Africa: Turning the World Upside Down

Whitespace in business is defined as a place, “…where rules are vague, authority is fuzzy, budgets are nonexistent, and strategy is unclear…” It’s the space between the organizational chart, where the real innovation happens. It’s also a great definition for what we see in Africa, and it’s the reason why it’s one of the most exciting places to be a technology entrepreneur today.

I just finished with a talk at PopTech on Saturday where I talked about “The Idea of Africa” and how Western abstractions of the continent are often mired in the past. It’s not just safaris and athletes, poverty and corruption – it’s more nuanced than that.

Today I’m in London for Nokia World 2011 and am speaking on a panel about “The next billion” and how it might/might not turn the world upside down. In my comments tomorrow, I’ll probably be echoing many of the same thoughts that came out over the weekend at PopTech.

Here are a few of the points that we might get into tomorrow:

Horizontal vs Vertical scaling

I talk a lot about this with my friend Ken Banks, where we look to scale our own products (Ushahidi and FrontlineSMS) in a less traditional format. As entrepreneurs you’re driven to scale, but our definition of scale in the West tends to be monolithic. Creating verticals that are incredibly efficient, but which decreases resilience.

In places like Africa, we have this idea of horizontal scaling, where the product or service is grown in smaller units, but spread over multiple populations and communities. Where a smaller size has its own benefits.

In this time of corporate and government cuts, where seemingly oversized companies are propped up in order to not fail, there are some lessons here for the West. We shouldn’t be surprised that the solutions to the West’s problems will increasingly come from places like Africa.

Instead of thinking of Africa as a place that needs to be more like the West, we’re now looking at Africa and realizing the West need to be more like Africa.

Reverse distribution

Will we increasingly see a new set of innovative ideas, products and services coming from places like Africa and spreading to the rest of the world? Why is Africa such a fertile ground for a different type of innovation, a more practical one – or is it?

Disruptive ideas happen at the edge.

Africa is on the edge. While the world talks at great length about the shifting of power from the West (US/Europe) to the East (India/China), Africa is overlooked. That works in our favor (sometimes).

A couple of the ideas and products that have started in Africa and been exported beyond the continent include; Mpesa, Ushahidi and Mxit.


Mpesa – the idea came from Vodafone, but product met it’s success in Kenya. Over $8 billion has been transferred through it’s peer-to-peer payment system. Vodafone has failed to make the brand go global, but the model itself is being dissected and mimicked the world over.


Ushahidi – we started small, from Kenya again, and driven by our Crowdmap platform now have over 20,000 deployments of our software around the world. It’s in 132 countries, and the biggest uses of it are in places like Japan, Russia, Mexico and the US.


Mxit – the famous mobile chat software from South Africa has 3x the number of Facebook users in that country, and has over 25 million users globally.

Like we see at Maker Faire Africa, these innovative solutions are based on needs locally, many of them due to budgetary constraints. Some of them due to cultural idiosyncrasies. Often times, people from the West can’t imagine, nor create, the solutions needed in emerging markets, they don’t have the context and the “mobile first” paradigm isn’t understood.

A good example of this is Okoa Jihazi, a way to get a small loan of credit for your mobile phone minutes when you’re out of cash to buy them, from the operator. They’ve built some safeguards in to protect against abuse, such as you have to have had the SIM for 6 months in order to get the service. It works though, because the company selling it (and many of the mobile operators do across Africa) understands the nuanced life of Africa.

We hold on to technology longer, experiment on it, abuse it even. SMS and USSD are great examples of this, while much of the Western world is jumping on the next big technology bandwagon, there are really crazy things coming out in emerging markets, like USSD internet, payment systems, ticketing and more.

Throughout the world, the basic foundation of any technology success is based on finding a problem, a need, and solving it. This is what we’re doing in Africa. We have different use cases and cultures, which means that there will be many solutions. Some will only be valuable for local needs and won’t scale beyond the country or region. Others will go global. Both solutions are “right”, it’s not a failure to have a product that profitably serves 100,000 people instead of 100 million.

Turning the world upside down has as much to do with accepting this idea of localized success as an acceptable answer as it does with explosive global growth and massive vertical scale.

The Two Big Trends

Trend #1: Adoption by Africans as consumers is increasing.
Trend #2: Technology costs are decreasing

Let’s get back to my talk for tomorrow at Nokia… 87% of sub-$100 phones sold by Nokia are sold in emerging markets. 34% of Africa’s population (313 million) are now considered middle class. The fastest growing economy in the world is Ghana, 5 of the top 10 are African countries (including Liberia, Ethiopia, Angola and Mozambique). Across the continent, the average GDP growth is expected to be at 5+% going forward.

At the same time, we’re seeing bandwidth increase, and bandwidth costs decrease. Mobile operators are the continents major ISPs, and they’re getting creative on their data plans. Handset costs are going down. Smart(er) phones are available for less than ever before. We even have one of the lease expensive Android phones in the world at $80 in Kenya, the IDEOS by Huawei.

