Greetings from London

Just a short update from London – today we flew here to attend Africa Gathering tomorrow.

Today we already went for dinner with Africa Gathering organizer Ed Scotcher, Erik Hersman, David McQueen and several other interesting people, it was a really great evening and food at Ethiopian restaurant Lalibela was superb.

I’m really looking forward to meet the people at the event tomorrow – around 200 according to the organizers. Martin will also have a speech and present the new trailer of Hello Africa. It can be viewed on Youtube (Hello Africa Trailer II) and according to editor Anders Bolin it looks best in HQ mode.

More tomorrow, we’ll keep you updated.

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Greetings from London
was published on 25.04.2009 by Florian Sturm. It files under global
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The downside of mobile technologies

We like to praise the availability of mobile technologies in African countries and to talk about the opportunities that emerged from the introduction of mobile phones. However, it is important to acknowledge that where there is much light, the shadow is deep. When we were in Africa last year to work on the UZI Africa project, we already encountered stories, where the mobile phone was responsible for family conflicts. For example somebody told us how a guy thought that his wife was cheating on him, because she was regularly calling a phone number he didn’t know.

Crystal Watley who lives in Kenya and works for Voices of Africa recently wrote about the negative consequences for family and social relationships at the MobileActive discussion group:

  1. Cell phones make it easier to cheat on your spouse.
  2. Cell phones GIVE away the secrets of the spouses that were already cheating thus causing household tension and domestic violence.
  3. African men tend to be very jealous and often use mobile phones as a way to control their women monitoring every message and call.
  4. Violence and jealousy is also caused between those who own phones and those who do not. Or between those with different model phones. Theft is rampant.

Surely this cannot be generalized, but it is important to keep the possibility of negative side effects in mind when designing technologies for the African market. Maybe technology can even be turned into a tool that helps to avoid and eventually eliminate such conflicts?

(Thanks to Crystal for sharing this.)

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The downside of mobile technologies
was published on 14.04.2009 by Martin Tomitsch. It files under sub saharan africa
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Next event – Africa Gathering London

While still reflecting on AfrikaCamp Vienna and the interesting talks and experiences we had there, we stumbled upon the next promising event which perfectly fits to our approach of ICT4D.

Africa Gathering in London on 25th April is

A day for thinkers, supporters, sponsors, doers, geeks, dreamers – and everybody else to come and share, promote, highlight, progress and evolve issues related to ICT, social networking and technology in Africa.

It is organized by Edward Scotcher and Mark Simpkins (geekyoto) and on the speakers list there are:

So this appears to be a really exciting event – and ICT4D.at will be present. We’re already looking forward to it!

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Next event – Africa Gathering London
was published on 04.02.2009 by Florian Sturm. It files under global
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AfrikaCamp Vienna – Sessions 2

(cc) Walter Krivanek, www.vividvisions.com

(cc) Walter Krivanek, www.vividvisions.com

Notes from Saturdays AfrikaCamp Vienna. Overview of the sessions can be viewed at the AfrikaCamp wiki.

Session 4 and 5 were our presentations, so I didn’t note down anything.

The platform ICT4D.at – who we are, what we do – Martin Konzett, Florian Sturm

ICT4D.at – UZI, the movie – Anders Bolin

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Business driven Philantropy – Business development platform

Big problem: poverty – can it be eliminated?

Businesses have to help

  • philantropy is not the same as charity

Solution:

  • social entrepreneurship
  • philantro-capitalism – business driven philosophy
  • microfinancing – really works

Example: Maya One

  • network of partners
  • spending 3% of profit to an NGO
  • school projects for child laborers
  • reward: partners help each other
  • cyclic

I have to admit that I didn’t really get the concept of this business driven philantropy – how is it different than just donating a certain percentage of the profit for a good cause just for marketing reasons? Maybe somebody can comment on that?

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OpenStreetMap – Helge Fahrnberger

There is no proper street map of Burkina Faso. The ones that exist are not accurate and quite expensive.

Solution:

  • crowd-sourcing mapping of the world
  • OpenStreetMap
  • CC licensed version of Google Maps
  • these maps can also be used for commercial reasons

Helges plan:

  • creation of a digital street map of Ouagadougou (capital)
  • donation to printing services there

Ouagadougou is currently not really present in Google Maps, but almost fully covered in OSM

Consequences:

  • it is very easy to create maps for any country
  • these maps are available for free
  • local people can map their city

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HandyÖkonomie in Afrika – Christoph Chorherr

How is money on mobile phones created?

At the ITHUBA project:

  • until now there is no internet because the cables are always stolen
  • but everybody has a mobile phone

Here there are ATMs all around, but how do you pay when there are no ATMs?

-> Mobile Banking

Mobile phone companies see a business there and support this development

  • a virtual currency is created
  • prepaid airtime
  • without interest
  • it is not possible to accumulate money, it would lose its value
  • economic theory: Schwundgeld

Money is transferred over wide distances this way

  • e.g. in Tanzania parents transfer money to their children this way
  • Kenya: M-Pesa

What would happen if a mobile phone company stopped its business?

