Over the past few years, I have been very fortunate to work with a number of organizations in Africa. These organizations like Save the Elephants, Ol Pejeta Conversancy, and Lewa Wildlife Conservatory, to name a few, do amazing work for the people and wildlife of Africa.
Like the people of most emerging nations, these groups rely on mobile apps in a much deeper way that we do here in the west. Generally, mobile apps in developed countries is around convenience. For emerging nations, mobile is a fundamental utility that delivers financial services, health, education, and safety.
I've talked about mobile as a utility before and believe we can learn a lot from Africa's approach. The last time I went to Africa was a few years ago. This is a lifetime in the mobile world. I'm preparing for trip to Rwanda with the Salesforce Foundation to work with some local schools and wondered whether these few years had changed Africa's use of mobile.
I was really excited to come across the following piece on africa.org that highlighted a number of really impressive apps beyond the mobile payments apps that we typically hear about. It was great to see mobile utility services like Frontline SMS, a company I met with last time I was in Kenya, continuing to lead the push in connecting rural communities using SMS and USSD technology. In emerging nations, $40 flip phones dominate the market. In order to make apps for these devices, developers have a laser focus on communication (offline is the norm), and the audience (in many rural communities literacy rates are low), to deliver fundamental needs. This is something I feel western app developers who have access reliable, fast internet and the latest devices, often forget. It's a lesson we can all learn.
The Africa.org piece highlighted a strong, and continuing movement towards learning and education delivered through mobile technology. The eLearning Africa conference in 2015 had participants from 68 countries with 83 percent of participants coming from sub-Sahara nations. That's an impressive coverage!
My trip to Rwanda is a still a few months away, but it's pretty clear that education is critical for emerging nations. And it's not just for emerging nations, or traditional learning that we associate with schooling. We are learning every day. Mobile provides a unique delivery mechanism to make learning accessible to everyone, whether you are a farmer in Africa, learning a new language (I use Duolingo everyday to learn Spanish during my walk to work), or even building a non-profit and need to learn how to fund raise and create grants. Even the latest version of iOS finally supports many features education app developers and schools have been waiting a long time for.
I guess I learned something today too. My next app has a clear goal: it's going to teach you something new. Now I just need to figure out what that something is. Perhaps it's time for another coffee....
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