Is it all bright and rosy? Not at all. You’re on the edge, you have to create new markets, not just new businesses. But in that challenge lies opportunity, for it’s from these hard, rough and disruptive spaces that great wealth is grown. If you’re an African entrepreneur, why would you want to be anywhere else?

Mobile Monday Takes Over the iHub

The only time I’ve ever seen an event have more people at the iHub is at the grand opening back in March, and Barcamp Nairobi over the summer. Today is Mobile Monday, an event that happens at the iHub about once per month, run by John Wesonga. It’s quickly becoming a big event to be at.

M-Farm

“Great ideas are always born on a tissue paper”

Jamila talks about the genesis of their idea, M-Farm: To bring farmers together to buy and sell together.

IPO48 put together a competition for Kenyan techpreneurs to pitch their ideas – the Akirachix won the 1,000,000 Ksh prize with the M-Farm idea.

How does it work?
Prices are found by information collection through crowdsourcing of that information from the farmers and by having people go out and find out the prices from the sellers as well, in locations all over Kenya.

Their goal is to give the farmer more information, through reports, to help the farmer make an informed decision on what to grow next. It’s a mixture of historical sales, predicted weather, and other information that would help them make a better decision. M-Farm works with the farmers cooperatives as well.

The unique thing about M-farm is the socialization of the farmers. It’s not just about information, it’s about the community.

Overlap

Limo Taboi and Kahenya are giving a presentation on overlapping, the term used by Kenyans when guys go into the wrong side of the road to pass others and cause a massive traction jam. Their new website is Overlap.co.ke.

“We have bad driving habits in Kenya.”

We’re trying to find a way for ordinary Kenyans to track eachother’s bad driving using the Ushahidi platform. This is everything from buses and matatus with no lights, to overlapping and reckless driving.

Right now it’s a citizen effort, but they’re hoping that one day the police will take note as well.

You can report in by submitting something to the website, by email in a report to overlap.kenya@gmail.com or using the #OverlapKE hashtag on Twitter.

Nokia Infrastructure Support

Nokia is a sponsor of tonight’s Mobile Monday. Agatha Gikunda is here to talk about the way Nokia is doing things in East and Southern Africa to engage with developers. They’re really trying to reach out to small businesses and developers to build more apps and services with Nokia software and for their handsets. Most of all, they want to help with the marketing of your new product, using the Nokia marketing infrastructure through partnerships.

One example of what they’re doing took place last week. They trained 25 developers in QT and Advanced Java at the University of Nairobi. 10 universities and key training institutions were engaged and participated in the training.

Another way they’re working with local developers and entrepreneurs is helping local app developers to market their product. Their example here is AfroHotorNot, an app that they go around and market at universities. Beyond local marketing, they also help you publish your work globally and make money off of your apps.

Other partners that Nokia has helped market globally, beyond Kenya are Sharper Innovations (LSU, Afrohotornot and Wazzup), Symbiotic Media (Tusker Project Fame and Daily Nation Media) and Shimba Technologies (Tuvitu App and MTV Music Awards app).

To get paid, Nokia takes 30% and pays out 70% to the developer. You have to have a local bank account to get paid directly, and the money is released once you reach around 100 Euros. There isn’t a really good way to get paid in Kenya, but they’re trying to get a deal with local mobile operators for operator billing to happen.

About 30 apps have been created by Kenyan devs for the Ovi Store. About 99% of those are local focused, only 3 are focused on the global market.

Agatha was asked about when they’ll have local billing integration. The answer is that they’re trying but they don’t know when it’ll happen.

To get started with the Nokia Ovi Store, go to publish.Ovi.com.

Safaricom and Innovation

“I tell my colleagues that you need to get off that ivory tower and start sitting with everyone. See what ticks.”

– Nzioki Waita, Head of Strategy and New Business at Safaricom

ICT is going to make the next 500k jobs in Kenya, and Safaricom plans to be on the forefront of that. He goes on to talk about how Safaricom is trying to be more friendly to smaller organizations and entrepreneurs in the country. You used to be able to predict with some certainty the types of value added services that would work. Now, enter the smartphone and data connections, and your phone is now a vehicle to a new destination. Life became more complex to us.

We now get people walking into our office saying “I have an idea, it will make money for both of us.” The people they were coming to talk to weren’t set up to take on these kinds of ideas. This made them form a “new products” division where Mpesa and the VAS team’s are seated.

They’ve moved away from the stages where you’d walk in with an idea and then you’d never hear from Safaricom again. Now they have to deal with the ideas, and they’re trying to understand a better way to do that (see my post on the Safaricom Innovation Board). They’re trying to figure out how to channel it.

What Safaricom is doing:

  • SDP (Service Delivery Platform) plus and App store launching at the same time.
  • Safaricom Academy (with Strathmore Univ). A way to get young innovators working on their ideas with training.
  • Incubation Centre. A small space within Safaricom to incubate ideas on their infrastructure
  • The Safaricom Innovation Board – A group who helps set policy and buffers devs from Safaricom and vice versa.
  • The Safaricom Garage – a place for devs to come and work on a portion of the Safaricom network (location based services, billing, etc.)

