Friday, February 05, 2010

Mobile Web East Africa: Day Two

Day 2 of the Mobile East Africa that was held in Nairobi Kenya on February 3 and 4 2010.

John Karanja, Founder,, a social media platform targeting East Africans and also a blogger (his blog) ran the day’s forums

Erik Hersman Director of Operations, Ushahidi (his blog) spoke about exploring the social and political opportunities presented by mobile’s expansion

- Ushahidi was born out the 2008 post election violence by Kenyan bloggers (Erik, Ory Okolloh, Juliana Rotich, David Kobia) to use real-time information to track reports of violence in the immediate aftermath of 2007 Kenya elections. It was a transparency initiative that received and processed messages about violence around the country - sent in by e-mail and SMS at a time when there was a state media blackout/reporters could not get access, but there were citizens on the ground with mobile phones
- Their default device is the mobile phone – and as long as you one you can read reports, or send in messages. Ushahidi is based on an open source platform, and run by volunteer teams
- It has been used in Gaza (by Al Jazeera), in elections in India (world largest democracy) and Afghanistan, to track swine flu spread, to track crime in Atlanta, track medicine stock-outs in African countries and most recently in Haiti
- It is simple – it can accept text, voice, video (from smart phone) and anyone can use & adapt/improve it since its open source. It started in Kenya and they have the mantra that If it works here, it can work anywhere referring to Kenya inefficiencies, licenses & low bandwidth issues and then turbulent period

Haiti - most recent deployment is to Haiti after the January 2010 earthquake
- First 24 – 72 hours information, they filled in the gaps in the first few hours after the earthquake
- Patrick Meier, David Kobia, high traffic serves crashed, learn by doing,
- Work with state department, coast guard
- Here was an innovation from Africa, help people in Haiti using 170 volunteers from all over the world (organized by Patrick Meier) – USA (Boston, DC, Portland) Switzerland, Kenya Ghana, south Africa, Uganda helping relief teams on the ground make accurate rescues through mapping [when US team slept, African team would work and vice versa]
People were thinking, the faster you can get people on the ground, faster you can save them

Fixing the engine while flying
- Had to get Haitian Creole translated and tagged within 10 minutes to get people help on the ground. The language gap (Creole, French, Spanish are used in Haiti)
- Mark action taken so that no duplication of rescue efforts
- came us with SMS code 4636 (Text your location and need) a free SMS
That anyone on the two large mobile networks could use.
- Ushahidi teams had to translate, decode, locate structure and categorize all this information this in 10 minutes. Used 10,000 Haiti Diaspora volunteers (using Skype) helped with translation and location information
- Too much information to manage e.g. 124,000 messages off twitter. There is a lot of wasted data in a crisis – how to manage that? Used Swift River (Jon Gossier) to funnel, weight, and structure information, to get probability of truth (called the Haiti tracker 2010)
- iHub Ushahidi is setting up the Nairobi iHub where they can run situation rooms like for Haiti and also see other developers work on and see innovations develop. It opens in March 2010

Emer Beamer, Founder, Research and Development Director, Butterfly Works (twitter spoke about bridging the digital divide

They are a social design agency (design for social good) who have worked in Uganda, Indonesia, Ireland, and Kenya and worked with Action Aid, Ushahidi, MTN, Oxfam, Media Focus for Africa.

- their Cycle – start with social problems, find partners, do research, then scoping study, look for funds, do 4 day development workshop, take prototype back to people, create local content, test with users, then make final version which they pilot (~3 months) and evaluate – then do 1.0 and implement

Some programs
- Set up Naiorbits a design school for slum youth of Mathare, Kibera, Kawangware that now has 150 students a year and who have gone on to work for companies like 3mice and dotsavvy. They are also setting up addisbits and zanzibits
- Unsung peace heroes – worked with Ushahidi and asked Kenyans to nominate local peace heroes through a cross media program
- Learning about living a free health information service via a hotline in Nigeria which covers 150 schools, 49,000 students and 520 teachers
- developing Sambaza Peace (with Nairobits) and which has a new mobile game Get h2o about water scarcity and how that can lead to conflict. They started with a board game (which is already popular), and have to translate it from multi-player to single player (to be on a computer). it works on very many phones (buy not the smallest Nokia 1110) and they will spend another 3 weeks programming the game, hope to translate it for other languages, market it to get young people download it and they need J2ME programmer, and want to make iphone and android versions

