Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Anecdotes on Mobile Trends in Africa

posted by Karen Coppock

Had the opportunity to have coffee with Ken Banks of Kiwanja yesterday – always enlightening.

He mentioned some interesting anecdotes from the Mobile Advocacy Toolkit Working Meeting he participated in in Nairobi earlier this month.

Uganda - Training on SMS inbox cleaning. An entrepreneur created a business teaching mobile phone users how to clean their
SMS inboxes. He charges $1 for a one hour class, a steep rate in a country in which many people earn less than $1 per day. Shows how we take for granted how “easy” mobile phones are to use.

Congo and Rural Uganda – Women prevented from using mobile phones. Appears that women are discouraged, or outright forbidden, to use mobile phones in some parts of the Congo and rural Uganda. Jealous husbands are not keen on their wives having access to communications devices even if they could be the gateway to financial, health and educational services.

Kenya – Mobile phones cobbled together with spare parts. In Kenya, some entrepreneurs apparently build mobile phones from a variety of spare parts and homemade materials. For some $15-20 a customer can pick a model and the entrepreneur will weld together a mobile phone for them…it may not be pretty, but it works – at least for a while.

Kenya – Mobile phones used to connect cyber cafes to the Internet. A leading carrier offered a flat rate (a few dollars per month)
GRPS service in Kenya. Entrepreneurs seized the opportunity to create cyber cafes using mobile phones as modems for PC Internet connectivity. Pakistanis also tend to use mobile phones/GRPS to connect their computers to the Internet – a new twist on fixed mobile.

Thanks for the interesting stories, Ken.

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