YouTube arrives in Nigeria

Nigeria has a culture that is steeped in sharing and storytelling, and Nigerians are passionate about music, entertainment and education. Few other places in the world are home to a movie industry the size of Nollywood, which now ranks second in the world after Bollywood in terms of output, and where over 300 producers create somewhere between 1,000 and 2,000 movies a year!

This makes Nigeria a perfect match for YouTube, which is now putting down local roots withwww.youtube.com.ng. From today, YouTube will offer Nigerian users more relevant content, and provide a platform to share Nigeria’s unique and diverse culture and lifestyle with the world’s largest online video community.

We have worked partnered with local broadcasters and content producers to help bring popular Nigerian content to the whole world. Our partners i These include Chocolate City, Storm 360,Nollywood LoveChannels TV, and Lagos Television. We have also launched the YouTube Partner Program which helps video creators develop their channels, grow their audiences and generate revenue. For all the content creators out there, find out more about partnering with us on YouTube by visiting our partner resources site. And of course, YouTube is not just about entertainment and music — it’s also about education, practical tips, advocacy, and lots lots more.

Got a low-speed Internet connection? Don’t worry — you won’t be left behind. In case you are wondering how you can watch videos online with a slow connection, you can try out YouTube Feather. Feather is a ‘lite’ version of YouTube which helps users play YouTube videos faster. Why not try it out while watching the YouTube Nigeria mashup that celebrates the diversity of Nigerian history, culture, talent and entertainment:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=knO8EC3G2lo

There is a huge wealth of talent in Nigeria and we believe that everyone has something to broadcast. So whether your video camera is on your phone or computer, and whether or not you have professional gear, it’s time to broadcast yourself at www.youtube.ng!

We look forward to celebrating more rising Nigerian YouTube stars.

Posted by Affiong Osuchukwu, Country Marketing Manager, Nigeria

Those barcode-looking things? They’re called QR codes. Here’s what they do.

Scan me!

QR Code

Many of you reading this have undoubtedly seen a QR (Quick Response) code by now (the thing pictured to the right), but there’s just as much — if not more — confusion surrounding them today as there was a number of years ago. Well, prepare to no longer be confused by these highly-useful things that are seemingly popping up everywhere these days (and for good reason, too)!

Put simply, QR codes serve as an ultra-fast reference for something that someone can look up immediately on the spot, or at a later time. By using your cell phone and a QR code reader app, scanning a QR code might yield a Web address, name and address, phone number, email address, pre-filled text message, or some other similar data type. To give you a better visualization of how it works, consider the following 3 short scenarios:

Scenario 1: You’re walking around in a town you’ve never been to before, collecting menus from restaurants that you’re hoping to find some decent local food from. But instead of simply handing out takeaway menus, you notice many of the restaurants are providing an eco-friendly QR code for you to scan to see their menu and effectively have it with you at all times on your phone.

Scenario 2: You’re out at a concert, listening to one of your favorite bands, when all of a sudden, you notice the guitarist is wearing a shirt with a giant QR code on the back of it. Being in the 7th row and knowing what a QR code is, you take out your phone so you can get a picture of it to see what he wants you to see. Lo and behold, you’ve just earned a secret backstage pass right there on the spot that no one else can win now because you were the first to access it!

Scenario 3: You’re flying over a city about 15 minutes out from landing at your destination, when all of a sudden, you notice an incredibly massive QR code that has been painted on the top of an entire building. Once again, you take out your phone and quickly take a picture so you can see what it’s all about (be it a URL, phone number, text message, or otherwise) once you’ve got cell service again.

Those are just a few scenarios, but there are TONS of scenarios that companies and individuals are currently utilizing QR codes for. Just the other night, I was practically inundated by QR codes while out eating dinner at a restaurant: their menu had a QR code on it so you could have a copy to go right there on the spot, the ketchup bottle on the table had a QR code on it so you could visit the manufacturer’s Web site, and someone had printed out a QR code on a sheet of paper and stuck it on the mirror in the men’s restroom.

