Tag Archives: kenya

can discarded phone booths be used to kickstart micropayments?

Andrewhydeheadshot_normalandrewhyde: rt @dllavoy just occurred to me. could payphones be considered the first micropayment model? about 2 hours ago · Reply · View Tweet

Andrew Hyde of TechStars retweeted  a simple thought by Deb Louison Lavoy on why pay phones could not be used for micropayments. I thought I’d share this on my blog for your thoughts.

This reminds me of an equally interesting project called Question box that converts discarded phone booths in rural villages into a knowledge re-sources.

The idea was simple:

Users place a free call by pushing the green button. They connect to an operator sitting in front of an Internet-enabled computer. Users ask the operator questions. The operator goes online and finds their answers, translating them into the local language.

Question Box brings relevant information to people who cannot access the Internet directly. It overcomes barriers of illiteracy, language and limited penetration in rural India and Africa. Villagers have access to immediate, relevant information using the most simple mode of communication:  voice.

While this is great, Question Box’s successful pilots coupled with Deb’s post brings up an interesting question. Can these same discarded phone booths also serve the purpose of collecting micro payments? – Phone booths already have the ability to collect money and transmit data over phone lines.

With little modification, phone booths could serve to kick start micro payments in rural Africa for those still be disconnected to the banking and communication grid.

These are my $0.02 ; your thoughts welcome ..

tag: afrigadget, appfrica, jobsworth

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On why Obama’s win matters to Africa and what the continent expects from America

Today in the Daily Nation, Kenya’s premier newsprint, there is a beautifully written article on Obama’s win, what it means to the country that gives him his last name, and what Africa expects from an Obama-Biden administration.

On what Africa expects from the United States:

Africa does not expect alms from the United States now that an African-America is soon to be sworn in as its president.

That was not the point of the overwhelming goodwill and support that the continent lent to President-elect Barack Obama in his audacious, and wildly successful, fight for the most powerful office on the planet.

Kenya is proud of Mr Obama, his almost unimaginable achievement, and just like he has inspired tens of millions of Americans, we too shall draw inspiration from his example.

On what Barack Obama’s win means for Africa:

His victory provides evidential justification for disadvantaged minorities and people of color to reassure their children that they too can rise above the limitations of their station, the sins of their parents, and the disadvantages of their circumstances.

And it is a lesson to every African father to create the right conditions for their children, to not allow the limitations of their own vision to be a hindrance to the aspirations of their offspring.

To Africa and the entire black race, Mr Obama is the vindication of our humanity.

and On Africa’s hope for Barack:

Africa hopes Mr Obama realizes that access to opportunities is not a preserve of Americans. While protecting America’s prosperity, he must have something to say about fair trade, particularly for Africa.

The earth is dying, poisoned by the avarice of man. Those who profit from the poisoning will not even acknowledge that their activities pose a danger to humanity.

Africa expects Mr Obama to add his voice to those cautioning that we shouldn’t live just for today but must take care of tomorrow too.

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Why Ushahidi must succeed in the DRC Congo and how to help?

The DRC deployment can be found at http://DRC.ushahidi.com, and the mobile number to send SMS reports to is +243992592111
Internally Displaced People leave Kibati heading north from the city to their villages, Kibumba and Rugari, north of the provincial capital of Goma, Congo, on November 2, 2008. Several thousand people displaced in the fighting between rebels and government troops in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo began returning home Sunday as a ceasefire held, an AFP correspondent on the scene reported. (YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images)

Internally Displaced People leave Kibati heading north from the city to their villages, Kibumba and Rugari, north of the provincial capital of Goma, Congo, on November 2, 2008. Several thousand people displaced in the fighting between rebels and government troops in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo began returning home Sunday as a ceasefire held, an AFP correspondent on the scene reported. (YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images)

Full Photo Set from the DRC here: http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2008/11/conflict_in_congo_refugees_on.html

The Ushahidi team released an instance of their crowd sourced crisis reporting engine for the Congo today.

Just days after announcing their alpha release Ushahidi already has it’s first major crisis deployment at hand. The team took a collective decision last week to work overtime and deploy in the Democratic Republic of Congo even though the Engine is still in Alpha and has some kinks — everyone agrees that the current situation is dire and we could not justify the wait.

The Congo poses a difficult, but all too common crisis situation and the team is working overtime to tackle multiple challenges. Hundreds of thousands have been displaced into refugees, many of them sick, wounded and starving. Since this is an open source project, a major part of the work is done by volunteers ALL of whom believe in the necessity of accurate reporting in a time of crisis.

Ushahidi was very effective when first deployed to document the incidents of violence and looting during the post-election crisis in Kenya, but more than the need for accurate reporting, the assimilated incident reports help Coordinate Humanitarian Resources and Aid to those most afflicted by the conflict.

I believe in Ushahidi. There are numerous reasons why Ushahidi must succeed, but most of all because it holds parties accountable for their atrocities when humanity is at its worst — thus preserving some dignity for those dispossessed.

How to Help?

  1. Get the Word Out Help spread the word that the website is live. Share this with everyone you know – the more the people know about what is happening on the ground, and the more the media keep their focus on this story, the more likely our leaders will intervene to make a difference.
  2. Help verify and collect reports: Unlike our first installation in Kenya, the Congo poses some real challenges for the Ushahidi team. UN peacekeepers and NGo’s are being evacuated in droves and we need to get the message to the people on the ground in the Eastern Congo that this tool is now available for them to report incidents in on. If you have contacts there, or can help spread the word through some other means, tell them about our SMS number +243992592111
  3. Help make Ushahidi better: Since Ushahidi is an open source effort, we are always looking for help to make the tool better. We are still in the Alpha Stages of development but David Kobia and the team decided that we had a stable enough install to have a working version for the Congo. We are always working out kinks and incorporating lessons learnt. Hop on over to the Ushahidi blog for up to date updates and reach out if you think you can help.