Nzioki won’t discuss revenue share, unfortunately. Too bad, they need to be a lot more open about the money side of this equation, otherwise it will be perceived as the same old Safaricom.

John Waibochi of Virtual City

Virtual City is also a sponsor for the Mobile Monday event, and John Waibochi, the CEO is here. Virtual City recently won the $1m Nokia Growth Economy Venture Challenge about 3 months ago.

Hardware Hacking Garages: hardware and accessories innovation

As many of you know, I’m the founder of the AfriGadget blog, and one of the organizers for Maker Faire Africa, which happened in Ghana last year and Kenya this year. Though I pretty much only build software apps and services, I’ve got a soft spot for hardware hacking. Last week I put an idea into the website for this month’s Open Innovation Africa Summit taking place upcountry in Kenya, put on by Nokia, infoDev and Capgemini. This is that idea.

I’m enthralled by software, apps and platforms. It’s the low hanging fruit with very few barriers to entry, it’s the place where a great deal of innovation is happening and where money is being made. However, when we look at innovation in Africa, we often overlook the hardware – yes, the handsets, but also the other devices and accessories that local engineers (trained/untrained) can get their hands dirty with. Sometimes this is pure fabrication, other times it’s hacking existing products, many times it’s a mixture of both.

We’re already seeing stories of the way guys are doing everything from creating their own vehicle security systems, home security systems, distance-triggered food preparation and even fish catching alerts. That’s with no support at all. What happens when you provide a space to make it faster, better and possibly an avenue to manufacturers and funders?


[Image above: a porridge making machine by a Malawian inventor, triggered by an SMS.]

Maker: Simon Kimani from Butterfly Works on Vimeo.

[Video above: Kenyan inventor creates an “SMS House Automation System” where you can give a command via the phone to  perform tasks, including turning on/off the TV, Lights.]

Hardware Hacking Garage
Ever since we put up the iHub (Nairobi’s Innovation Hub) this year, I’ve been thinking a lot more about a physical space as its own platform. We deal with the software side of the web and mobile innovation. We don’t have a parallel space for doing the same with hardware. I’m talking about a tinkering, micro-fabrication and engineering environment. This would require some space, basic tools and a few specialized electronics and computers to make it work.

Here are just a few areas (If you have any more ideas, put them in the comments and I’ll add them below):

  • Power hacks = using dynamos, solar, hydro and other  ideas to hack new power systems that work off the grid and in remote rural regions (made by the people who live there).
  • SD cards = digital storage. In fact, provide these with content  already on them, including books (libraries), encyclopedias, etc.
  • Arduino Boards = an open-source physical computing platform based on a simple input/output board and a development environment that implements the Wiring language.
  • DIY Mesh Networks = Adjusting and improving upon ideas like the Village Telco project
  • [From Solomon King] – If you’re to explore physical computing, you might need a wide array of sensors for environment management, we’re talking GPS, tilt swtiches, digital gyros, sonar, etc. This stuff is pretty expensive so having a  space to play with them (on-site) would be nice.

Physical Space
It’s important that the Hardware Hacking Garage be setup as a centralized resource for the inventor community. Memberships should be available to any inventor, or student, upon application and approval. Many times access to tools and a workshop is all that enterprising inventors, micro-entrepreneurs, and youth, need to create their first innovative project.

For a sustainable approach, this Hardware Hacking Garage could have a store attached, which can serve as a sales and marketing outlet for the devices, inventions and solutions created by the community.

This is an idea that effects everyone across Africa, a space like this is accessible and usable by young and experienced, rural and urban inventors and entrepreneurs. As much as we’d like to pretend that the ideas coming from outside of Africa will be picked up and used, the truth is that the ideas need to come from Africans for themselves and their community. An open Hacking Garage platform is where real hardware innovation for Africa will come from.

Virtual City’s Mobile Distributor Solution Wins Nokia’s $1m

John Waibochi of Virtual City, from Kenya, won the Nokia $1,000,000 Growth Economy Venture Challenge here at Nokia World today. This is an investment of $1m in John’s business, so it comes with support and connections that only an organization of Nokia’s size can provide. The award was given out by Stephen Elop, Nokia’s new CEO, as the first action of his at Nokia – this sends a certain signal to all devs around the world.

I asked John to give a quick soundbite on what this solution is:

John Waibochi wins the Nokia $1m Challenge from WhiteAfrican on Vimeo.

Here’s more:

Virtual City Ltd, a home-grown Kenyan company, has developed a solution that aims at addressing systemic issues along the Supply Chain for distributors and retailers of Fast Moving Consumer Goods in emerging markets. The Mobile Distributor Solution is designed to contribute to improved efficiencies and value to all the stakeholders in the value chain and result in increased number of transactions, accurate records, improved Inventory management & reporting from the field and effective management decision making. The solution will also bring value to a large number of beneficiaries comprising of thousands of small and micro enterprises in the FMCG Market.