Now, what do you do when you see a QR code? Well, you either need a camera or a phone with an in-built camera. If you have a phone with an in-built camera, there are plenty of QR code apps you can download from your respective app store/market that will allow you to scan a QR code and it’ll show you the information contained within it. If you only have a camera, then you can simply take a picture of a QR code with which to upload later to a site like ZXing Decoder Online. Lastly, if you’re interested in creating your own QR code, well, that’s just about as easy as decoding one, what with online QR code generators like this one.

For as quick and convenient as QR codes are, they aren’t 100% risk-free, since all kinds of data can be contained within them. Wikipedia spells it out best in their QR code risks section:

Malicious QR codes combined with a permissive reader can put a computer’s contents and user’s privacy at risk. They are easily created and may be affixed over legitimate QR codes. On a smartphone, the reader’s many permissions may allow use of the camera, full internet access, read/write contact data, GPS, read browser history, read/write local storage, and global system changes.

Risks include linking to dangerous websites with browser exploits, enabling the microphone/camera/GPS and then streaming those feeds to a remote server, analysis of sensitive data (passwords, files, contacts, transactions), and sending email/SMS/IM messages or DDOS packets as part of a botnet, corrupting privacy settings, stealing identity, and even containing malicious logic themselves such as JavaScript or a virus. These actions may occur in the background while the user only sees the reader opening a seemingly harmless webpage.

In other words, the information waiting on the other side of a QR code might not be all roses and sunshine — even if it’s something as simple as a derogatory plain text message.

So, with all that said and now that you know everything you need to know to make use of QR codes, what are you waiting for? Start by scanning the QR code you see in the upper right-hand corner of my post (I promise it’s not malicious) and see where it leads to. From there, be on the lookout for QR codes all around you as you’re shopping, eating, vacationing, working, browsing, etc. Before long, they may just start making life a little more convenient for you!

Via [znet]-Stephen Chapman

Facebook flaw allows access to your private photos

Reporting features in Facebook apparently can allow users to access personal, private and hidden photos from being exposed.

The flaw was spotted by members of a body building forum, no less, which allows Facebook private photos from being viewed and accessed by anyone who uses the tool.

Users who report “inappropriate profile photos” on a users’ profile can continue through the in-built Facebook reporting tool. If selected as “nudity or pornography”, the user can then be given the opportunity to help Facebook “take action by selecting additional photos to include with your report”.

By checking this box, and continuing the process, Facebook then displays a number of additional photos which are not publicly available to the user.

This exposes private photos of any person on Facebook. We tried this out for ourselves. Sometimes the flaw worked nicely and other times it didn’t. However, more often than not you get some pictures to view. Facebook wasn’t immediately available for comment. One thing to note is that exploiting this flaw requires reporting someone just to see a few pictures.

Take this one example. It was taken directly from Mark Zuckerberg’s private photo collection on his profile.

(Source: “Mark Zuckerberg”, Facebook)

Other photos were mashed together and uploaded on an image sharing website of Zuckerberg’s private Facebook photos, which are inaccessible from public viewing.

Details of this flaw were examined in detail. While some browsers restrict this flaw, private photos that are hidden or unaccessible to people who are friends, can not only be accessed but enlarged to their full scale.

This flaw is open for anyone to use — and abuse.

How MTN is profiting from Nigeria’s informal economy

Robert Neuwirth, author of Stealth of Nations: The Global Rise of the Informal Economy, examines how mobile operator MTN is using hawkers and street vendors as distribution agents.

A MTN stand in Kwara State, Nigeria.

Throngs of okada – unlicensed motorcycle taxis – manoeuvred in and out of the pedestrian flow. Most of the passengers were purchasers. They made their deals and hefted their goods on their shoulders or on their heads. The bikes whizzed past kids selling tiny bags of peanuts, women carrying buckets of soda bottles on their heads, kiosks selling tools, hawkers selling mobile phone recharge cards, roadside stalls offering fried Indomie (a brand of spiced instant noodles that is a common, cheap meal here). Trucks dropped off containers straight from the port, disgorging banged-up car bodies, piles of coiled springs, used copper bushings, and mounds of dusty hubcaps. Panel trucks delivered photocopiers, computers, TVs, gaming consoles, and troves of mobile phones freezer-packed in Styrofoam cartons. The guts of global production splayed out in a series of chaotic stalls.