  • all the airtime would lose its value
  • lacking trust

Nokia has a strong focus on driving forward these development

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AfrikaCamp Vienna – Sessions 2
was published on 02.02.2009 by Florian Sturm. It files under middle east and north africa, sub saharan africa
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AfrikaCamp Vienna – Sessions 1

(cc) Walter Krivanek, www.vividvisions.com

(cc) Walter Krivanek, www.vividvisions.com

After attending AfrikaCamp Vienna yesterday, I want to share my notes on some of the sessions. As there were parallel sessions and we had two presentations, I couldn’t attend all of them. There is also the AfrikaCamp wiki on barcamp.at where the sessions are listed.

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HIV AIDS und Human Rights AdvocacyFlorian Schirg

Florian talked about his experiences when doing his civil service in Cameroon at a hospital.

Although the work there was quite rewarding and interesting for him, generally it is hard to motivate local people want to work there, as the connectivity in the area is quite bad and it is hard to get access to a mobile phone network or the internet. The only doctor working there right now is Austrian. The next internet connection is a one day travel away.

Now an Northern American church organization wants to install an ERP system there, to make processes more efficient.

Florian raised the question if this project would make any sense taking into account that

  • there are not enough employees
  • there are no local people capable of maintaining the system
  • electricity is not constantly available

and asked for input from the audience.

The subsequent comments from the audience were mainly critical towards the lacking communication between the Northern American sponsors and the local church and hospital. Most people agreed that the project was bound to fail and the approach not to involve local people was ignorant and antiquated.

Another remark was that enhanced connectivity would motivate more people to go there. With mobile network coverage and internet connection people wouldn’t feel as far away any more.

Organization in Vorarlberg: http://www.kamerunpartner.com
Church: http://www.oseelc.org/
Blog: http://florian.nomadlife.org/

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Peak oil und Afrika – Michael Cerveny

Peak oil: the climax in oil production followed by a constant decline and a sharp raise of the oil price – what are the effects on Africa?

Energy is the most important resource in the world, especially oil can cover the worldwide consumption. The production of oil will have its peak some time between 2010 and 2030 which will cause a sudden scarceness and result in a price explosion. This will definitely change the world, how will it affect different societies?

Consequences in Austria:

  • everything will become more expensive, especially energy-intense products and food
  • standard family:
  • about 3000€ additional costs for heating per year
  • 700€ more for fuel per year

How will it affect Africa?

Comments from the audience:

Agriculture in Africa is not that energy-intensive, it’s more labour-intensive. That’s why maybe the peak-oil will affect Africa less than other regions of the world.

Most of the African countries would have enough production to sustain themselves without imports. If the countries manage to organize the work efficiently and build up an active market, they would not be dependent on foreign countries so much any more. Inner-African trade is also important.

Right now the agricultural market in many countries of Africa is destroayed through subsidized imports from Western countries. Raising costs for industrial agriculture could correct this imbalance.

In many African countries the Western lifestyle serves as an ideal for a lot of people. So people here have the obligation to change their behaviour before demanding changes from others.

It is substantial to foster education, but on the other hand also production in these countries. NGOs often don’t invest, but donate. This does not help to develop a healthy economy.

Video cast from Christoph Chorherr interviewing Michael Cerveny.

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Web 2.0 für große NGOs – Björn Stockleben

New donation-platforms such as Betterplace or Kiva offer their users a very personal connection to development assistance projects. For big NGOs this project-based approach is not practical as projects are organized at different levels of the organization. So the existing platforms are not used by big NGOs. How can they overcome this dilemma?

Björn suggested a cetral approach for a donations-platform, where all the organizations can upload their projects. To offer an enhanced persoalization, the project desctiptions could be accessed through an API and made visible depending on where they are integrated.

Comments from the audience:

Do NGOs even want that? Is there a demand for this type of platform?

It is important to identify oneself with the NGO and the project as donator. There is no sense for NGOs to compete with 1000 others for donators, if they cannot offer a personal connection to the projects.

Decentralization is vital, every NGO can create their own network with the tools which are already there (e.g. Facebook, …).

NGOs do not have the interest to create a network, when it comes to surviving, the aims are put behind.
-> This is not true, there are a lot of networks such as Globale Verantwortung or Ökobüro. Networking takes place in the exchange of experience, when it comes to donations every NGO works on its own.

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AfrikaCamp Vienna – Sessions 1
was published on 01.02.2009 by Florian Sturm. It files under middle east and north africa, sub saharan africa
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MobileActive08: Frederico Dava

Frederico Dava represents Centro Terra Viva (Living Land Center), a NGO based in Moçambique. He is coordinating an ICT program which works for making information available to areas in his country where there is no distribution or access to TV, radio or newspapers. He explains that mobile technology is being used today for collecting basic information in the health- and cultural sectors, but that the technology needs to be distributed on a larger scale in the society, so that the benefits of communication and information technologies becomes widely accessible for the people. He continues to say that this is an issue that needs more attention and promotion, especially in a developing country like Moçambique, but that they are open to sustainable solutions and that there is great potential for the uses of mobile technology in the future.

