We have heard the numbers and they are astounding.
At present, Africa is home to about 450 million mobile phone subscribers and with an anticipated growth rate of about 12 per cent by 2013, it looks like there is no stopping it. With the myriad of development issues facing Africa, mobile phones appear to provide a tremendous opportunity to improve access and coordination problems on the continent.
Currently, research indicates that mobile phone usage on the continent revolves predominantly around social uses – i.e., to keep in touch with family and friends. However, with rising usage rates in rural communities across Africa, the real potential lies in using mobile phones as a means of ushering in development. Increasingly, there has been a focus in development circles on bottom of the pyramid solutions that can initiate profitable means of solving social problems for the poor. Global trends thus point to a need to merge mobile telephony with development solutions.
Mobile banking services such as M-PESA in Kenya have swooped into this space and so have SMS based technologies such as Ushahidi which aggregates SMS texts sent in by citizens to map information online on electoral violence, crime, shortage of medical supplies in rural clinics, among others. However, opportunities abound in a plethora of areas. One such area is in Africa’s educational sector.