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Where Africa and Technology Collide!

Category: Interviews (page 2 of 3)

African Signals & AfriGadget Update

Besides WhiteAfrican.com, I also write two other African technology-related blogs. AfriGadget is a team blog, dedicated to showcasing African ingenuity. African Signals is a multimedia outlet for interviews, videos and podcasts on news and news makers in Africa.

African Signals - Broadcasting African Tech News

African Signals
The last week few weeks have been very interesting for me, primarily because I’ve had the chance to do a number of Skype interviews with entrepreneurs and technologists around Africa. I’ve found that video and audio editing is time consuming, but the experience has proved to be extremely rewarding. I’d like to start adding a weekly news overview, so look for that soon.

Besides interviews, I’m starting to push more of African multimedia content towards African Signals. With my upcoming trip to South Africa, Kenya and Tanzania look for more interviews and reports from those countries soon.

Recent posts:

How Big is South Africa’s Informal Sector? (Video)

Refurbished Computers for Schools in Kenya (Video)

AfriGadget - showcasing African ingenuity

AfriGadget
AfriGadget keeps on rolling. Interestingly enough, even though we’re always scrambling for new stories and it gets update irregularly, AfriGadget has the most pickups by major news outlets out of all the blogs that I write. More than 500 people pull the blog feed, and it has shown up on very large sites ranging from MAKE:magazine to BoingBoing to Wired.

Recent posts:

Solar Power in Madagascar (Video)

Creating Windmills from Old Bicycle Parts and Roofing Materials

African Children’s Toys: Ingenuity Starts at a Young Age

Summary
I want to thank everyone who links to, comments and contributes to all of these web sites. If you see a great example of African ingenuity, have news to share, or come across someone that should be interviewed, send me an email through my contact form.

Only true journalists are worth reading, and other links of interest

Only true journalists are worth reading, or so we’re told…
Like a lot of the South African blogosphere, I’m a little stunned by the arrogance and sarcasm coming from Sunday Times columnist David Bullard. He writes an essay where bloggers are considered the sociopathic “air guitarists” of media. Vincent Maher goes on the offensive against Bullard and sums up some great points on why his essay is so myopic.

African Signals has been picking up:
Here are two of the recent interviews on African Signals. If I thought I knew a lot about what was going on in the industry in Africa, I’m getting an education on the real scope of change that is happening throughout the continent. Now, more than ever, I know that the tech revolution in Africa has begun.

Interviewing the Maker of the Nigerian SMS Election Monitoring System – Ken Banks

A Talk with Eric Osiakwan of AfrISPA

A Paul Graham Essay
Paul Graham generally has incredibly well written essays. This one is no different. In it he compares unions to startups.

An Alternative Theory of Unions – Paul Graham

African Signals: a New Technology Podcast for Africa

African Signals LogoToday I’d like to announce a new technology news site for Africa, called African Signals (www.africansignals.com). It’s a place where I will be interviewing technologists around the world who are doing work in and for Africa. You’ll also see walkthroughs of new products and hear of upcoming events.

This first episode is where I stumble all over myself trying to do a simple African Signals intro (video) and also an interview with Mike Stopforth (audio) from Afrigator.com.

If you know someone to interview or would like to be interviewed, want to let people know of upcoming events, or any other news – let me know via the African Signals contact form.

I’ve learned a couple important facts about myself in the process of putting together African Signals. First, it needs to be about the people I’m interviewing and the products, not me – since I don’t have that compelling of an on-air presence. Second, doing video is a pain in the rear, but that it’s good to stretch myself into unfamiliar areas.

I need to give a big thanks to Jason Hawkins for putting together the intro sequence and doing the first video shoot. He’s an amazing video and tech guy, that I highly recommend to everyone. He’s also a CSS and XHTML wizard for anyone interested in having a website created. I can’t promise that all the video will be of this quality, especially while I’m on the road.

[Fair warning: this is my first time doing anything like this and it will probably be a little rough in the beginning…]

An African Aggregator Roundtable Discussion

Last week I had a chance to sit down and have a conference call (Skype chat) with the technology brains behind the latest buzz in the African blogosphere: The Aggregators.

African Blog Aggregator RoundtableJustin Hartman (Afrigator), Vincent Maher (Amatomu), Neville Newey (Muti) and Matthew Buckland (Amatomu) got together for a half hour to discuss their creations. Having that much brain power pointed in my direction left me feeling vaguely uncomfortable, but they were all nice enough chaps and didn’t make me feel like a complete tech-peasant, for which I thank them. 🙂

Bullet-point takeaways:

  • Neville points out that Muti is actually not an aggregator (I apologize)
  • Amatomu is positioning itself for the greater non-blogging readership, not just the bloggers
  • Afrigator has a plan to grow through a mobile phone strategy
  • Justin coins the term “Afrosphere” to describe the African blogosphere
  • There is a need to be wary of South African domination of platforms
  • Amatomu plans to grow outside of South Africa regionally
  • Everyone aggrees that broadband connectivity is hugely important for future growth

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African Digerati: Ethan Zuckerman

African Digerati: Ethan Zuckerman

Ethan Zuckerman is the 5th in the African Digerati series of interviews. Honestly, I’m amazed with what Ethan has done with technology and what he continues to do – so much of which directly benefits Africans. His line-up of web projects is simply amazing. What isn’t mentioned here is that he founded Geekcorps, a non-profit technology volunteer corps, that creates real tangible technology change on the African continent. He’s also on my “required reading” list of African bloggers.