This is the 10th interview from our MobileActive08 podcast series, shot at the conference in Johannesburg (organized by MobileActive and sangonet).

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MobileActive08: Frederico Dava
was published on 23.01.2009 by Anders Bolin. It files under sub saharan africa
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MobileActive08: Francis Mijiga

In the interview below Francis Mijiga shares his perspective on the potentials of mobile phones for rural areas in Africa. He explains how government regulations have contributed to the penetration of mobile phones into rural areas. In his opinion mobile access to information will help to improve the economy and social issues in those areas. Francis Mijiga works as a communication technology consultant for TCCL in Malawi.

This is the 8th interview from our MobileActive08 video podcast series, shot at the conference in Johannesburg (organized by MobileActive and sangonet).

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MobileActive08: Francis Mijiga
was published on 02.01.2009 by Martin Tomitsch. It files under sub saharan africa
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MobileActive08: Jennifer Sly

Jennifer Sly from YouthAssets investigates how mobile phones can support young people who are living in rural areas and supporting their families at home. She has done some interesting studies in Swaziland (Southern Africa) to collect insights how mobile phones are currently used in this context. One of the things she found out is that the mobile phone is an important networking tool for young men, who lost their parents and are taking care of their family. During her field studies she met orphans, who used the phone to ask people in the neighborhood for jobs, food, and clothes, but also to receive emotional support.

This is the 7th interview from our MobileActive08 video podcast series, shot at the conference in Johannesburg (organized by MobileActive and sangonet).

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MobileActive08: Jennifer Sly
was published on 19.12.2008 by Martin Tomitsch. It files under sub saharan africa
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Africa and the Boom in Mobile Phone Subscription

Again I would like to introduce some papers that I found interesting and insightful during writing my thesis.

This time I will introduce the paper “Transforming Recent Gains In The Digital Divide Into Digital Opportunities: Africa And The Boom In Mobile Phone Subscription” from 2006. Based on recent developments it sums up the potential impact of the mobile phone on African society and economy. It was written by Peter A. Kwaku Kyem and Peter Kweku LeMaire (Central Connecticut State University, USA) for an issue of the online available journal “The Electronic Journal of Information Systems in Developing Countries” (EJISDC).

In the following a short summary of the paper:

In the past years mobile phone subscriptions, fixed lines and internet access have increased in Africa quicker than in any other region on earth.  The questions are now if this technological boost can be used for socioeconomic improvements and if, without accompanying measures, it is enough to raise the living standard.

Digital divide:

The gap results from socio-economic differences in the world that in turn affect their access to digital information. The digital divide thus reflects existing economic divisions in the world.“- from Dzidonu, C.K. (2001) – The Socio-Economic Development Implications of the Digital Divide within the context of African Countries

The digital divide was until 2004 decreased and the access to ICTs in developing countries is now catching up with the western world. A substantial task is now, not to focus just on the physical presence of the ICTs, but to have a clear vision of their use.

The mobile phone is unique in Africa, as it serves as the main communication device now and can take many hurdles, which conventional ICTs did not. Therefore it is the main ICT nowadays available (= becoming ubiquitous) and has a high economic potential.

Direct economic benefits:

  • microenterprises
  • outsourcing from developed countries is through ICTs possible
  • market information for rural and poor areas
  • organization and information – substitute for travels and person-to-person communication
  • improved banking services through M-banking

Socio-cultural impacts of mobile phones:

  • belonging to a communication network rahter than to a place
  • strengthen democracy (protests, elections)
  • status symbol
  • mixing of private and public life
  • increased sense of security

Other potential uses and impacts of mobile phones in Africa

  • improved health services
  • improved education
  • e-government

But overall, adoptions of the technology must come with improvements in other infrastructure areas, otherwise there will be no impact. Furthermore governments need to adapt appropriate ICT policies.

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Although the paper doesn’t come up with the most surprising answers, it gives a good overview of the potentials of mobile phones in Africa. I think the main conclusions are still valid though a lot has happened in those two years since the paper was written. For the whole paper I may refer to EJISDC.

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Africa and the Boom in Mobile Phone Subscription
was published on 08.12.2008 by Florian Sturm. It files under middle east and north africa, sub saharan africa
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MobileActive08: Ugo Vallauri

In this interview Ugo Vallauri from the Royal Holloway University of London (Department of Geography) talks about the role of ICT4D for grassroots rural community development. In his research he also looks at previously available technologies, like radios, and their value for grassroots development. He points out the importance of bridging the divide between the old and the new, stating that people often get excited about new technologies and forget the value of already existing technologies.

Ugo also briefly introduces some other projects, which sound interesting and promising, like low-power computing for rural areas and an open source software project for blind and visually impaired people. (Ugo, can you provide links?)

This is the 6th interview from our MobileActive08 video podcast series, shot at the conference in Johannesburg (organized by MobileActive and sangonet).

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MobileActive08: Ugo Vallauri
was published on 05.12.2008 by Martin Tomitsch. It files under sub saharan africa
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