Notes from the talks of Africa Gathering taking place in London, England on 25 April.
Juliana Rotich, A J Munn, Erik Hersman, Matthew Ncube
Erik Hersman – White African, Afrigadget, Ushahidi; USA, Sudan, Kenya
Alisdair Munn – tcg The Communication Group, trying to enhance understandning social media tools; Zimbabwe, UK
Juliana Rotich – Ushahidi, Global Voices Online; USA, Kenya
Matthew Ncube – Twitter, Mathematics; Zimbabwe, UK (thanks JÃ¼rgen)
Out of the technologies we’re seen today? Are there barriers to achieve these projects we’re seen?
Erik: There’s probably a lot more going on as we see. One of the problems – a lot of these projects have been running from outside, it would be great to have more projects run by Africans.
Alisdair: The gap between we want to do, the costs is big – Africa knows best what’s good for Africa. We should have the understanding that they are able to do what they want on their own. There needs to be more participation.
Matthew: Information is not really shared. It is difficult to find out about innovative ideas in many parts of Africa. But there some big and strong ideas we are yet to find out about. It’s not the dark continent, there’s a lot of things going on we don’t know about.
Juliana: Somebody’s probably asking – why is it called Africa Gathering, why is it happening in the UK? If you want to see what African ideas look like – go to a BarCamp on the continent, there are many taking place.
Q: What technologies do yo ufind most useful to stay connected with Africa?
Alisdair: Skype, email, mobile phones, but the way I connect is different. Mobile phone has huge power.
Erik: 75% of developers of own open source main tool are Africans. Main tool to stay connected: Skype channel. Also blogs themselves. Power of blogs is immense, mobile phones of course as well.
Q: Can Africa’s economy growth of the next 5 years base on technology?
Matthew: Education is vital. A lot of young Africans have to be connected to the rest of the world, curricula all over the world have to influence education in Africa as well. Sometimes textbooks are outdated as information is changing so fast – education in Africa has to take that in consideration.
Alisdair: Technology has a role to play, use is relevant. But it has to be lead through people-centered research. Scaling things up makes them often los relevance. A lot has to be done to understand the differnet cultures & areas.
Erik: There’s many technologies for different people, a lot of tools, not the one big technology. In Africa there’s a lot of inefficiencies.
Q: What are the examples that resonate with you the most when taking mobile technology in account? What’s the next big thing?
Matthew: I think we’re quite fortunate to live in a cabled world in the UK. That technology doesn’t exist in many parts of Africa. Next big step will come in the form of WiMax. Reaching a wider audience at faster speed.
Alisdair: In Africa there’s a lot of wasted intelligence. One interesting idea: geographically relevant search, comission based microconversation platforms, there’s a lot of ways social media can be relevant.
Erik: The ability to make payments has large potentials.
Q: How far are we from direct money transfer – e.g. sending airtime internationally? How long will that last?
Q: An observation – make ICT women friendly, don’t exclude them by making ICT too masculine. Women have a great deal of inluence, especially in rural areas.
Q: We’re prototyping in Sudan with a cross border mobile based cash solution.
Q: WiMax will be very interesting also for mobile payment.
Q: Appropedia – Wiki for collaborative hardware devices.
Q: Comment – hear a lot about importance of good governance, a lot of it is about empowering poeple. Next big thing – using technology into the hands of more and more people so they have a voice.
Erik: That was what Ushahidi was built for. I think there will be more of that stuff happen.
Alisdair: Things are changing – technology enables people to be less reliant on countries – they will become more accountable.
Q: There was a mobile conference just last week, lots of interesting discussions.
Q: We have to get African artists to take part in development as well.
Juliana: list of Africa-related conferences on Whiteafrican
Ed: Is Ushahidid purely open source & free? What’s your business model?
Erik: Ushahidi will continue to be open source for all the time. Team gets money by customizing the project for companies.
Ed: What is your dream system concerning m-payment?
Juliana: An open API is vital – extending the functionality. Africa Liberation Card – coming out of Ghana.