Blog and/or website:
Theere’s a few of them. My personal blog is “My Heart’s in Accra”. I’m deeply involved with BlogAfrica and Global Voices, and I’m the chairman of the non-profit that runs Worldchanging.com.

What do you do:
Heh. I take great pride in the fact that I’ve never had a job… which is to say, I try to work on projects that are so much fun to work on that they don’t feel like work. These days, I work on a wide range of projects that focus on technology in developing nations, and my compensation is sometimes monetary, sometimes less tangible. Over a dozen years ago, I would have told you I was a “software architect” – I helped build Tripod.com, one of the first webhosting sites. Nowadays, my job title at Global Voices is “co-founder and big geek”, and my responsibilities include management, fundraising and oversight of our technical architecture.

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Reaching the Long Tail of Banking in Kenya

Recently I wrote an article on DrumNet, which is a mobile based information exchange for farmers in rural Kenya, who’s banking partner is Equity Bank. Yesterday at the Kenyan Investment Conference I was able to track down and spend some time with the president of Equity Bank, James Mwangi, and Allan Waitata, to discuss some of their background and their future as it relates to technology.

Interestingly enough, Equity Bank built itself up as the “common Kenyan’s” bank by going after the rural customer with only a small amount of income. They have built this business up over the years until it has displaced the other more established banks in Kenya – they now hold the largest market share of people at 1.2 million (33%). [You can read more about the history and mission of Equity Bank, read African Path’s interview with James Mwangi.]

So, here is a bank who is building into the long tail – that great theory that made Google the giant on the internet, which has fueled Wal-Mart’s growth, and that is making billions of dollars at Apple with iTunes. The basic tenant is that Equity Bank is reaching more people and making less margin per transaction, but because they’re making so many transactions they are very very successful.

Here’s a graph to illustrate the banking industry in Kenya:

The Long tail of banking in Kenya

As can be seen, there is a great deal of business to be had by reaching this under served demographic. However, to reach that demographic takes a good deal of work, a proper word-of-mouth marketing campaign, and a solid service offering worth talking about. Judging by the lines at the Equity Bank sign-up tables here in Atlanta, they’re doing all three things very well.

African Digerati: Rafiq Phillips

Rafiq Phillips

Rafiq Phillips is 4th in the African Digerati series of interviews. He is a South African who is heavily invested in development on the web and mobile devices. His application, iDrive, a source for driving school instructors has been made available on both web and mobile platforms. Rafiq is also very active within the African blogosphere through the Web AddiCT’s blog.

Like the others who have been interviewed so far, Rafiq is actively taking part in the discussions that will move Africa ahead using technology, and is also doing it.
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African Digerati: “M” From Thinker’s Room

African Digerati - M

“M” is the third in the African Digerati series of interviews. His cryptographic alias is part of the brand that he has built within the Kenyan Blogosphere around his blog Thinker’s Room. If popularity of a blog is shown by the number of commenters on any one blog post, then it can be argued that Thinker’s Room is at the top of the list.

One of the projects that M has worked on, which is not mentioned in this interview, is Mzalendo, a website whose mission is to keep “an eye on Kenyan Parliament”. They do this by showing profiles of politicians, voting records and providing news and transparency in an historically opaque arena. It’s this ground breaking website, along with his community on Thinker’s Room that makes him a force in digital Africa.
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South Africa’s M&G Goes Mobile

Mail & Guardian MobileLast week South Africa’s Mail & Guardian newspaper went mobile (actually, they had a closed subscription-based service prior, but this is open to everyone). You can find the mobile version at http://wap.mg.co.za. What was particularly interesting about this was how simple of an interface they came up with, which made it possible to develop in a day and test for one week (that’s insanely fast by the way!).

I had a chance to catch up with Vincent Maher, their online strategist, to ask a few questions. I asked what technologies they had used, and why they had decided to go with them. It turns out that they used all open source platforms and that they are very much committed to web standards in implementation. Of all the things that Vincent said, the next quote is the most telling to me:
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African Digerati: Neville Newey

African Digerati - Neville Newey

[Disclosure: Though I think Neville is doing some truly unique things, I must in full disclosure admit that I have been working with him over the last year on some different web projects.]

Neville Newey is the second in the African Digerati series of interviews. What he wouldn’t say here, because he is too humble, is that he takes his own initiative to create change. Anyone who has worked with him knows how open he is to discussing ideas and features – this is a rare trait to have in our profession, where everyone seems to get their egos tied up in their work.

Many people don’t know who is the magician behind Muti, that would be Neville. He created it from scratch after he saw how powerful the idea was at Reddit and that something similar was needed within the African web space.
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