This is Ladipo Market in Lagos, Nigeria – part of a $10 trillion worldwide economy known as System D.

You probably have never heard of System D. Neither had I until I started visiting street markets and unlicensed bazaars around the globe.

System D is a slang phrase pirated from French-speaking Africa and the Caribbean. The French have a word that they often use to describe particularly effective and motivated people. They call themdébrouillards. To say a man (or woman) is a débrouillard(e) is to tell people how resourceful and ingenious he or she is. The former French colonies have sculpted this word to their own social and economic reality. They say that inventive, self- starting, entrepreneurial merchants who are doing business on their own, without registering or being regulated by the bureaucracy and, for the most part, without paying taxes, are part of “l’economie de la débrouillardise”. Or, sweetened for street use, “Systeme D”. This essentially translates as the ingenuity economy, the economy of improvisation and self-reliance, the do-it-yourself, or DIY, economy. A number of well-known chefs have also appropriated the term to describe the skill and sheer joy necessary to improvise a gourmet meal using only the mismatched ingredients that happen to be at hand in a kitchen.

There is another economy out there. Its edges are diffuse and it disappears the moment you try to catch it. It stands beyond the law, yet is deeply entwined with the legally recognised business world. It is based on small sales and tiny increments of profit, yet it produces, cumulatively, a huge amount of wealth. It is massive yet disparaged, open yet feared, microscopic yet global. It is how much of the world survives, and how many people thrive, yet it is ignored and sometimes disparaged by most economists, business leaders, and politicians. At the same time, many major corporations make their money through System D.

***

Perhaps the most strikingly visible way in which formal businesses make use of System D is in the mobile phone industry. Along every road in many African and Asian countries – on median strips, on the side streets and main drags, in the middle of highways, at almost every intersection – you can find small plastic tables with umbrellas overhead.

They’re called umbrella stands and they are the phone booths of the developing world. In the sparse shade offered by those umbrellas, the formal economy meets System D in an extremely direct way.

Nigeria provides a perfect case study. It’s the largest country in Africa, with a mobile phone market that seems to have nothing but upside, and a variety of telecom firms are battling for market share.

MTN, a massive multinational based in South Africa and active in twenty one countries through Africa and the Middle East, had spent years looking for a way to gain a share of the Nigerian market. With a population of close to a hundred and sixty million, Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country, and one in six Africans is a Nigerian.

The Nigerian market was worth a lot of money. MTN made its first move on Nigeria in 2001. “We tried to replicate the car and phone market of the United Kingdom,” Akinwale Goodluck, the general manager of regulatory issues for the company’s Nigerian operations, told me.

“We wanted all dealers to be registered. They had to get a licence from the Nigeria Corporate Affairs Commission. They had to have a business name, to be a registered company.” MTN determined that it would sell airtime in three denominations: fifteen hundred naira, three thousand naira, and six thousand naira – $10, $20, and $40 – which would be sold only through stores that had the MTN brand.

The result: the plan crashed and burned. Goodluck put it in gentler terms: “It became very glaring that such a ‘Rolls-Royce’ type of distribution network would not be feasible.”

So MTN wrote off the loss and rethought its approach. It concluded that in Nigeria, where even scavengers at the garbage dump have mobile phones, the bulk of its income – perhaps as much as 90 per cent – would come from selling pay-as-you-go airtime rather than selling costly monthly plans. And that meant that service had to be cheap and readily available.

So MTN came back with a new plan based on umbrella stands. Almost all of its products would be sold by hawkers and street vendors. The cheapest airtime would be offered at a bargain basement price – a hundred naira, or less than $1 – and it would be available all over town. The company dropped its vision of selling phones with the MTN label. It dropped the price of SIM cards to less than $3. And it has ridden this low-priced model to a better than 40 per cent share of the Nigerian mobile phone market.

