Africa: the Next Tech Frontier
Africa! You are probably envisioning savannas, safaris and political unrest, but amidst the AID projects and Elephants there is a new Africa emerging. Throwing off the shackles of oppressive African stereotypes, the new Africa is experiencing a technology paradigm shift vis-a-vis its high-tech entrepreneurs.
Africa's technology entrepreneurs may not be catapulting the nation into a tech future like what occurred in India, but they are making incredible grass roots advances. Internet penetration has climbed to 30% in the more developed countries, and numbers continue to grow across the continent.
Consider these budding African tech entrepreneurs helping rebuild Africa one pixel at a time:
Karanaja Macharia, CEO of Mobile Planet
Karanja Macharia of Kenya is a seasoned businessman who is bringing Internet connectivity to Kenya through a mobile platform. With Internet connectivity hovering around 10% in Kenya, his idea to bring technology to the masses on a cheap Internet-enabled phone system. His unique ideas are showing that people can do more than just talk on a phone, a foreign concept with the majority of Kenyan cell phone users. The Mobile Planet website makes the following statement about their work in Africa:
Subscriber numbers in Africa are growing at a phenomenal rate. This spells great potential. Potential to use mobile technology to address Africa's unique set of circumstances and challenges. We strive to provide products and services that enhance the quality of life of Africans in areas such as health, agriculture, education, e-governance and commerce. We remain committed to providing homegrown solutions that are relevant to all parts of Africa.
Macharia is leading Mobile Planet to empower African people through technology, bringing them into the technological age at lightning speed through affordable technologies.
Digital Drum, Kampala Uganda
Africa poses unique challenges for tech entrepreneurs as different locations do not have the same access to technology, stable power supplies and knowledge bases. When three Ugandan engineers and IT experts took this into consideration they built a rugged computer out of existing oil drum barrels, using solar powered panels for juice. UNICEF, the local government and private NGOs have supported these "Digital Drum", and they are now preparing to roll out the unit for use in kiosks. These rugged Digital Drum kiosks will be deployed in public spaces, including schools, youth centers, and other public access points.
Fritz Ekwoge, iYam.mobi
iYam.mobi creator Fritz Ekwoge created a very simple application for a mobile phone-based directory. The idea sprung out of Cameroon's lack of internet connectivity. With only 2-5% of the population connected to the Internet, many users may only ever connect online through a mobile phone. Ekwoge's simple app iYam.mobi was designed to connect the un-connectable through a searchable database. He has now grown the idea into a SMS-based platform that anyone can use to create or consume Internet-based content.