Nathan Eagle: mobile phone use in Kenya
September 11th, 2006

via BoingBoing

Nathan Eagle is working on the EPROM (Entrepreneurial Programming and Research On Mobiles) project – launched jointly at MIT and the University of Nairobi:

The premise behind the project comes from the fact that today’s mobile phones are designed to meet Western needs. Subscribers in developing countries, however, now represent the majority of mobile phone users worldwide (1.4 billion mobile phone subscribers live in the developing world!). We believe the adoption of new technologies and services within this vast, emerging market will drive innovation and help shape the future of the mobile phone – and we want to help make this happen. We have focused on Africa because it is currently the fastest growing mobile phone market in the world, and I’ve moved to Kenya for the year to get the project off the ground.

What Kenyans are starting to do with their phones is amazing. Today, in my small town of Kilifi, I can buy milk, pay for a taxi ride, even check the local vegetable prices on my mobile… I describe this phenomenon in more detail here.

One of the key activities of EPROM is to this facilitate the development and deployment of these new mobile phone applications through the creation of a mobile phone programming curriculum for African computer science students. In Kenya, only 200,000 households have electricity, which has not seemed to have deterred the almost 6 million Kenyan mobile phone subscribers. Having an infrastructure of devices that have the computational horsepower of the PCs from a decade ago while not being dependent on a steady supply of electricity makes exclusively teaching Western PC-centric computer programming in African universities increasingly misplaced. At such a critical point in the evolution of computing technology, Africa’s adoption and innovative use of custom mobile phone applications confirms the need to equip African computer science students with the skills to develop mobile phone applications specifically for African users. More information on the curriculum is here.

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