It’s a product that can be monetized due to high demand by both retailers and distributors in Kenya. This is a very solid company, with a solid proposal. Seeing the video (not available yet) of this working with one of Africa’s leading beverage company’s was impressive.

From a Nokia Challenge perspective, this provides a solution that will bring value to a large number of beneficiaries comprising thousands of small and micro enterprises in the Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) Market through the smart application of mobile business and cashless payment technologies.

The project will generate revenue for the partners Virtual City and Nokia, while increasing the income levels of the stakeholders in the supply chain by opening up increased product sales coupled with additional benefits of mobile payment capabilities, transaction fees revenue, loyalty programs benefits, etc all facilitated by inexpensive and affordable mobile phones.

The new found ability to transact via mobile phones and use cashless means to make payments for goods or services, has the potential of availing solutions that the over 6 million users of mobile payment solutions from the telecommunication players can access and utilize in their business dealings, the aim is to fully utilize the potential that a mobile phone has in adding value to the user.

Background on Nokia’s Growth Economy Venture Challenge

Launched at CES 2010 by Nokia CEO, Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, Nokia’s Growth Economy Venture Challenge called on innovators from around the world to create a mobile product or service to improve the lives of people in developing nations and compete for the chance to win venture capital investment of $1 million.

Why is Nokia holding the Growth Economy Venture Challenge?

Nokia is a leader in enabling mobile technology to transform people’s lives for the better (through projects like Nokia Life Tools, etc.). Efforts like The Progress Project and the Nokia Growth Economy Venture Challenge endeavor to show the mobile community what is possible in order to focus the entrepreneurial spirit of innovators on accelerating transformation in these areas of the world. We see this Challenge as a win for Nokia, a win for the developer that is selected, and a win for their customers.

What are the criteria for selection of the finalists and eventual winner of the challenge?

  • The mobile product, application or service must undeniably enhance the standard of living or lifestyle of the target customer.
  • The target customer must be from a region of the world where the general daily per capita income is $5 USD or less.
  • The organization that receives the $1 million USD investment must have shown that it has the potential to be a vibrant and successful business that will be profitable for itself and its investors (as judged through normal venture investment vetting procedures).

Nokia’s $1 Million Growth Economy Venture Challenge

Your mission:
To build a product, which will be a profitable business, that improves the lives of people who live in a part of the world where they make less than $5/day. It can be hardware, software or services as long as it is related to mobility.

What application would you build to win a $1,000,000 investment from Nokia to do that?

Picking a Winner

If you’re just hearing about this contest, you’re already too late. Today I’m sitting in on the final judging panel to pick a winner from the 10 finalists who come from all over the world.

Since the challenge ended July 31, 2010, Nokia has received nearly 300 submissions from 54 countries, with a majority of them coming from India (47), followed by the United States (42), Kenya (14), the UK (11) and Egypt (9).

In no specific order, here are the finalists:

eVOTZ
www.eVOTZ.com
USA

Mobile devices have become the dashboard for people’s live, and eVOTZ allows their voices to be heard and counted in a whole new way. We believe mobile handsets offer profound social impact to improve eDemocracy with mobile apps for social good. Our eVOTZ platform incorporates SIM card security with location-based services that for the first time bring both TXT voting and mobile Web Smartphone solutions to South Africa and other emerging growth economies for trustworthy voting. Help us in our mission to ensure mobile voting is secure, convenient and trustworthy in South Africa and other emerging economies, worldwide.

IDIFIED
Black Tie Networx
www.btnetworx.com
USA

Could someone use their Nokia phone to avoid a roadside bomb or mine? As amazing as that may sound, it is possible and soon. IDFIED is an application being developed to identify buried explosives in the Developing World and areas of conflict. One benefit will be to quickly provide information to civilians, NGOs and emergency workers to avoid IEDs using GPS and proximity alerts. We think this will change the way people use their mobile phone and that Nokia can be a major contributor to its success.

Mobile Distributor Solution
Virtual City Ltd.
http://www.virtualcity.co.ke 
Kenya

Virtual City Ltd, a home-grown Kenyan company, has developed a solution that aims at addressing systemic issues along the Supply Chain for distributors and retailers of Fast Moving Consumer Goods in emerging markets. The Mobile Distributor Solution is designed to contribute to improved efficiencies and value to all the stakeholders in the value chain and result in increased number of transactions, accurate records, improved Inventory management & reporting from the field and effective management decision making. The solution will also bring value to a large number of beneficiaries comprising of thousands of small and micro enterprises in the FMCG Market.

FloCash Payment Network
Flocash Ltd 
www.flocash.com 
UK

FloCash is a mobile payment service that extends the bank to the unbanked in the form of a virtual bank based on the unique MoCharge mobile terminal. FloCash provides the unbanked masses of Africa the ability to make remittances, make bill payments and pay for product and services across a network of agents. The FloCash service is not a closed loop service. Its payment intermediary can be a Micro Finance Institution, a telco or a bank. Through provisioning of the FloCash smart card, anyone can sign up for the FloCash service, even those who do not own a mobile phone.

