Sometime last year the Government through ICT Board and Ministry of Communication partnered with Nokia to do something. Yes, something because even PS Ndemo could not answer what that partnership was meant to do . Anyway that partnership brought to us Nokia Life, an sms based system meant for the feature phones.
According to Nokia , Nokia Life is designed to address information gaps so that consumers in emerging markets can be better informed and improve their livelihood, with targeted services for Healthcare, Agriculture, Education and Entertainment. The Nokia Life content is through SMS
Ok, I really don’t understand why the Government would partner with Nokia just to bring us this crappy system. To start with during the launch Ps. Ndemo kept on preaching for people to develop local content. Now there are many local apps that by far already doing what Nokia Life is meant to do. Why the Government never thought it is wise to partner with them, as a way of promoting local content is beyond my understanding. And here is the reason why I think partnering some of the below mentioned start-ups would have made more sense:
One of the function of Nokia Life is Agriculture: – Allow the users to Access to the latest market prices, weather and agricultural tips. The problem with this , like the other functions of this system is that it does not have the content. So Nokia and others involved are waiting for someone to plug in and provide the content. If that does not happen soon then you are left with empty delivery pipe. Already in Kenya there are a number of start-ups providing the agriculture information and the famous among them is M-Farm. M-Farm already provide the price comparison, connect the farmers with the buyers and provide market data and daily updates. Partnership with the Government probably would have helped them build their capacity to provide more local content the Government is preaching about
Another function of Nokia Life is Education:- It is meant to help improve the general knowledge of the users directly from the mobile device in the local language and in this case Kiswahili. I know the use of the phrase “local language” makes people think that such a project would be attractive to the locals but what I know is that most of the Kiswahili projects have failed miserably. Google for example have Kiswahili version of their Google.co.ke but how many people use it in Kenya. Facebook abandoned the Kiswahili version of Facebook and even most Kiswahili books are only read in schools. This is an English brainwashed country. You see Kenyans laughing at Kenyans athletes who can not express themselves in English during interviews after winning races. Yes they do that , instead of encouraging them to speak the language they understand . But apart from that there a number of start-ups already working on delivering education materials to the general public and the students a like. Some of those start-ups are Mprep, Elimu Kenya, E-kitabu. The best thing about these guys is that they already have the delivery systems and the content required. A partnership with the Government would go a long way in helping them unlock some of the education institutions which are still living in the analogue age.
Another function of Nokia Life is Entertainment: Let me just say that may be the Government has never heard of Ghafla!
On top of the above I have said several times that the time is up for the Dumb phone sms or USSD applications. Kenyan people are moving with full speed to smart phones or internet enabled phones. Safaricom for example announced recently that they are phasing out feature phones from their shops and soon will be selling smartphones only. USSD applications have no money and this is not different. Nokia Life charges the user from Ksh.2 per sms. The network operators get their cut for delivering SMS, the remaining is being shared by Nokia and the content provider for the system. I am not sure about the revenue share ratio, but we know very well that network operators would never dare work with something that they are losing out from. Simply put this is a lost cost for content providers even if they want to.