The African Mobile Revolution
Innovation always has to correspond with the needs of the people. Mobile phones are one of those innovative devices that have opened doors to a modern world and to many opportunities. It is true that we get many nonsensical apps from our Smartphone. But, the unique mobile apps developed in the recent years, in ‘Dark Continent’ are slowly transforming Africa for the better. The continent lacks educational and medical facilities, adequate banking services, power outrages, and is plagued by many other social problems. All these overshadowing troubles are solved to an extent by the innovation in the African mobile industry.
The young entrepreneurs of Africa are not developing apps only for money, but also to make life better for the fellow humans. Service-based apps have helped mobile payments and banking, which in turn have helped grow businesses domestically. Kenya is the forerunner in this mobile revolution. More than 65% of the people are sending and receiving money locally through their mobile phones. ‘M-Pesa’ is the most subscribed mobile payment app (with 21 million subscribers), which offers them secure, cost, and time-saving solutions.
The agricultural sector is also going through a good transformative phase because of mobile technology. ‘SokoniSMS 64’ is the most popular service in Kenya for farmers, who can gain significant information about crop prices before traveling a long distance to the markets. These services employ simple SMS text to immediately transfer information about wholesale and retail prices of crops. ‘M-Farm’ is another famous application that passes information to farmers, eliminating the middlemen. An app called iCow helps farmers to keep track of different cow’s individual gestation. It also charts details about feeding, schedules and even the contact information of the local veterinary doctor.
‘mPedigree’ was an important app, found in Ghana, in 2007 to protect people from the counterfeit pharmaceuticals. Studies reveal that nearly 30% drugs in Africa are counterfeits. The mPedigree app connects mobile phones to a registry that contains information about the origins of brand pharmaceuticals. A person needs to simply enter a serial number and then through text messaging they are notified about the authenticity of the given product.
‘Message Optimizer’ service developed by London and Hong Kong based software developer ‘ForgetMeNotAfrica’ enables a mobile phone, that is only fit to receive or make calls to transform itself into Smartphone by sending and receiving e-mails, check a Facebook account and chat online, all these without internet access. This service allows Africans to get access to the internet without purchasing expensive Smartphone or data connection. MO spread rapidly in the rural where 72 percent of the continent’s 1 Billion people are living. Frontline SMS is another service that has been downloaded over 20,000 times to post messages without using the internet. It has facilitated countless organizations to improve communication in the remote areas.
Boko Haram, the Islamic militant and the kidnapper of 274 boarding school girls in Nigeria is intent to cast away all kinds of western influences. But, he can’t stop the great telecommunications revolution in Nigeria. By December 2013, 70% of Nigeria’s 169 million populations had mobile subscriptions. Only one-fifth of these mobile subscriptions are for Smartphone. The Nigerian phone market and the rest of Africa are mostly made up of Asian market 2G, feature mobile devices. In South Africa, browsing through Facebook or twitter takes only the fourth place, losing to camera functions and music. Among the internet users ‘WhatsApp’ is said to be making a killing. More than half of South African mobile internet users are using the green instant messenger.
Although the Africans are developing some great apps there’s not enough of a good PR job. These mobile applications may not totally eradicate the problems in Africa, but it provides a fitting tool to enable communication, which in a way increases the information flow within a society. Knowledge, information and communication may eventually play a small or big role in the modernization that could help the Africans to win the struggle against half-witted radicals.