Mobile JobHunt
Shenzhen LEG 
www.leg3s.com
China 

“Mobile JobHunt”, targeting 300 million urban blue-collar workers and rural migrant workers in China, an under-served sector for a long time. It’s a set of employment information applications and services based on “Mobile Internet” and “Cloud Computing”. It covers recruitment, rights and interests, and training. Since late 2008, we have partnered with 200 phone makers and accumulated 15 million installation units, nearly 10 million active users and 1 million corporate customers. Revenue exceeded US$10M in FY2010 (ending June), with US$5M profit. With proprietary IP, “Mobile JobHunt” has no known direct competitors. We intend to go public in 1-2 years.

mmatcher – your mobile, your marketplace
mmatcher (R3 d.o.o.)
www.mmatcher.com
Slovenia

Mmatcher is a personalized mobile marketplace, which automatically in real time matches complementary interests. For example, mmatcher will match a cabbage seller with all potential buyers that are interested in his product. India is full of online marketplaces, but problem comes with accessibility to computers. Mmatcher resolves the problem and provides a solution to 640 million mobile users. We believe that mmatcher could be the missing element between Nokia life tools and Nokia money by providing buying and selling opportunity over the phone. Our vision is to reach 2.5 billion users in India, Pakistan, China and Indonesia in 3 years.

Bionic Power – The Portable Power Solution
Bionic Power Inc. 
http://www.bionic-power.com/ 
Canada

Wireless communication is not truly wireless as users are tethered to power grids to charge their mobile phone batteries. This is a particular problem for 1.6 billion people in developing countries without access to electricity. By generating electricity from everyday movements of individuals, the Bionic Energy Harvester provides a cost-effective and reliable solution to this power problem. Bionic Power’s technology is powerful, producing about half an hour of talk time from one minute of walking. Among other applications, it can be used to power things such as headlamps for harvesting crops at night, LED lights in homes, and laptop computers.

m-Employment platform using SMS
Cogilent Solutions 
www.BrightSpyre.com 
Pakistan

Low-income people without reliable access to Internet and technology do not enter into the job search through the modern tools. The solution is to bring complete functionality of a job portal on mobile by using SMS service. This m-Employment platform will connect more than 1 billion opportunity seekers (skilled, semi skilled workforce) in the South Asian and African countries with the opportunity providers (jobs, work). Short profiles built using SMS will connect opportunity seekers with all the opportunities advertised in their context. The opportunity providers will post work job opportunities and will be able to search and connect with the workforce matching their requirements. The platform will support local regional languages with strong spam and abuse control system.

Transclick for Globalization of m-commerce
Transclick 
www.transclick.com 
USA

Transclick is the leader in mobile digital translation of SMS, email and IM as well as Internet Browsing text translation at 400 words per sec. using customized microglossaries for higher accuracy than free online translation. Transclick’s API allows m-commerce and m-banking vendors to add Transclick into mobile commerce to enable those who make less than $5 per day to access English speaking buyers and communicate post-sale. The seller in Africa can create advertising of a product, translate and publish it automatically, using Transclick’s SMS translator and the price includes 10 cents per transaction paid by the m-banking vendor to Transclick.

Remote Diagnostics Kit
Vyas Labs
http://medical.vyaslabs.in
India

Vyas Labs Remote Diagnostics Kit (RDK) is a user-friendly remote medical diagnostic device that can work with mobile phones to allow medical specialists to attend to patients sitting thousands of miles away. It provided real-time ECG, non invasive blood pressure measurement, pulse oximetry monitoring, electronic stethoscope, body fat index, height, weight and pan-tilt camera, with total control with the remote doctor. The doctor can point to a specific location on the mobile screen and the nurse using the device sees the location and places instruments there.

The Award

Though we’ve voted today on the finalist, the winner won’t be announced until tomorrow at Nokia World. Someone is walking away with $1m to fund their project!

Nokia World 2010

At the Nokia World event in London. Keep up with it using the #NokiaWorld hashtag on Twitter and on their Nokia Blog.

“At Nokia, “connecting people” is more than a feelgood tagline.” Niklas Savander, Executive Vice President Markets, Nokia.

He goes on to talk about the fact that they’re the largest manufacturer hitting the largest number of people worldwide. Just as everyone has a different need, they have to create phones that offer different features, compromising on the device due to the customer needs.

Smartphones

“People bought far more Nokia smartphones than Apple and Android combined.” On average, people buy 260,000 Nokia smartphones daily. Despite all of these new competitors, Symbian is still the largest with just over 40% of the smartphone market.

Symbian 3 has been rewritten to be faster, easier to use and more developer friendly. “A transition from legacy to leading edge.” They plan to ship 50 million of these new Symbian 3 smartphones. Over 100 operators and distributors will be offering the N8 globally.

