Ten Conclusions from Mobile Web East Africa Conference

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1. The importance and the unique needs for the local content was analyzed, discussed, dissected and the consensus is , people are willing to pay for the relevant local web content and the idea that people don’t want to pay for local web content is nonsense. Before you get excited remember people pay for good value adding content. Brett StClair put it bluntly ?There are good publishers and bad publishers..nobody is ready to pay for National Broadcaster?s content (sorry KBC) while all are willing to pay for DSTV..it is all about excellent content”

2. The cost of smart phones is out of reach for many people in the region but surprisingly quite a number still use smart phones in Africa, making at least 18% of the mobile web traffic. Probably South Africa plays a major role in pushing up that number. And still on that Safaricom completely changed the definition of smart phones; to them anything that can access the internet is a Smartphone. Really? Was that lack of understanding or just yeah? Out of this world!

3. The representatives of the Government were in the Conference to showcase its sometime not very clear achievements . P. S Ndemo and Mr. Paul Kukubo of ICT Board listed them all, I know you can guess the first one right, yeah fiber optic cables lead the way. On the same breath they mentioned that many grants from the donors which they have been accumulating for years could at long last be available at the middle of the year. I had a small chat with Mr.Kukubo and he talked of August in particular although the call for applications will be done earlier. Well, as always when come to Government it is all about wait and see.

Mr. Paul Kukubo also promised that the Board will convene a meeting for developers and operators on Value Added Services.

4. ?Have it all or it has to be me only getting rich attitude? prevails everywhere in Kenya and in particular with the big businesses. People don?t mind when competing businesses try to outdo each other because in most cases they end up benefiting from that. But when small businesses and entrepreneurs start complaining of the big boys stealing their ideas, not ready to share the revenues in an equitable manner, not listening to anything they have to say then there is a big big problem. The case study for Conference was Safaricom, many developers have uncountable number of issues with Safaricom. To begin with, MPESA payment system is an excellent idea praised worldwide by all and sundry. But why Safaricom has never realized that opening their platform up for the developers to come up with other applications like online payment system will be to their advantage is beyond basic understanding. Actually AdMob described opening up the Mpesa SDK as “a gold mine” but was anybody from Safaricom listening ..mmmh there was a representative on the panel at the time. Surprisingly she mentioned that with Easy travel, you can pay for the tickets on their portal through MPESA. Great, so why don?t they allow the same kind of transactions on the other web portals? It is now a common knowledge that MPESA project is not owned by Safaricom and they have to get authorization from UK. Even if that is the case, UK being more advanced market than Kenya someone from there should have understood this more than anybody else and pushed for implementation long time ago. Do they actually monitor what people are saying about their project in Kenya?

5. Almost 33% of the population of Africa have access to a mobile phone. This is up from 2% at the beginning of the year 2000. Now that growth is something worth talking about and it is a clear indication that mobile internet is the next big driver for internet access and data consumption in Africa and other emerging markets. Are people of East Africa prepared for this? Probably not as well as the South Africans. To start with some of the guys from South Africa did not understand why we are all complaining about Safaricom, you know Safaricom is expensive , you know Safaricom is not opening up their API, you Safaricom is Safaricon.

During one of the lunch breaks, a lady, I guess from South Africa commented on the issue and asked if Safaricom is all that why is there no mass migration from the network? Even Peter Arina from Safariom eluded to that fact, somehow indicating that they are the biggest mobile phones network operator in Kenya because they give the best services and cost. And at one point Brett StClair… told developers to take Safaricom head on…”You can be bigger than them?. I guess it is high time we stop whining, and do something.

6. At the end is texting bad for the language and specifically for the young people who use SMS language. How about unstructured language like sheng (mashup language of English & Swahili), can there be standards for communicating using sheng? Considering character limitations on the mobile phones combined with the cost of sending SMS, teens tend to come up with a creative ways to write SMSes. Shorten the words to the extent that if you are not from their league you might take the whole day trying to understand what they are talking about. Unfortunately characters limitations has been extended to the web, tweeting or updating your status in Iborian or Facebook is limited to a certain number of characters, 140 in twitter. What can you tell the world in 140 characters? According to @stevevosloo “Teens don’t read enough, Teens don’t write enough and they love their phones” Back to the cost of sending SMS, it the most expensive thing I have ever seen coming from mobile phones network operators. Imagine at the moment Safaricom charge me Ksh.1000 for internet data access for a whole week/7 days. During that time I am not limited to the amount of data I can access, while to send 1 SMS which is less than 1kb I am charged Ksh.3.50 and even more if I do to it to another network.

7. Mobile web apps are in high demand and could be the hottest stuff for the developers right now. Nokia promised to support local apps that add value in the Ovi store. Develop the application and you have a chance to sell it through Ovi store. At the same time AMREF is looking for someone to develop for them m-learning application which can be deployed almost worldwide. Great opportunities here

8. In Kenya 1 doctor serves 7000 patients. How can mobiles close that gap? Well, there is www.mydokta.com, where you can get your health issues addressed through mobile phone and on the web. It make it easy for the doctors to schedule the appointment and serve still as many number as the statistics suggests but do it efficiently and adequately.

9. Still don?t have an office, busting with ideas but nowhere to put your plans or thoughts to action, meet Nairobi iHub . With iHub the time for brief case companies which are associated with startup entrepreneurs is coming to an end. This a complete innovative center with high speed internet and other facilities like servers where local developers can test their applications. Check it out here ihub.co.ke/

10. Kenyan answer to paypal is..pasapal, I wish they should have named it something else. The answer should never resemble the question in literal sense. But all in all a great idea and I people dealing with e commerce systems like www.maduqa.com would be the first ones to look for Agosta Liko. For news, projects and research about mobile learning in Africa go to mlearningafrica.net

Finally, that was a wonderful conference with wonderful people and great speakers. Thanks to Mathew Dawes for making it all possible. At long last for the first time I met @wanjiku, @Moseskemibaro, @jwesonga, @larrymadowo, @paulkukubo, @whiteafrican, @tmsruge @kahenya

What is your opinion on the topic?
Kennedy Kachwanya
Lead Blogger at Kachwanya.com
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Kennedy Kachwanya is a technology blogger interested in mobile phones both smart and dumb, mobile apps, mobile money, social media, startups ecosystem and digital Savannah. New media must not forget the strength of old tech.
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