In 2007, MTN had revenues of 73.1 billion rand (approximately $8.78 billion) and earnings of 31.8 billion rand ($3.8 billion), and Nigeria was a big part of that, responsible for one-quarter of MTN’s one hundred million customers and 28 per cent of the company’s cash – or about $2.4 billion per year. And how does MTN earn that $2.4 billion? Almost all of it comes from System D.

Despite their importance to the bottom line, MTN keeps these System D vendors at arm’s length. “We don’t have a direct relationship with the gentleman or lady on the street,” Goodluck said. “We provide merchandise and support through the dealers.” What he means is that MTN sells its recharge cards to distributors, who in turn sell to subdealers, who sell to sub-subdealers, who sell to the folks on the street, who retail the cards to the people who use them.

Most umbrella stand operators also purchase heavily discounted contracts from MTN and other service providers.

If you want to call anywhere in Nigeria on the MTN network or any other network, for that matter – you can go to your local umbrella stand and make your call for twenty naira (thirteen cents) a minute. Most umbrella stand operators have several phones with SIM cards from different mobile services, so you can save money by making your call on the network the person you are calling uses. Many people who have their own mobiles nonetheless use the umbrella stands to make calls – because the cost per minute is cheaper.

“The umbrella market is a very, very important market now,” Goodluck told me. “No serious operator can afford to ignore the umbrella people.”

***

Margaret Akiyoyamen is one such umbrella person. She ran a stand in Lagos for several years and started in the business with just five thousand naira, or about $34, of recharge cards. She knew her customers didn’t have lots of cash, so she sold denominations of between only one hundred and three hundred naira. She set up her umbrella, table, and chairs (the setup cost her two thousand naira – or about $13) on the median strip of the street where she lived, Fifth Avenue in Festac Town (in another fixed cost, she gave the local government thirteen hundred naira, or around $10, for a ticket entitling her to do business on that spot). In total, her initial working capital was just eighty-three hundred naira, or a little more than $50. It was a volume business. She got slight discounts on the cards for buying them in bulk from a large distributor, and she used a cheap handset to offer calls for twenty naira a minute.

In the first month, she reported, she recouped her initial investment. After that, Margaret pushed her business forward over the next five months. Six months in, she was buying more than three hundred thousand naira worth of cards every month – sixty times her initial load – and making a profit of forty thousand naira, or about $270 – five times the government’s minimum wage. Her story shows how much growth there is in the mobile phone industry, how profitable selling airtime can be for sidewalk vendors; we can only imagine how profitable it is for the mobile phone firms themselves.

“It provides a fair amount of gainful sustenance,” Goodluck allowed. Indeed, he suggested, the steady profits that street hawkers make from the airtime biz have encouraged people to shift from criminality to card selling, including a number of people who had been dealing drugs. “Even beggars are selling recharge cards,” he said. MTN says it is putting together a database of the sellers and their locations. But there is one thing MTN does not contemplate doing. The company refuses to invest in these merchants who are retailing its recharge cards. “It works nicely as it is,” said Goodluck, who has since been named MTN’s corporate services executive. “It would not be advisable for us to go out on the street and offer them loans and credit. It’s a very informal business. It would not be a safe investment.”

It may well be true that hawkers and roadside salespeople are not always the most reliable investments. Some have other jobs (Margaret, for instance, had a day job at an insurance company); others may be lousy at record keeping or suffer through periods of slow sales. A few are undoubtedly fly-by-night operators. This would, indeed, make it tough to invest.

But it does seem as if the company could design a programme to work with the sales force that is responsible for the bulk of its income – perhaps a college scholarship programme, or a training institute designed to augment the skills of the best roadside distributors. MTN’s involvement doesn’t have to be limited to investing in the distribution operation. Goodluck smiled uncomfortably at the notion and repeated his mantra:

“The system works well as it is.”