Dr Kahindi Shedrach, Medical Director, Angelic Missions Mobile Hospital (e-mail, spoke about how can medical professional can use mobile phone to deliver information and bridge health gaps

Health care gaps in Kenya
- Lack of medical specialist in rural area
- Lack of medical information to prompt people to visit hospital early
- Lack of health to stop abuse of over the counter drugs (have headache, but take anti-malaria drugs OTC which later results in increased drug resistance)
- Poor doctor patient ratio - 1 doctor serves 7,100 people

They will use three technology channels:
(i) Mobile SMS (ii) web (iii) call centre
website and mobile has disease protocols, and a disease registry African Pixel
- have a central data processing centre (CDPC) that will improve prognosis and clinics will consult specialists to make right diagnosis and treatment (by phone or internet)
- increased health seeking behaviors, and get patient present selves to hospital early

- No legal framework for ICT in health innovation – had to open medial center first
- Lack of funding
- Reluctance to embrace mobile and web in health care
- And fear of job loss by clinicians
- Language barrier
- Political interference

Erik Hersman, Emer Beamer, Dr Kahindi Shedrach
How does Ushahidi validate data so it is not fabricated? Done by group of validators who verify, call people before its verified and goes into the system (have to trust the deployment guys at ushahidi. But using Swift River helps with the probability of truth – so the use algorithm then real life editors. in crisis times people usually tell the truth but less so in political crisis
Were you relying on GIS to find people? Can’t get triangulation information from networks – they had to rely on calls, info (unless the person has a smart phone)
Haiti mobile networks knocked out - did that affect ushahidi? First 3 days digital and comcell was out, so info was from people who had other connections. E.g. Twitter was still working. Then when mobile came back on then they sent flash message on the 4636 line
How did you get a short code in Haiti? Call right people – called the CEO of mobiles and digicell gave it to them first
How is using ushahidi? Used in peace heroes, and later building bridges
How will butterfly scale? Can 4 operators handle 120k members – work from home 7 days a week, answering questions MTN gave a subsidized not ideal as it gets more expensive as volumes go up
Intellectual property for the game? They welcome business advice on content business models, a lot of content free, and all workers sign waiver on property rights
What is phase two of the angelic mission? Phase 1 is information based interaction with physician, next stage is automation (web site is tested) where can get a likely prognosis for a website
What triggered angelic? Part was post election violence patients had no advice on health care.
- What is angelic legal structure? They are a company

Cyril Ogana Chief Software Officer, Cymap Business Solutions gave a text book hypothetical presentation on startup (idea know your market, business plan, execution) and (seed, startup, growth, established, expansion, mature, exit) and funding

