The African Experience Matters for Next Generation Mobile Web

By | April 14, 2011

Ever since Steve Song put up this image of the undersea cables linking Africa to the rest of the world, I’ve been thinking about what it might mean. When a landlocked country like Botswana which was totally dependent on slow and expensive satellite links for accessing the net is able almost overnight to slash connectivity costs in half and begin to dream of egovernment initiatives and enhancing educational capabilities, its very hard not to start dreaming of a wholly different future.

Will this emerging future for Africa follow the traditional path onto the world wide web that the more developed nations have carved or will they surprise us all in ways we are yet to imagine just as the digital revolution on a mobile phone has created a reality that few imagined even a decade ago?

Dominic Basulto makes an interesting point in a recent post:

The far-reaching political changes that have occurred across the Middle East – while appearing to be almost the ultimate Black Swan event to the outside observer – might actually have been predicted by looking at the data about the rapid pace of technological development in the region.

I’ve highlighted the critical aspect here – that when analysts or mainstream media looks at the majority of the ‘developing world’ their overwhelming focus on the downside of the third world life means that developments such as these come as a surprise. As we know, the world is only now waking up to the fact of a digital and connected Africa.

A conversation has already begun among the leading thought leaders and thinkers of the internet and the world wide web on designing for the mobile experience. We made the point in our most recent Afrinnovator article that this time, unlike the development of websites and tools for the first version of the internet, the mobile accessed version is truly world wide and that the African experience cannot and should not be overlooked. Even for design principles.

In fact, its not just even for design, but a must for design because these principles – in many ways – lay the foundation for how we will think about this global web experience, one that is already in our hands and will most likely be the norm for the next generation.

Semacraft Team will begin to address some of the current thinking on design for the mobile phone from the perspective of the emerging markets of Africa.


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