To make real social change in Africa, technology developers and entrepreneurs need to start thinking about the “bottom billion”, according to a British investment executive.
British grant-making organisation the Indigo Trust invests in technology-driven projects to bring about social change and speaking at AfricaCom 2012 today (Tuesday), executive Loren Treisman said they would not consider taking on a project geared towards smartphone users while trying to reach out to rural Africa.
Dr Treisman said: “First of all most of these people [in rural Africa] don’t have access to electricity and anyone who uses a smartphone knows the battery does not last longer than a day if you are using it regularly. If we want to reach the bottom billion we need to produce SMS services.”
Dr Treisman emphasised providing “relevant content” was vital for people in rural Africa to get them engaged in technology which could improve their lives.
One such application could be Tawk2Me, a voice messaging service which aims to give the illiterate access to conventional social media.
Tawk2Me joined forces with Rorotika Technologies in January, but was put on hold during the summer as a new business model was investigated.
Tinus Neethling, Chief Executive Officer at Rorotika Technologies, said the application is now one of their priorities.
He added: “This might not be something that works in Europe, but there is a real problem with literacy to use social media services in Africa.”
Dr Treisman said people in rural Africa would be likely to benefit if “techies” and “social activists” could work closer together.
She added: “Social activists really know what is needed on the ground, but techies know how to create solutions. The right product could be created if there was more cohesion.”