Liko Agosta Founder, Pesapal and Verviant was next to talk about his companies. Verviant set up e-Commerce sites, but then found most of the clients also lacked a tool to monetize their application, hence they also created pesapal
- Situation: Right now 99% of Kenyans can’t buy or sell online and there is a lot of traffic across town, as lot of people drive across town to pay bills
- Pesapal will be a payment platform that accepts from the 10 million Kenyans – their API can receive payments from safaricom (mpesa), zain (zap) and people will be able to track payments, book hotels, can confirm transactions in one minute. Basically it will enable the unbanked to buy online in Kenya
- Their ecosystem is couriers (delivery guys), mobile payment (in talks with other countries change of currency) and merchants (verify legit merchant and correct erroneous transactions/weed out unscrupulous ones),
- Pesapal merchant benefits: real time payment processing, 24/7/365, invoicing & receipting, notifications/reminders, safe payments. E.g. up to Kenya 80% local hotel booking in Kenya done by cash as hotels can’t sell online. Also they will have a simple system where schools can collect fees from payments, print the payment plan – no queuing in banks, and schools (again, then twice) for people to write a receipt! 3 – 4 hours to pay for fees per child
- Pesapal API, Built by verviant has Pre-built by plug-ink and components that other developers can use this. API is in three offerings (i) Lite: joomla, os-commerce, .net (ii) Software as a service – build for hotel reservation system, have inventory online and sell it worldwide. Also for collecting school fees or rent (iii) Corporate. For clients on other core systems financial systems
- Some of their customers are Totalttoto,,, SAAS (school fees)
Q&A Agosta Liko, John Wesonga, Tech Lead, Multiple Choices (his blog, twitter @jwesonga), Kahenya Kamunyu, CEO, ViRN Instruments (his blog, twitter @kahenya) Cyril Ogana
Why Stringent entry requirement for pesapal merchants? Top goal is to protect consumers and can’t allow bad merchants
Is pesapal pan-African? Talking to Mobile network operators to launch in other countries can you pay pespal in installments? Fee is reasonable and no there are no plans for credit payment plan
Low/high limit in pesapal, micro limits allowed? They are comfortable with Safaricom limits is 100 to 35,000 shillings which will cover most of their transactions.
Non profit big issue is fund-raising? Perhaps pesapal can leverage non-profits to track and collect their donations,
Will pesapal offer product to affiliate sites and can share revenue? Yes
How soon will pespal get the developer community involved? There are freelancer and then the corporate developers – they have strategy on how to work with both within next month (after public beta)
There are 4 other mobile payment platforms similar to pespal – why are you better? We are the only ones; we have good e-commerce team, good links in community. 95% of stuff happens away from website, and they are the best at seeing that.
On standards - We should put out the best code in the world – anything from Africa should be world class, because rarely get second chances? Pespal has world class developers who have worked for large American corporates.
Best channel for start-up promotions? Media today are not talking about start-ups, there are no media houses covering this conference. Media houses will only notice when techies talk and comment about a company
Revenue share with pesapal? Revenue share is they take 4%, similar to pay pal. Safaricom and zain are not their competitors – the more people use pesapal, the more money the operators make e.g. if you pay for rent 12X a year

Steve Vosloo, Fellow, 21st Century Learning, The Shuttleworth Foundation talked about Kontax , a teen m-novel in South Africa developed to improve literacy

scary stats: - In south Africa, 51% of households don’t have a letter book, while only 6% have more than 40 books, and only 7% of schools have functioning libraries.
- teachers says teens don’t read enough, teens don’t write enough and teens love their phones
- The Cell phone is pervasive – it is the default device in the hands of youth in South Africa. They knew that in Japan, m-novel are very popular and decided to try the same in SA – to see if the mobile phone could alleviate the chronic shortage of books

The project to create an e-novel, started with asking teens about their lives and what they would want to read about. They edited the language, content, structures etc. And the result was Kontax about 4 kids living in Cape Town. It was written in English and Xhosa and targeted 14-17 year olds. On the mobi site the 21 chapters were published over 21 days, 21 chapters
It had short sentences, each chapter was not more than 400 words, and each ended on a cliff hanger. They also had built a social network around story (anyone could read, but you had to register to vote or comment). Anyone who signed up would immediately get 4 friends who were the characters in the book and who’s status changed each time a chapter was published – and you could comment on what you think would happen in next chapter? What should character do etc

The results were that they had 300 regular readers & users spread across the country. They tracked them by towns, language of readers, time of comments (some even texted in comments during school hours). Even though the novel was written (and read) in proper language, most comments were in text-speak

When it was published on Mxit it got 30k viewers, including 12k by teens and they got 1.500 ideas for next story (horrified teachers). The Xhosa version was popular and the novel also turned out to be popular with an older age group (19 – 20 years) that were not initially targeted

- Mobile phones are a viable platform for publishing long form text and enabling reader participation the mobile phone is the ipad or the kindle of Africa
- Remove barrier of printing costs, putting information back into the hands of people
- Learning is social again

Michael DeSouza Executive producer of Buzz City spoke about secrets of optimizing mobile phone internet campaigns which can turn average campaign from advertisers into exceptional ones and get the best ROI from advertising budgets

These are based on some facts that : 25% of mobile users access net on their phones, 33% access on PC and mobile, 30% of all internet access was exclusive to mobile and by 2013, 1.7 billion will be using mobile internet .