This article is an edited extract from Robert Neuwirth’s book Stealth of Nations: The Global Rise of the Informal Economy (Pantheon, October 2011). Buy now on Amazon.

How to download YouTube videos, and other curious things

One question I’m frequently asked is if I know of a way to download YouTube videos, to which my answer is, “Why, yes! Yes, I do.” As such, I’ve decided to write a quick post addressing this popular question, as well as chime in with a couple of additional mentions that are relevant to the subject.

Now, while I know that many of you reading this already have the know-how to download YouTube videos, this post is for those who comprise the 6,000,000+ (according to my Google keyword research) monthly searches on this topic! What follows are the 3 solutions I personally use that 100% fill my needs for downloading not only YouTube videos, but just about everything else as well. With that said, these certainly aren’t the *only* solutions out there, so I encourage others of you to chime in with any differing solutions you use!

1 – Keepvid.com: When it comes to saving YouTube videos, KeepVid is my first choice, without question. While there are tons of sites out there that perform the same function, KeepVid is consistently on top of YouTube when changes are made that temporarily “break” services like this. It’s quite simple to use: just copy the link of the YouTube video you would like to save, paste it into the URL box at the top of KeepVid’s site, click the “Download” button, then select which quality and format you would like to download the video in from the links that show up afterward. From copying the link to visiting the site and running through the process, you can have a video downloading in under 7 seconds! To note, KeepVid also supports downloading videos from Vimeo, Google Video, DailyMotion, Metacafe, and Megavideo.
Visit site: KeepVid

2 – JDownloader: This program is one of my favorite programs, period! For Windows, Mac, and Linux, JDownloader is a download manager for just about every site imaginable that streams and hosts files. You can have it monitor your clipboard so that it automatically grabs links you copy, so if you find that you want to download something like a whole series of videos from YouTube, you can just copy the link for each of them and they’ll automatically paste into JDownloader. Removing the step of having to paste all of those links really helps to save some time. And like KeepVid, JDownloader allows you to choose the quality and format you’d like to download YouTube videos. But really, this functionality is but a minor piece of a greater sum, for JDownloader is SO much more.

If you have any premium accounts with sites like RapidShare, HotFile, FileServe, etc., you can enter your log-in credentials for those sites and furiously download files from them with only the limitation of your bandwidth. Not only that, but because it’s a download manager at its core, you can queue up download links from just about anywhere. And for sites that require you to enter CAPTCHA information (the pictures with weird, almost unreadable word combinations/numbers, like “Bicycle PancaKeS”), JDownloader will auto-enter that information from CAPTCHAs it recognizes (offhand, MegaUpload is one site I know it recognizes them from)! Definitely check out JDownloader if you’re looking to download YouTube videos en masse.
Visit site: JDownloader

3 – DownloadThemAll!: For my Internet browsing needs, I primarily use Firefox. As such, I have a multitude of add-ons that I use, including download manager add-ons like “DownloadThemAll!”. Unlike the two suggestions above which have YouTube download capabilities, this add-on is solely for “other curious things.” If you’ve ever been on a page with a ton of pictures, MP3s, documents, or other file types, “DownloadThemAll!” gives you the ability to download all of those files with just a few clicks. So, instead of having to save 100 pictures, songs, PDFs, or whatever else file-by-file, you can quickly save them all to a folder of your choosing. Once installed, it’s as simple as right-clicking on a page, selecting “DownloadThemAll!…”, then choosing the folder you would like to save the files to and clicking “Start!”. It also has plenty of functionality for you advanced users who would like to specify/negate certain file types to download (like if you work with files that have uncommon file extensions that “DownloadThemAll!” doesn’t recognize), etc. Overall, an invaluable add-on if you frequently download groups of files.
Visit site: DownloadThemAll!

That’s it! Those are the three solutions (outside of the old standby, that is; “right-click, save target as…”) I use to download YouTube videos and other curious things. Again, these are far from the only solutions out there, and while my chosen three may not be “the best” or the most efficient, they’re certainly good enough for me; an individual who has yet to harness the virtue of patience.

