Social Media in Africa – on Balancing-Act

Talking to Russell Southwood of Balancing-Act.com about social media in Africa, including some examples of campaigns and work done on mobile in Africa.

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Building a social media strategy

Social Media Strategy

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Mobile phones tackle poverty

Forever and a day, there has been much hype about the potential for ICTs (Information and Communication Technologies) to change peoples’ lives. While I have never doubted that, it has been something rather obscure to prove. Here is a rather succinct infographic (don’t you love infographics for the way they just make complex things look simple?) that says so much in just a few pics. It’s a big heading: Mobile phones tackle poverty, but here you can see the impact of using mobiles on GDP, feelings of safety, income generation, health, education, transparency, corruption, access to markets, citizen information and banking. While there are not too many statistics in this infographic, it’s a nice overview of some “potential” and some reality.

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How mobile devices have changed the way we consume media

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Google’s new privacy policy – today’s the day

Google implements a new privacy policy today – if you don’t like it, delete your history today. They’ve got a dinky little youtube video which makes it sounds innocuous and helpful. But there is some stiff opposition from some quarters, who say that their use of personal data across all their platforms violates EU law.
So the question is, do you go to extreme lengths to keep your platforms impersonal (by creating separate google accounts for search, youtube, gmail and calendar)? Or do you go with the flow and allow them to tunnel vision your online viewing?
The danger of course is that in our world where “google” has replaced the verb “search”, we will ultimately allow them to determine everything we do/do not view.

As Dr Tom Keenan, a professor at the University of Calgary, said – google is so dominant … “If you want to get completely out of the Google world, they have this funny thing, the Data Liberation Front. It will actually allow you to liberate your data and get it out of Google. But where are you going to take it? That’s the question. Everybody uses Google.”

 

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Rural Kenyan Chief Finds Notoriety on Twitter

 

Chief Francis Kariuki, left, reads a tweet on his cellphone at his office in the village of Lanet Umoja, Kenya. AP

@Chiefkariuki is Africa’s new novelty, thanks to Associated Press. A chief in Kenya, Francis Kariuki, says he uses twitter to communicate with his villagers. His village is called Lanet Umoja and is 160 kilometres west of the capital, Nairobi.

One presumes that if he is tweeting about issues important to his villagers, then they too must be on twitter, following him, along with quite a few Americans (including a hedge fund manager). He says that in addition to the now over 1,300 people following him, others access tweets through a third-party mobile phone application or tweets forwarded via text message. Mashable and AP say that “Mr. Kariuki regularly sends out tweets about missing children and farm animals” … and raising the alarm about thefts, which has helped to reduce crime in the area.

Kariuki said that when he was first appointed the administrative chief of Lanet Umoja he asked himself how he could tackle the region’s problems. First was solving the region’s poor communication infrastructure.

I’ve got to be honest, I’d love to know the backstory on this one. How many people in the village follow the Chief, respond to his calls, engage with him and find the tweets useful? A brief look at his twitter account shows that he pushes out information but there’s not much conversation going on – yet.

I’d love it if the village had found a new way to engage and communicate across traditional barriers. I guess time will tell.

Kariuki speaks on his cellphone. AP

 


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The future of handsets – in Africa

The postscript – in Africa – is the most important part of this title. Many places you go, people are quick to talk Apple and Android (and at a push, Blackberry) when talking of the future. But really, do they know what they are talking about?

Narcissism comes easy to us humans – and our experience of the mobile phone is no different – we have a tendency to think everyone else’s experience is the same as ours. But, as Arthur Goldstuck says “Mainstream media tend to be heavily focused on the very latest, very shiniest phones on the market, or on the very coolest apps that feed these phones.” So, those of us having this conversation, with a high end smartphone in our pocket and disbelieving of anyone who hasn’t yet got one, are convinced that this bling bling is the way of the future. But looking at the numbers shows a different picture.

Currently, the most popular phone in South Africa is the “unknown” Samsung E250.

Here is a great infographic by Afrographique showing the prominence of Nokia devices in Africa

An infographic depicting mobile devices by brand and percentage used on the African continent. Data by Admob, 2010.

I agree with Arthur Goldstuck in his view that “the astonishing thing about these phones is that they attract no media buzz whatsoever. Because American analysts are narrowly obsessed with smartphone market share, they are oblivious to the phones that shape the global market. As a result, their commentary is not only irrelevant to developing markets, but entirely ignorant. ”

It really is time to broaden the conversation among those who think that smartphones are the only future in Africa. Feature phones can’t be ignored – well, not unless you want to miss the boat …

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