- Kenya sold 150 million mobile ads per quarter. This is recorded by a tool called Campaign Planner at the Buzz City site which can show advertisers where traffic comes from, their largest markets (for buzz city its Indonesia, India, south Africa, the USA in 4th), Canada, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria – it can also show which channel are getting traffic, which are the top handset models in each market – and if they are on the buzz city social network – their gender, age, location etc. all in real time
- Buzz City targets audience is Upwardly mobile, tech savvy, twenty something with disposable income, enjoys outdoor activity, spends several hours online, and demands more mobile services
- Advertising is simple: you set a price per click (CPC) and set a daily spend limit. You only pay for clicks CPC and can start for as little as $20. You can target by country, network, content, channel, handset, and can put together campaign in about 2 or 3 weeks

Secrets of successful ad campaigns
Things they do
- do A/B testing don’t just have one message – get six approved (including whacky ones) – and see which get better responses
- Do both banner & text, not just one.
- They use conversion tags: put a bit of code show to know campaigns are working
- Use image & colour – take simple message, apply many colours to it
- Have low priced campaigns, mid campaign and high priced campaigns- this will show you the different traffic you’ll get and know where the campaign sweet spot is
- be consistent and recognizable (so you don’t have #consumers clicking twice – which cost you money but does not pay)
- Be measurable: know who clicks, who converts who saw it when and where.

He also spoke about Djuzz an upcoming games portal from buzz city. Developers can put games there at no coats and get good awareness as people can download and share. They have games from major developers like EA Games and titles like Lara croft and tomb raider. It detects your phone, sorts’ games and productivity tools for your phone,

Q&A: Steve Vosloo, Michael DeSouza, Wilfred Mworia, FounderAfrican Pixel and Afrinnovator , and Marten Schoonman, (twitter @mato74) ICT4D Project Manager, Media Focus on Africa Foundation,

Kontax only in mxit? SA kids only know Mxit (it has 12 million members) and they don’t browse the web.
Mobile language usage? Text is good for writing – forces you to be brief. In Kenya, sheng (a mix on English and Swahili used by Kenyan kids) transcends tribe. Shockingly it was the fastest growing language on buzz city mobile portal buzz city mygamma mygamma

What are the difficulties encountered in developing apps for smart phones
- Mworiaapple is not getting into contractual agreements with companies in Africa – but you can do the work for a proxy company in US and still get into the apple store
- It is difficult to get an itunes account in Africa (even Orange doesn’t sell them)
- It is expensive – you need a mac and an iphone to test
Why develop apple apps for a small market like Kenya?
- Mworia there are perhaps 10,000 iphone in Kenya and most owners get them for status and thus don’t download apps. Still there’s nothing stopping him from developing apps for the 15million iphone owners in US and Europe
Numbers for buzz city in Kenya?
27 million for Kenya in the past month. Top channel is community, second is news & information
Sites for learning about mobile developer tools: Strathmore University’s e-learning and is from a collaboration with MIT University under the MIT Africa initiative. Also Symbian applications can be found at the symbian developer network

the conference wrapped up with an open mike session where anyone could come up and talk about what they were doing in the mobile phone ecosystem

Open Mic Session

Ric Joubert is the chairman of the South African Mobile Marketing Association, the only one of its kind in Africa. He said that based on what he’s seen; they should open a new chapter in Kenya in a few months and is looking for members to join. You can keep up with him through his blog

Jacob Kitinya founder of Petrol Kenya and the Petrol Pump Price Portal. Provides pump price in Nairobi, shows search and Google map overlay. Consumers can search for stations on the highway and see what petrol prices are available as well as which stations have other features like pharmacy, restaurant, ATM, tyre clinic. Tools used are Google Maps API, and Google analytics

John Muthee of GFK (growth from knowledge) – a German research company that tracks sale of electronic consumer goods such as mobile handsets and has a presence in most African countries. Handsets sold vary from country to country due to prices, taxes, and counterfeits. Kenya three years ago the average phone was $100, now is $50. In Uganda it’s very competitive with 4 aggressive operators in the market so consumers are able to get amazing discounts on handsets. In Mozambique the average phone prices are still over $100 while across East Africa 2G phone sales are 98% of the market. They also do network intelligence reports, what sites visited, timing, how many pages, which phones are being used to access sites, what is being downloaded etc.