Another dig at Apple: “Our phones work day in, day out, no matter how you hold them.”

Maps

Nokia has invested a lot in Ovi Maps, having bought Navteq a couple years ago, and going on from there. NIklas claims that they have further reach and impact than Google Maps. It’s more accurate, has dedicated (correct) pedestrian routes. You also don’t need to be connected to the internet to use it, without a constant mobile connection. If you do need it connected, you’ll find it much less data hungry than Google Maps.

Nokia’s Ovi Maps is available in 78 countries and 46 languages.

By 2013 over 800 million people will be using GPS enabled devices. Soon, everything on the internet will have a location. This is huge and will transcend the user experience as we know it today. “It’s a space we intend to own.”

The Nokia N8

Anssi Vanjoki, EVP, General Manager of Mobile Solutions comes on stage.

“People are buying more than hardware and software when they buy a smartphone, and Nokia is the company that built this market.”

“A few critics have looked at the Nokia N8 and said that it looks like the “same old Symbian”. That’s like dismissing the experience of a new car because it has the same dashboard. You have to drive it to know the difference.”

A broader distribution base than any other platform. He’s talking to developers.

The Nokia N8 is an important milestone, because it’s the first to take the new Symbian OS to the next level. It’s got new hardware, and new software – a new user experience. He wants us all to give it a test drive, they’ve got plenty of them around the event to play with.

He talks about the N8’s 12mp camera, and shows us some examples. They are amazing. It has a mechanical shutter, so the images look great. It has the largest sensor used in any phone-like device.

No other smartphone on the market can give you such a high-level experience. Anssi then shows us a trailer for Tron, with a direct cable (HDMI) onto the big screen from the phone itself. It is amazing.

A lightening fast processor and a 3d graphics accelerator. Aluminum body. Glass OLED Screen, etc.

More new phones

Different people have different needs. A new family of Symbian devices.

Introduces the Nokia C6. Has an 8mp camera, built in Ovi Maps, location sharing is made easy. It also features something new, the ClearBlack Display (CBD), a premium touch screen with a great view. “The black screen is blacker than black, as the sensors take away reflection on the glass.”

The Nokia C7 is thinner, with a stainless steel body.

Social network support for Facebook and Twitter are built into the new C6 and C7. Since Nokia’s customers are global, they’re also supporting Renren in China, Orkut in Brazil – and other global mobile social networks. Both will start shipping in Q4 2010.

They’re looking to find the “most active Facebooker” among their 1.1m Facebook Fans. They’ll choose 5, and they’ll win a new Nokia C6 and C7 and 20 of their closest friends.

“The Nokia E7 is BIG.”, it takes over the space that the Nokia 9000 started in 1996. It’s an office on the go, supporting Microsoft’s suite of business software.

[Note: trying to find an image of the Nokia e7 to share with you, but their site gives me no responses for a search… crap. Bad marketing.]

Found one on Engadget:

Environmentally friendly: C7 uses biopaints, C6 uses recycled metal.

Nokia Developer Community

Purnima Kochikar, VP Forum Nokia and Developer Communities

1.3 billion Nokia people. She crisscrossed the world to talk to developers (she didn’t go to Africa though).

2+ million developers globally.

Simplified developer interaction and made it easier to distribute applications. “You have an improved ability to write apps that mean the most to 1.3 billion Nokia users that use payment methods that serve them best.”

We believe that success isn’t measure just in Dollars, Euros or Pounds, but also in the lives of people. We see this impact everyday in the apps that you have built. Our goal is to help increase the health, wealth and lives of our users, and bring them joy. Uses the example of Proxil for checking if drugs are legitimate.

Think globally and act locally. This isn’t a race to the next million apps. It’s about getting relevant apps to everyone around the world.

Have created a way to reach consumers via demographics, not just geographic location. For instance, have found a great desire of Indian apps in Canada.

Last year alone Nokia shipped 364 million phones with Java (s40) on them. There is a real hunger for great apps on these devices, and people are absolutely willing to pay for them.

Ex: VuClip allows you to watch videos on your mobile phone. The founder thought it would sell best on smartphones in the West. He was pleasantly surprised to find that most of his users come from the emerging markets.

“Touch and Type” SDK for s40 is available on ForumNokia.com.

The Ovi Store

175 million devices available to be sold to.
45 million touch devices
50 million potential new users with the new Symbian 3 OS phones. (C6, C7, E7, N8 models)

There are 2 simple ways to build for Nokia: native Qt SDK and the Symbian Web Runtime (web SDK).

The new standard compliant Nokia Browser. It has been updated for touch, improving consumer interaction, especially for people who will use the mobile as their primary internet device.

Available in 190 countries
Supports 120+ Nokia devices
Credit card and operator billing (choose operator billing 2/3 times… that’s huge.)

Fizwoz as an example has 167 country reach due to the Ovi Store.

App distribution cost reduced on Ovi Store – application signing is free for Java and Symbian.

