Smart Technology for Phones that are not Smart


Within a very short time, our mobile phones have become such an important part of our lives. We do everything on our phones; use it for meeting notes, to keep track of our finances, for revision in the case of students and most commonly to stay up to date on the lives of loved ones via social media. If you are reading this article it is highly likely that you have a smartphone and reside/work in areas that are covered by broadband thus allowing you to access the internet and this website. However, for the majority of Africans, this is not the reality. According to the International Business Times, 80% of Africans own a mobile device and only 11% have 3G connections.

Broadly speaking this means that as Africans while we are constantly creating innovations we are innovating for the minority. This should not be misconstrued to be mean that the 11% will remain static, it will grow but we can’t forget about those who don’t have smartphones. Innovators across the continent who have identified this need have developed revolutionary technology. Firstly, there is MPawa which is a job-searching application that operates entirely through SMS. Based in Ghana, this application connects blue-collar workers with employers who need them, without requiring the Internet. Furthermore, the application ForgetMeNot is a perfect example of inclusive innovation. It provides those who cannot access the internet an opportunity to use internet-based services by converting emails, Facebook updated and chat notifications into text messages. The CEO Jeremy George noted in a 2012 video that: “It really doesn’t seem fair that people who can’t afford new technology can’t be part of what’s happening in the West… Digital technology performs a role, that could be a social, educational, or helping a small business.” We could not have said it better ourselves. The company is currently based in Zimbabwe and has contracts with mobile carriers in Lesotho, Kenya, Nigeria and the Republic of Congo.

The reality of the situation is that non-smartphones will be with us for a little while longer and technology for these phones is not going to come out of America or Europe. It has to be designed for us and used by us.

We at ComzAfrica applaud all the innovators who created inclusive technology and welcome these individuals to work with us to create solutions for everyone, everywhere! 

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