Notes from the talks of Africa Gathering taking place in London, England on 25 April.
Ken Banks – Kiwanja.net / FrontlineSMS o/
Mobiles in Africa – How technoloy is driving social and economic change
Mobile technology empowering grassroots NGOs – FrontlineSMS and field-based case studies
25 years in IT, projects in 8 different African countries
Pattern emerging: Mobile adoptionby users & NGOs is driven by formal & informal conomic activity
- shops & people just putting up businesses
- exciting activities
- people selling airtime, fixing phones, charging phones
impact of mobile phones is as revolutionary as roads, railways…
the majority of reports fail to specifiy which applications are used or how other NGOs can start running similar projects
- easy solution for NGOs to use mobiles, not necessary to have internet
- it provides a communication platform, not a tool for something particular
- it empowers innovators and organizers to do what they desire to
- basically just allows you to send and receive messages
- examples: Nigerian election monitors, security alerts to fieldworkers in Afghanistan, spreading news in Iraq, rural healthcare network in Malawi, …
Online comunity for FrontlineSMS is about 470 people now – talking to each other, giving adivce
Why it works
- Local ownership
- Local Awareness
- Free & works on available hardware
- Replicably & scalable
- No need for internet
- Easy to ues
- Responds to their needs
Logo – o/ – signifies empowerment
Lowering the bar
- creating versions which work from USB
- Mobile applications
- MMS version
Tag line – how can we help the disadvantaged
Q & A:
Technology – is it quite basic? Just sending messages between phones? How to get the numbers? Free SMS?
- I don’t deal with that – the users do, they work out how to deal with it best
How can you monitor that? How does this SMS response work?
- software is keyword-driven – can be posted to a website, sent be email, automatic response, call some totally different tool
What do you think about scaling? Is it possible?
- It’s a big issue – how to scale stuff? Scaling can work horizontally – not one central big implementation but many small ones
Nigel Waller – Movirtu.com
How we’re creating access to basic phone services for more than a billion people earning less than two dollars a day
Connect the Unconnected
Working in telecommunication for 20 years – with the mobile operators (Zain, Vadacom, Safaricom, …)
Current mission: connecting the unconnected
What does Movirtu do
- Research & dissemination of information how people use phones at the bottom of the pyramid (BOP)
- Innovative infrastructure for mobile operators
- consumer services
Who are the unconnected? People below $2 income a day
- 3.5 bn people not connected
- without phone
- but still using phone services
- spend 5-20% income on mobile services
Barriers to entry
- handset prices
- airtime prices
- sim card costs for operators
Ways to get to a phone – shared phones
- public phones, person to person sharing
- nearly as many shared phone users as regular users
- Identities – shared phone users don’t have an “identity”, they’re hard to get hold of
- creating an identity for these people
- e.g. email exists behind the hardware – mobile numbers depend on the hardware
- why not take the phone number away? – put the phone number back in the network & use phone as network clients
- you can do everything as if had a phone – but you don’t need to buy one
- buy airtime for your account – get a free number, access your account with any phone
- community phone – people using their own number
- brand: sending free phone numbers to people
Q & A:
We can’t do projects without the operator; to get this working is quite complicated
There is a system around called Pigeon – SW based solution which does basically something similar. Why is it necessary to get so deep into the protocols?
- It’s necessary to be able to make outbound calls as well; we’re faking a whole SIM-card, because of all the security our there it has to be quite complex
Sian Townsend – Google
Conducting mobile user experience research in sub-Saharan Africa
At ICTD in Quatar: a lot of questions what is Google doing there – so this information should be shared in this presentations
Displaying asked questions by people via sms about diseases, agriculture, …
What is User Experienced Research?
- deals with all aspects of user interaction
- user experience, feasibility engineering, product management
- what do people actually need?
- about the whole experience of a user – how it looks, how it makes you feel, make it easy to use
2 tyes of research: tactical (optimising) and strategic (innovative)
Tactical: trying to find out what people exactly do when using a devices, where they get confused, …
Strategic: do people have unmet needs, understanding existing patterns, …
What is Google doing in Africa?
- Offices in Kenya, Egypt, Unganda, Senegal
- Launching search in African languages – 38 African languges
- Google SMS in Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria – keyword based
- Google Maps in several countries – user generated content
- Research awards for students, literacy project, gadget competition
Google.org: social stuff Google does with 1% of the profit
A rising tide lifts all boats – any success is good – snowball effect
Mobile is the technology to work with currently – but ecosystem is complex (operators, …)
What new products to build? How do you know you want something if you don’t know it?
- Field studies – using FrontlineSMS
- collecting data, mapping them – user journeys
- what happens when you first give people the opportunity to use a technology?
- creating a lot of pilotes – many iterations
Q & A:
The sms-questions/answers were translated to English
What about the 100 best ideas?
- Delayed, coming back to that
Why do people trust the answers of Google?
- The operators brand helps the applications behind that (trust in the operator)
How are maps verified?
- The satellite images can be used to trace the streets