.
We
look
at
the
mobile
 through
rose‐tinted
glasses,
from
the
top
of
our
ivory
towers,
through
a
Western
prism.
 Call
it
what
you
like.
Think
about
it.
Most
of
us
have
fancy
phones
and
are
gifted
with
 pretty
good
network
coverage
to
drive
them.
Not
only
can
we
make
calls,
we
can
take
 good
quality
photos,
we
can
make
and
edit
little
movies
and
upload
them
to
the
web,
 we
 can
 surf
 the
 web,
 we
 can
 play
 neat
 games,
 and
 we
 can
 download
 neat
 bits
 of
 software.
Our
overall
experience
is
generally
a
pleasant
one.
Why
else
would
we
want
a
 phone?
So,
with
mobiles
able
to
do
all
of
this,
their
potential
in
developing
countries
is
 clear,
right?
Well,
maybe…
 Let’s
start
by
looking
at
the
worlds
best
selling
phone
–
the
Nokia
 1100
(pictured).
 Anyone
 who’s
 spent
 any
 time
 in
 a
 developing
 country
 recently
 would
 not
 have
 failed
 to
 notice
 the
 number
 of
 these
around.
The
reason?
They’re
Nokia
(and
people
just
seem
 to
loveNokia),
 they’re
 sturdy,
 have
 good
 battery
 life,
 the
 user
 interface
is
easy
and
they’re
cheap
(selling
for
around
$40
new
in
 Uganda,
for
example).
They
do
everything
the
user
wants
–
they
 can
 make
 and
 receive
 calls,
 they
 can
 send
 and
 receive
 SMS
 and
 the
built‐in
alarm
is
very
popular
(only
last
month
in
Kampala
my
 taxi
 driver
 was
 telling
 me
 with
 great
 excitement
 how
 his
 alarm
 still
sounds,
even
when
his
phone
is
switched
off).
These
are
the
 kinds
of
phones
in
the
hands
of
many
people
in
the
very
rural
areas
where
we
see
the
 mobile
as
the
tool
to
help
close
the
digital
divide.
 The
problem
here
is
that
the
Nokia
1100
–
as
with
many
of
the
low‐end
handsets
found
 in
 the
 markets
 and
 shops
 in
 developing
 countries
 –
 has
 no
 browser
 of
 any
 kind,
 and
 doesn’t
support
GPRS
(or
any
other
form
of
data
transmission).
Accessing
the
internet?
 Dream
on.
But
this
is
not
the
only
problem.
Network
coverage
in
many
rural
areas
lacks
 data
support
even
if
the
phones
did
have
it,
although
this
is
admittedly
changing.
There


are
also
issues
of
language
and
content,
but
more
importantly
cost.
Someone
with
little
 spare
 income
 doesn’t
 want
 to
 spend
 a
 large
 chunk
 of
 it
 scratching
 around
 the
 web
 to
 find
 what
 he
 or
 she
 is
 looking
 for.
 In
 many
 countries
 GPRS
 pricing
 models
 are
 at
 best
 confusing.
 While
 an
 SMS
 carries
 a
 fixed
 cost,
 calculating
 how
 many
 kilobytes
 of
 data
 make
up
a
WAP
page
is
anybody’s
guess.
 The
opportunity
at
the
bottom
of
the
pyramid
is
huge,
and
handset
manufacturers
and
 network
 providers
 alike
 are
 working
 hard
 to
 fill
 it
 with
 phones.
 For
 them,
 the
 most
 important
issue
is
cost
because
that’s
what’s
most
important
to
their
customer.
And
if
 this
means
providing
trimmed‐down
handsets
at
the
lowest
possible
prices
then
so
be
it.
 This
current
reality
sees
many
of
these
phones
with
no
GPRS,
no
browser,
no
Java,
no
 camera,
no
colour
screen
–
the
very
technologies
which
form
the
lynchpin
of
our
plans
 to
promote
the
mobile
phone
as
the
tool
to
help
close
the
digital
divide.
 So,
 if
 we’re
 serious
 about
 using
 mobile
 to
 help
 close
 the
 digital
 divide,
 how
 about
 diverting
 international
 development
funding
towards
providing
a
subsidised,
 fully‐internet
 ready
 handset
 for
 developing
 markets?
 Aid
donors
are
already
providing
funds
to
the
network
 operators,
 after
 all.
 In
 the
 DRC,
 Madagascar,
 Malawi,
 Sierra
Leone
and
Uganda
for
example,
the
IFC
(an
arm
 of
 the
 World
 Bank)
 recently
 provided
 US$320
 to
 five
 operations
 of
Celtel
to
 help
 expand
 and
 upgrade
 its
 mobile
networks
(you
can
read
more
about
that
here).
Network
coverage,
important
as
 it
 is,
 is
 only
 part
 of
 the
 equation.
 From
 the
 perspective
 of
 the
 digital
 divide,
 who’s
 addressing
the
handset
issue?
 During
a
recent
interview
with
the
BBC
I
commented
that
“Voice
is
still
the
killer
app
in
 many
 developing
 countries.
 Data
 is
 going
 to
 be
 playing
 catch‐up
 for
 a
 long
 time
 to
 come”.
 I’ve
 received
 many
 comments
 of
 support
 –
 and
 a
 few
 in
 disagreement
 –
 since


this
 was
 published.
 This
 is
 a
 very
 important
 debate,
 and
 I
 hope
 it
 is
 one
 which
 finally
 starts
to
get
some
serious
discussion.
 
 
 
 
 


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