They have 150 people in Forum Nokia to support developers, with someone on every continent, including someone in South Africa (do they help the rest of Africa or only South Africa?).

Mikael Hed, CEO of Rovio, leader in mobile games. Creator of “Angry Birds” (which I and my daughters love) and has sold over 7 million copies and the free version has been downloaded 11 million times. A new bird, the “Mighty Eagle”, is released to let you not get frustrated with a level – an in-app purchase for $1.99. (awesome new video)

The Ovi Store’s in-app purchase option let’s them maintain the immersive gameplay experience.

Vodafone

Vittorio Colao, Chief Executive Vodafone Group, comes on stage. “I personally believe that data is a great opportunity.”

Vittorio talks about his recent holiday in Greece, and how they interact with their mobile devices now as compared to years ago. They’re emailing, hiring cars, booking restaurants, mapping beaches, reading news on tablets, watching video news, getting wind forecasts by the hour, etc… They’re using data seamlessly.

Life is changing in an incredible way amongst the masses. Real life.

Here’s just 1 month from Vodafone Group usage of data:

  • 1/3 browse
  • 25% play games
  • 20% Email
  • 15% social networking
  • 11% maps
  • 30% business
  • Video and music fastest growing.

All people, rich or poor, north to south, will have their interactions done on the mobile. We need 5 things now to make things work better:

1. Network speeds and quality of service – the expectation, in terms of quality, is quickly rising. Pervasiveness, speed, accessibility, distribution and care. Vodafone has never cut investment in this area. The operator can provide two things: privacy and security. Data pricing and data caps have to change, he wants different levels of service.

2. Devices and operating systems – low-end smartphones, PCs, emerging market smartphones.

3. Content and services – Thinks social networking will double. Navigation will increase by 90%. Streaming music and video are already the largest of Vodafone Groups work.

“In reality, the network’s main job is not voice anymore, it’s handling our customer’s entertainment.”

A couple recommendations for devs: 1) tailor your apps to individual users – they have loads of customer information that can be tapped as an operator. 2) Operator billing is quick, intuitive and much easier to manage and will grow your usage of paid apps.

4. Customers affordability – pricing is becoming more important than features in the new segment of adopters of smartphones (emerging markets).

5. Ecosystem profitability – There has to be the right return for all the players. Pricing should be adjusted to reflect usage and load on the system. We’re reaching the end of the “free” time, otherwise we’ll have a free bad experience. Segmentation must drive the right device to the right demographics at the right time. There must be enough margin for developers to have a strong incentive to create locally relevant experiences for customers.

Nokia World in a Time of Flux

I’m at Nokia World this week in London as part of the final judging panel for the $1m Growth Economy Venture Challenge. I’ve been reading and reviewing dozens of entries from all over the world, and I’m excited to see the finalists in action as they do their presentations tomorrow.

Nokia in Flux

There are a lot of things going on within the world of Nokia right now. The Monday Note has a great overview of the big challenges facing Nokia right now, not least their incoming Canadian CEO, Stephen Elop, and the effect that it is having internally on other high level executives.

A couple months ago I gave a talk on “Innovating Africa“to some of the Nokia executives in Nairobi, they largely dealt with Africa, as well as specific products and operating systems. Most of my suggestions were directly from passionate customers of theirs from all over Africa. The Nokia brand is still very strong in Africa, the game is still on here. However, Nokia needs to be careful that they don’t lose this advantage by faster moving, cheap Chinese manufacturers and the better software and UI found on the Android/iPhone smartphones.

Developers, Money and Nokia in Africa

Smartphone growth and marketshare is getting more and more aligned with the types of apps that are available for people to use. If the apps, utilities and games that they want aren’t present, then they’re more likely to move somewhere else. In Africa, where unlimited, high-speed bandwidth isn’t the norm, the mobile web as an option isn’t quite reality yet. It’s a different paradigm than in the West.

This means that you need third-party developers interested in building apps on your operating system. While almost all operating systems have a store for apps now, including Ovi, iPhone, Android, Bada and others, there is a glaring hole in Africa:

You can’t get paid…

So, here’s a hint for Nokia, taken from the talk months ago: make it easy for developers to make money, even in Africa. Figure out a way that people get paid and can bill via your server-side offerings like Ovi.

Smartphones

Africans are aspirational; they might not be able to afford the Mercedes Benz, but everyone is working their way towards buying one. The same holds true for smartphones, though the vast majority cannot afford a high-powered iPhone, the latest $600 Android phone or the Nokia N8, they look to who the leader is in the space. He who controls the mindshare of the smartphone space, holds the mindshare of the mobile brand as a whole.

Nokia N8

I’m looking forward to testing out, I’m sure it will have excellent hardware as all Nokia devices tend to be well engineered. However, I’ve yet to find a Nokia with good software or UI, and since it’s running the brand new Symbian 3 OS, it will likely be laden with bugs as all first-time OS are prone to have. (Engadget and CNet reviews)

Links from Mobile Africa

Mobile Subscriber Growth in Africa

A new report shows that Africa has 12% of the new mobile subscribers in the world, adding 20.1 million in Q1 2010. That’s a sizable amount. What’s actually more interesting to me is that they’re saying that the continent now has 47% penetration, which means that there’s a lot of growth yet to be had as compared to the rest of the world.

