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SXSW: How Mobile Devices Are Changing Africa 65

Nerval's Lobster writes "Mobile phones are kicking off a revolution in Africa, with everyone from farmers to villagers relying on apps to make electronic payments, check on expiration dates for medicine, and predict future storms or the best prices for produce. In a SXSW session titled 'The $100bn Mobile Bullet Train Called Africa' (which would also be a pretty good name for one of the indie films playing at this massive convention), Tech4Africa founder Gareth Knight explained the contours of this revolution. According to Shapshak, more kids in Africa have access to the Internet than consistent electricity. Nobody owns a PC or can access a fixed-line telephone, so mobile phones are a conduit for everything from email to news to making payments via SMS. ... Many of the mobile devices used in Africa aren't cutting-edge, and SMS-based platforms are a necessity when it comes to sharing information. 'SMS is so fantastic because it gets to every device everywhere,' Shapshak said. ... Here's how a typical SMS platform might work: someone purchasing a box of malaria medicine could send the barcode information to a text number, which would send back an SMS message identifying the drug as real or counterfeit. Famers and other food-producers can receive SMS messages about the best ways to handle pests, for example, or take care of their cows."
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SXSW: How Mobile Devices Are Changing Africa

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  • Wireless Africa (Score:5, Interesting)

    by riverat1 ( 1048260 ) on Sunday March 10, 2013 @02:45PM (#43132325)

    Africa may bypass building up the kind of infrastructure we have in the western world and go straight to a wireless world with local solar power to charge their devices.

  • Re:Wireless Africa (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rmdingler ( 1955220 ) on Sunday March 10, 2013 @03:00PM (#43132405) Journal
    Maybe. But there has to be a Western World for this type of technological "piggybacking" to occur. But maybe not, too. According to (some) conventional wisdom, the present Corporate policy of shifting manufacturing bases to the least expensive labor market means Foxconn is only awaiting a bit of political stability in Mama Africa.
  • Re:Wireless Africa (Score:5, Interesting)

    by demonlapin ( 527802 ) on Sunday March 10, 2013 @03:17PM (#43132517) Homepage Journal
    I went to Kenya and Tanzania last fall (if you get the chance to see the wildebeest migration, go; it's magnificent). Kenya is one of the richest countries in Africa and has some of the best infrastructure on the continent, but it's still got a very long way to go. The primary highway from Mombasa to Nairobi and thence on to Kampala, Uganda, is a two-lane strip of pavement that doesn't even have shoulders for some fairly long segments. The Kenyan freeway includes speed bumps at pedestrian crossings. (It seemed odd at first, but since people are going to walk across the road anyway, it ended up being a fairly reasonable concession to reality.) The papers had quite a few stories about the headaches faced by large firms trying to operate in the country, some of which really are difficult to solve - for example, what to do when a piece of land planned for a factory becomes a squatters' camp? The government wants the factory to bring jobs, but it's not exactly excited about kicking a lot of voters out of their homes to do so.

    I asked our guide/driver what he thought about the Chinese investment in east Africa; his take was that the roads were nice, but "wherever they go, the rhinos and elephants start disappearing". So there's that, too.
  • Re:Wireless Africa (Score:5, Interesting)

    by demonlapin ( 527802 ) on Sunday March 10, 2013 @04:06PM (#43132747) Homepage Journal
    No, the tragedy of Asians with lots of money and a penchant for rhino horn meeting up with Masai poachers. It's not the development that's killing the animals.

Don't tell me how hard you work. Tell me how much you get done. -- James J. Ling