There is an Nokia Advert that I loved and the tagline was something to the effect that the “new internet” was being created by hand, alluding to the fact that the social media phenomenon was contingent on a plethora of user submitted content experiences, be they YouTube videos or location service meta-data.
I was recently in Kenya, the de-facto hub of Africa’s IT sector and the startling impression I came away with was that Kenya has embraced ICT whole-heartedly, across all sectors of the socio-economic divide. The most conclusive evidence I found of this was when on the way back from the Airport I saw a billboard announcing the Huawei Ideos, an Android 2.2 Smartphone retailing for the equivalent of $100.
Intrigued, I asked the Taxi driver what he knew about the Ideos and he proceeded to tell me how it was one of the best phones available because it was a “smart phone” rather than a “dumb” phone and you could connect easily to YouTube and facebook. He also proudly mentioned that Kenya was home to one of the largest Google Offices in Africa. There is plenty of other anecdotal evidence supporting the theory that Kenya is head and shoulders above a number of other African countries in the ICT space but for me the simplest metric is the amount of content on the internet by Kenyans about Kenyans.
Now if the stats are to be believed, Zimbabwe is currently ranked 7th in terms of Internet penetration on the African continent. There is however a marked paucity of local contextual content. TechZim recently published an article on a number of prominent local blogs, but in addition to this type of content, we need to begin to a lot more crowd-sourced social data.
The simplest example of this is Google Maps data. By visiting http://www.google.com/mapmaker anyone can upload information that will become part of the Google Maps experience. Information such as tagging your favorite restaurant, night spot or even your place of business is crucial as the next generation of location aware applications will be based around Google’s mapping technology. Location aware augmented reality apps such as Layar, (which allows a user to view information super-imposed over images they are viewing through their smart-phone camera) require local data layers.
Before we begin to take the next step and create the next generation of web applications we need to reach critical mass in terms of the local content we are generating, which means we need to be sharing more information on Twitter and YouTube but also crafting more local and contextual data.
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