Do you have any personal recommendations for download managers/sites/programs/add-ons you’d like to contribute? Please do so in the comments below!

Credit -Stephen Chapman [Zdnet]

Is This the Flexible Tablet of the Future? [VIDEO]

Yes, the tablets of today are cool, handy devices, but if Samsung makes good on the promises from its latest video, showing a conceptual tablet with a flexible AMOLED screen, then the tablets of the future will make the current ones look ancient in comparison.

In the video, a see-through device made entirely of a flexible, AMOLED touch screen is used to take photos, watch videos, read news, play 3D games and translate speech from one language to another – and it all looks amazing.

Of course, a device such as this one is years — decades, perhaps — from mass production. One issue that immediately springs to mind is the problem of equipping such a device with a battery and the needed circuitry (all of which would also need to be flexible), and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

However, the flexible AMOLED screen technology has been in development for years, and it’s about time we start seeing some real-world results — perhaps next year, when Samsung and Nokia should introduce the first flexible smartphones to the market. We’re sure they won’t look as spectacular as the device in this video, but one can dream, no?

Video Credit [Samsung] Post [Via Mashable]

Kenyan Mobile Money Mapping System [Crowdpesa] to be Launched 14th Dec. 2011

Crowdpesa, a mobile money mapping system that enables its users to find the nearest M-PESA agent,KRA payment point, ATM or Bank, is scheduled to launch officially on December 14, 2011. The Event will be hosted at the iHub Nairobi and will start at 6 p.m. Various representatives from the Information Technology industry and the Financial Sector are expected to grace the occasion.

Crowdpesa provides users with the convenience of locating financial and mobile money distribution points so as to allow for faster and more efficient transactions such as sending, saving and receiving money. The system uses a Geographic Information System (GIS) to locate their users on a map. It then proceeds to give them a list of financial distribution points closest from where they are. The user also receives a calculated distance from the service and the shortest possible route to the service.

Through its crowdsourcing model users can add new distribution points, take photos of distribution points and provide ratings and comments for the same. The system also provides crowd data analysis and periodical reports on findings on the crowdpesa platform. The crowdsourcing element and mapping aspect is supported by the Ushahidi platform.

Crowdpesa is available as a downloadable mobile application and also on the web platform http://www.crowdpesa.com

From Tunisia to SA, apps take Africa by storm -Part III

Read Part One here. || Part Two Here

Appfrica is a software development firm that also facilitates, mentors and incubates entrepreneurs in software in East Africa.

M-lab: Kenya recently launched Africa’s first mobile apps lab, m-lab.

The facility is aimed at encouraging innovation in the East African country and is supported by the World Bank, Nokia and the government of Finland.

Post Credit [www.theeastafrican.co.k]

From Tunisia to SA, apps take Africa by storm -Part II

Read Part One here

But it’s not all about social issues; African developers shake off this stereotype as they adopt apps as a key driver in the opening up of opportunities.

This trend is not region-specific but is most evident in countries where apps are more established such as South Africa, Ghana, Kenya, Tunisia and Egypt.

In these countries, apps exist as convenience tools and for entertainment value. Once again, these can play to Africa stereotypes: “iWarrior” the game where you protect your village from wild animals; apps on African tribes and apps on African wildlife. Then there are apps which stand out from the crowd, created to cater for the minorities.

Examples include the “Out in Africa,” an app which caters for the South African Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, and the “Bible society of Egypt” app.

There are countless apps that look to improve on the ease of business in Africa such as Google Trader, Soko, Kopo Kopo and many more. These apps act as classifieds, linking up potential business partners, assist in transactions or offer information. They boost development and promote business growth.

The most pronounced example of business growth, as a result of applications, is in South Africa — sub-Saharan Africa’s leader in app development.

This is because of its highly developed business sector, the diversity of its local market and its well-established IT sector.

South Africa’s Innovation Hub, established in Pretoria in 2002, was Africa’s first internationally accredited science and technology park.
Though South Africa continues to produce apps to assist where social services fail, such as the AfriDoctor, it also produces apps solely for entertainment value.