Learn more about Ushahidi and how you can help here

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Kenyan marks 10 years since the US Embassy attack

Rescuers working after the American Embassy in Kenya was bombed on Aug. 7, 1998

NYTimes: Rescuers working after the American Embassy in Kenya was bombed on Aug. 7, 1998

On this day, August 7th 1998 – hundreds of innocent lives were lost and thousands more ruined in a senseless twin attack on the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Hatred had reared its ugly head in the streets of these beautiful African cities. Nairobi’s streets, once famous their beautiful carpet of purple Jacaranda flowers were now littered with glass and debris.

Its fair to say that many dreams had once gained flight outside this building,  including my own. A month before the incident, I had huddled outside its doors with a dozen hopeful applicants – never would we have imagined such a fate.

On this day we remember those who were lost to this senseless tragedy; we remember those who stepped up in our time of need; those who helped rebuild shattered lives; and we recognize the need for peaceful co-existence — but most of all we recognize that the spirit of a nation may have been shaken but can never be shattered.

Peace to the world.

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My first glimpse of Madiba

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela lovingly referred to as Madiba, was on a rush visit to Nairobi on a cold July morning in 1990. It was rumored that he was gravely ill from pneumonia and was visiting  one of our elite private hospitals for personal medical care  .. 27 years on a prison island can take a physical toll on any human body.

We were marched off from class in pairs of 2, holding hands to wave at the great man as he passed by our school. It was traditional that foreign dignitaries in presidential motorcades be greeted by eager flag waving kids wherever they went – it rejuvenated our President and bolstered his ego.

I was given a Kenyan flag to hold and given a spot right by the roadside. As minutes turned to hours my initial  excitement turned into restless anxiety and then boredom. The teachers insisted we practice waving flags so as to keep us occupied. Just as the teachers were losing hope – a policeman zoomed by on his BMW motorcycle. The kids arose in anticipation, then another motorcycle, then five more – the policemen were immaculately dressed with their shiny bikes and their white kidskin gloves. Mandela was on his way.

The presidential motorcade sped by us like lighting as we peered back eagerly trying to capture a glimpse. Then it happened. A frail old man with a feeble smile and piercing eyes raised his hand and looked out of the black Mercedes limousine. It was him. Mandela had smiled at us – for an 11 year old it was the closest I had come to history and although I didn’t realize it then something powerful had just taken place.

Mandela has come to signify the African spirit. Even at his frailest he had the presence of mind to acknowledge the kids who stood 2 hours for sight of him – Mandela cared. His steady gaze diminished all doubts that his love for life was waning and that he would return stronger.

This was my first glimpse of Nelson Mandela.

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Policy Notes on Africa for the next U.S President


Yesterday I had the good fortune of attending an event titled “Africa: The Next Development Miracle?” The lecture was hosted by the World Affairs Council Peninsula Chapter, and the speaker was Prof. Jeremy Weinstein, an assistant professor of political science at Stanford University and Director of the Center for African Studies.

The primary question for the evening was whether Africa will be the next development miracle or should we be prepared for continuing instability, violence, and economic stagnation? Also, what should the United States’ policies be?

Professor Weinstein presented his list of “Policies for the Next president” which I found interesting and felt summed up his lecture well:

  1. Security is a prerequisite to sustained growth (based upon the Copenhagen Consensus)
  2. Recognizing the critical role of institutions especially domestically driven institutions
  3. Encouraging experimentation with different models for development
  4. Using aid to support reform (such as the Millennium Challenge Corporation which has been a center piece of the Bush Africa policy)
  5. Providing assistance to where we know it works (HIV, malaria, water, education)
  6. Prepare for major disasters and shocks perhaps as a consequence of climate change
  7. Make Globalization work (not just trade but migration, property rights and the subsidization of appropriate essential technology)

While the jury is still out on what measures are best to encourage positive growth in Africa, the need for better policy to support thriving economies in Africa cannot be disputed.

There is still an unrelenting flow of disturbing headlines, soaring food prices and shortages, continued violence in Darfur, stolen elections in Zimbabwe and Kenya. Nevertheless the overall picture is far more positive. Africa is observing positive economic growth; democracy is on the rise; and great progress is being made in the fight against disease, as hundreds of thousands of Africans now have access to life-saving anti-retro viral treatment.

What policies have worked for your country and what policies and/or initiatives should the next U.S President support ?

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The iPhone lands in Africa (and worldwide in 70 countries)

Apple announces that the iPhone 3G will be available in 70 countries by the end of 2008 including 15 African Countries. The 3G version of this innovative phone, opens up the possibilities to numerous interesting applications. The iPhone 3G has a GPS antenae allowing location based reporting, promises to be a developer platform allowing widgets for blogging, and comes preinstalled with a host of useful applications.

While many have questioned whether Africa has the network capacity to support such a phone or if such a phone is even affordable, the general response has been positive. Jan Chipchase, a prominent user-research at Nokia compares the penetration of cellphone in Africa to “just-in-time” management – a theory employed successfully by Japanese auto maker Toyota to introduce efficiencies into the system. He gives examples of how cellphones have freed up labor, made business more efficient and improved the overall quality of life in rural africa.

The iPhone is a step in a positive direction. A prominent Africa- tech blogger Eric Hersman of WhiteAfrican, forecasts on his blog that “The data networks will become stronger to support it, and local developers will start building for apps”. Although most will not be able to afford the iPhone in Africa, many will – and these early adopters will drive the demand for better phones and applications for the African market. After all it took about 20 years for the first billion mobile phones to sell worldwide, the second billion sold in four years, and the third billion sold in two.

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