Caroline Mbindyo from African Medical & Research Foundation - AMREF (flying doctors) with a presence in 40 African countries spoke about their E-learning program. It’s a diploma course that started as a pilot with 4 schools around Kenya with 130 students and now has 105 centers around Kenya and 6,000 students with 300 teachers who teach online and by mobile phone. In first year, e-learning student performed poorly than classroom students, but now they surpass classroom learners in their exams. Since 2009 they have done an m-learning (via mobile phone) to teach nurses across the country many of who live and work at health centers where there is very little infrastructure. AMREF developed a mobile phone application after a survey – on phone use habits, features and nurses willingness to spend. They have a .mobi site and for the program, the mobile phone is a complement, not primary source of teaching. The application comprises lessons that can be downloaded to phone which they can now access offline. When new content is added to book message sent by phone online. The content is simple text, and can be transferred to other media or phones or be deleted. The pilot ends in May 2010. It’s now in Uganda, now going to Rwanda Tanzania and Senegal and whereas it started with a grant, now it is self sustaining.

Challenges: it’s been expensive to develop application which is now deployed on 30 handset even on phones of about kshs. 5,000 ($67). they are looking for people to develop more or similar products for m-learning

Caroline Mwaniki of Naiorbits Nairobits spoke about their organization – which was formed in collaboration with Butterfly Works and takes kids from the slums of Naiorbi and teaches them web design – and eventually secured them internships or employment. They are looking for more internship opportunities for their 160 students.

Helinah Muniu spoke about Voxiva which was founded in Peru, and now headquarted in Washington DC. It has 150 employees in 13 countries including Malawi Rwanda Kenya Uganda Tanzania. It’s a software company that performs smart analysis of data - solving the problem of slow and inexpensive one-way communication; Voxiva is able to collect information from smart phone, SMS, email, IVR, web, PC-client (and any device with a SIM card) – analyze the data, and communicate the information back by SMS or to a smart phone. They mainly work in the health and agricultural sectors.

John Wesonga (his blog, twitter @jwesonga) spoke about Coded In Country – CIC which is like fair trade for software development – their aim is that 50 to 80% of software budgets are held in the county where the system is being deployed. E.g. for some organizations now, the field work is done in Kenya people do the field work but the solutions are then built in US and Europe. Their motto is Design under the mango tree so that the solutions to be developed in-house, locally, that work for the particular context. In the case of UNICEF, instead of them doing the design in New York then send developers to Nyanza (rural Kenya), where they may find the solution is not in touch with the ground, they can avoid this by doing this with local developers on the ground. It was initially focused on mobile health now working on software project in general. They want to work with local universities to build capacity in software development, and they have worked with Nairobits in the past.

A member of the Kenya ICT Board gave his perspectives on certification of standards. All (Kenyan) developers need to come up with viable benchmark standards – to internationally recognized standards. They should engage with the Kenya ICT Board on this so that Kenya can export ICT products. There are opportunities for local content, IT outsourcing, be a software house that add value at an international level and they will cluster entrepreneurs at the Sameer Park for incubation.

Andrew Muriungi of Blue Zone Media spoke about their proximity marketing by Bluetooth that has been used by a number of Brands including Tusker in the bambika na tusker promotion. They can send promotions ring tones, soccer timetable news links wallpaper, video, java applications for a period of one month, it’s voluntary (recipients have to opt-in to receive messages (no spam). It is low cost (free to send or receive - no SMS cost) and they provide good tracking and feedback with each promotion they run.

Eric Githaiga of ICT Consultants talked about Kentext which is a bulk SMS for corporates (100 SMS each for testing after registration)

Also A24 Media has local content including video dating as far back as 1940 and want to get their local content online and are looking for developers to partner with. (this was mentioned just before the open mic session)


gmeltdown said...

Thanks for the update

Unknown said...

Thanks for the detailed updates...your notes taking skill is just amazing!

Anonymous said...

Interesting post as for me. I'd like to read a bit more about this theme. The only thing that blog needs is some pics of any gizmos.
Alex Trider
Block phone

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
mushenzi said...

Great update! Makes bankelele a worthy bookmark on my mozilla:)

Anonymous said...

Tis time you changed the look of BANKELELE

Unknown said...

Hi! IT's a nice blog... web application

Angela Noble said...

Hi, Mobile phones are a viable platform for publishing long form text and enabling reader participation the mobile phone is the ipad or the kindle of Africa..

michaelvk said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

i will follow you and thanks for the datails.....

mobile prices in Pakistan

3D Animated Movies said...

Bankelele really reloaded:d

App Development said...

Understood Banklele has some importance:)


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