The DSTV app allows users to watch mobile television, the Stick Cricket app allows users to indulge in a batting game and “that roach game” is an app all about squashing cockroaches!

The appsphere is extremely diverse and ever-evolving according to Africa’s needs and wants. It has never been easier for African app developers and entrepreneurs to gain a global market for their services and products.

MobileMonday: In Dar es Salaam, about 70-80 young ICT entrepreneurs meet every first Monday of the month to discuss their ideas, new projects and trends in global markets.

They are part of a global open community MobileMonday which brings together industry visionaries, developers and influential individuals with the aim of fostering co-operation and cross-border business development through virtual and live networking events

Apps4Africa: Apps4Africa is a contest to highlight the talent of local developers in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania and to leverage the power of digital technology to make a better world.

The challenge is to build the best digital tools to address community challenges in areas ranging from healthcare to education and government transparency to election monitoring

Appfrica Labs: Based in Kampala, Uganda, this is part of AfriLabs, an independent foundation that represents a consortium of pan-African companies that have self-organised to form a fund for investment in African technology projects.

From Tunisia to SA, apps take Africa by storm

When thinking of African economies the time has come to think of tech innovation. Africa is making great technological strides, not only keeping up with the rest of the world but now providing serious competition in the global marketplace.

One area of innovation stands out in particular – apps.

These pieces of software are taking the continent, and world, by storm. In fact M-pesa, a mobile money transfer App first used in Kenya, is the most used app in the world, running 200 transactions per second.

African apps are built for the local market and are representative of the situation on the continent.

They can be accessed by a high number of individuals because many of them are based on mobile text messaging and not just web applications. This is useful on a continent that, according to the global mobile phone operators’ body, the GSM Association, is now second only to Asia in terms of mobile penetration, growing 20 per cent annually over the past five years.

One of the best examples is Tunisia, where almost 90 per cent of Tunisians have a mobile phone, and the market is shared between three mobile operators, two of which operate a 3G network.
This environment is ideal for the proliferation of apps. Another encouraging sign is the high uptake of smartphones in various countries across the continent such as Egypt, Kenya and South Africa.

The smartphone, which is becoming increasingly affordable, has been a key tool in increasing the penetration of this technology.

The development of the apps themselves has been encouraged by affordable bandwidth, the entry of mobile advertising companies into Africa’s application developer market and investments by companies such as Google and Nokia who have spurred application development in sub-Saharan Africa. Examples of this include Nokia’s “Create for Millions” Series 40 Mobile apps contest, launched in Kenya, and Google’s App Inventor tool which lets anyone create an App for Android phones.

Developers are further encouraged by the significant revenue streams that App stores (such as Ovi Store, Android Market) promise. The stores have a set figure of 70 per cent, of the revenue generated by apps, going to the developer!

This is a vast improvement from the “deal” with African mobile operators who, according to Isabelle Gross’s Mobile apps for Africa: Strategies to make sense of free and paid apps (July 2011), take a minimum of 50 per cent of the revenue generated by SMS services.

The variety and ingenuity behind Africa’s apps is astounding, yet they do paint a vivid portrait of the grassroots of the African continent — offering solutions to the lack of services and infrastructure and situations of hardship.

The strong presence of non-governmental organisations is apparent in the cutting-edge mobile apps to solve African problems that have come out of East Africa in particular. Most of these apps got their funding from the social/development community.

Examples include the “iCow” app, an SMS-based mobile phone application specially developed for smalls-cale dairy farmers; “Maisha,” a child health App for expectant and first-time mothers and “Get H2O,” a game that allows users to negotiate issues of chronic water shortage.

The trend of the social benefit app has spread because of the organisations which fund it but it is important to acknowledge that it became entrenched because of the utilitarian motivations that drive many of the continent’s techies. Innovations come from the grassroots, from individuals who have experienced issues and now want to make a difference, which is why some apps aren’t even built to make money.

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