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Africans rush to create apps

Posted: 08/30/10 06:00 AM

The next wave of apps may not come out of Silicon Valley but places like Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda.

That’s what organizers of the Apps4Africa contest are hoping, anyway.

East African software developers are rushing to meet an August 31st deadline for the contest.  It’s sponsored by the U.S. State Department as well as three regional non-profits. The winners will get money and gadgets for coming up with the best apps to solve problems in East Africa. But more importantly, organizers say, is that the competition has jump-started a dialogue between developers and NGOs in these countries. And some of the software platforms recently developed in East Africa like Ushahidi are already getting widespread usage around the world. Last week, we looked at that platform’s use in flood-ravaged Pakistan.

We speak with one of the contest’s organizers, Josh Goldstein of AppAfrica. And we hear from one of the judges, Anil Dash, about what developers in the West could learn from emerging tech scene in Africa.

Comments | Filed Under: Africa apps sms

Mobile Transactions and Africa

Posted: 05/18/10 06:00 AM

So last week we ran across this report about how the market for mobile transactions is about to explode, increasing from about 68 billion dollars in 2009 to about 633 billion by 2014. Entrepreneurs are salivating about this possibility and we recently saw the launch of Square . Then there are online services like Venmo and Zong , which were not named by grabbing Scrabble tiles out of a bag, contrary to appearances.

But the idea of a bustling mobile phone based economy is nothing new if you’ve paid attention to how day to day transactions are handled in Africa. In several developing nations there, people who don’t have access to checks or credit cards have evolved a robust and versatile economy built around simple cell phones.

Ethan Zuckerman is a senior researcher at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society and he’s lived and traveled extensively throughout Africa. He’s closely followed technology in that continent. We talk to Ethan about what the cell phone economy means.

Comments | Filed Under: mobile phones africa

today's show

What will we do with all this "white space"?

09/26/10 11:15 AM

There’s a vote coming up this week in Washington that will have a big impact on how you use the internet, what’s available to you, how much faster you’ll be able to get things online. On Thursday, the FCC is expected to open up unused parts of the broadcast spectrum, a lot of people call it “white space”. This is space that was positioned to be something of a buffer between television stations but such padding is proving less essential since the conversion to digital TV.

On today’s show, we talk to Glenn Fleishman from Wi-Fi Networking News and The Economist about how the spectrum works and what kind of new space we’re talking about. We also check in with Tim Wu from Columbia Law School about the companies that will look to use the space and what it all might mean for you and me as internet consumers.

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