[One of these days I’ll have the £400 to purchase and really dig into these reports…]

Street hackers and the Neighbourhood App Store

Jan Chipchase gives us some background on how the mobile phone street-hacker culture originates:

“I like to think of it as a neighbourhood app store – and in many ways it’s the edges of the internet, where entrepreneurs are taking content online and offering it to local, offline and/or technologically illiterate customers. Also these corner shop app stores can be content editors for their community: they filter content they think their customers like, but they also guide what their customers might like as well.”

Nokia battles the Chinese

As David put it, “Nokia lost the high end to iPhone/Android/Blackberry, now battling China’s cheap phones on the low end. Things not looking good.” (link)

“For instance, it sold 432 million devices in 2009, or more than its top three competitors combined, however, its average selling price for all models has plummeted 44 percent in the past five years to 62 euros.”

The “Nokia: Innovating Africa” presentation

A special thanks to all of the commentors from the last couple days who gave of their opinions to help Nokia think differently about innovating in Africa. It was these comments that I channeled, where I served as a messenger to tell the Nokia executives who flew in from all over the continent and Europe for this meeting in Nairobi.

Nokia: Innovating in Africa talk

Points made in the talk

[Note: most of these points came directly from the readers on my last post.]

First, stop treating the Middle East and Africa as a single region. If you’re serious about Africa, treat it as its own region.

Second, stop colluding with the operators and start colluding with your customers.

The mobile space is more nuanced now, it’s difficult to create a handset that will change your fate, instead it’s a mixture of software, apps, web platforms and data costs (as well as handsets) that decide your future.

Engage developers, third party programmers and businesses is where innovation comes from, not a large, slow company.

Standardize your UI and OS, strengthen your APIs. Get out of the way and let software developers innovate on a platform.

Make it easy for developers to make money, even in Africa. Figure out a way that people get paid and can bill via your server-side offerings like Ovi.

Take some of the big money that’s being thrown at high-profile “global social change competitions”, which generally attract Western organizations, and do more smaller-scale work at the grassroots level.

A large percentage of users can’t afford the data plan to get on your own websites and the Ovi store. Zero rate them. There’s no reason you shouldn’t be eating Facebook’s, Twitter’s and Google’s lunch in this, as Nokia has deeper penetration with mobile operators than almost anyone else on the continent.

Consider a specialized site for Africa, loading fast on low bandwidth.

You were too slow on the dual SIM card movement, that if anything showed you had lost your innovative practices in the emerging markets like Africa.

Today it’s driving the cheapest candybar phone to the lowest possible price. Good, keep that up. While you’re doing so, make the battery last longer and keep thinking of great ways to recharge it (solar or bicycle dyno).

But, look ahead are realize that even here in Africa, people want Smartphones with real web browsers, social networking and entertainment apps. Do it for under $100.

You don’t want to hear it, but I’ll say it anyway. Software isn’t your strong point, hardware is. Consider embracing Android.

How about a multi-touch dual-SIM Android smartphone for under $100… can you do it?

SD cards = digital storage. In fact, provide these with content already on them, including books, encyclopedias, etc.

Cloud-based services, including heavy application processes, would mean deeper penetration into phones with less RAM, content backup, and a content creation and sharing link that is still untapped.

Be the first to implement 802.21 in your handsets, allowing a seamless handover from WiFi to GSM/GPRS. Lead the charge to fully IP-enabled phones.

Finally, nothing will get better by holding to the status quo and slipping into mediocrity. Now is the time for daring exploits, especially in the places with the most growth potential and where your competition is either light or weak.

Africa is ripe for experimental phones and financing models, what is new coming out of Africa first?

What would you say to Nokia Africa?

On Friday I’ll be addressing some of the top business decision makers for Nokia in Africa. My goal is to shake them up a little, make them think deeply and differently about the African market.

Nokia in Africa - little innovation since the nokia 1100 flashlight on a phone

Nokia hasn’t truly innovated in Africa since they put a flashlight in a Nokia 1100 in 2003.

I’ve been asked to discuss my views on how the handset and mobile services business situation is developing, what the opportunities are in those areas and suggestions on how Nokia could lead in this market.

Therein lies the problem: I’m only one person with one opinion, they need to hear from others with different experiences.

What would you say?

Add yours in the comments below. The best will be brought to the Nokia executives attention:

Here are a couple from Twitter.

  • Top-end or low-end handsets, what does Nokia stand for here? (via Niti Bhan)
  • Innovate on the user experience for low-end handsets. (via Rombo)
  • Is Nokia serious about social impact, or is that just face paint?
  • Africa is ripe for experimental phones and financing models, what is new coming out of Africa first?

Don’t just think cheap handsets. What else would you do within business models and solutions?