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The wisdom in African crowds

Aly-Khan Satchu's picture

"Erica Hagen in her piece in Development Outreach talks of the map Kibera effort being a ' first step toward local ownership and creation of shared information.' And in that comment I feel she has hit the nail on the head.'

As an investor, you throw in the previously quite entrenched Africa perception gap and you have a very interesting situation. I would describe the situation as a potential laboratory for innovation. An incredibly youthful skew to the population (60% of Kenyans are under the age of 24) surely is also an accelerator. And hence my desire and interest of late to get on the ground, pound the pavement and see if this has actually been a catalyst for innovation.

Safaricom's mPesa money transfer product will probably transfer 20% of Kenya’s GDP in 2010! Thats from a standing start just a few short years ago. On Ngong road, you will find the iHub and the folks from Ushahidi - the open source crisis management people. I remember using their site in January 2008 to find out what on earth was happening in my city, Nairobi. Today, it is being deployed all over the world from Chile to the Gaza strip. It has given the crowd a tool with which to organize itself and by itself. It reminds me of the story of Gulliver and the Lilliputians. The mobile phone (and Ushahidi's very simplicity it is SMA based) is as was the net for the Lilliputians. And this model can be applied at the neighborhood level and it is. I was speaking at a TedxKibera and this young lady from MapKibera was speaking as well. She described how they had mapped the informal settlement using the crowd.

Erica Hagen in her piece in Development Outreach talks of the map Kibera effort being a ' first step toward local ownership and creation of shared information.' And in that comment I feel she has hit the nail on the head. We now exist in an information century and information is the most valuable currency of all but equally important is a sense of ownership. When you own a piece of it you look after it a whole lot more than when you are a tenant. And I think the architecture around map Kibera is a lesson for many who want to help.

And what we are seeing is a common trend, whose defining characteristic is leveraging the crowd.

The evidence before my eyes confirms that indeed, this laboratory experiment has only just gotten started. It remains in essence a very grass roots revolution. There is an extraordinary low base effect. The irony is that Africa’s story has always been interwoven with resources and what can be dug out of the ground whereas the greatest value is what walks upon the ground. And that those one billion souls have finally been given the 'mobile' connection to the 21st century, which is clearly an information century.
 

Comments

With such a majority of a country being so young that provides a lot of promise for change and improvement. Younger people are more open to learning different things and with many of the opinions held in African nations, education is of paramount importance. The youth is the future so the more the young citizens of African nations can learn, the better off their future will become.

Submitted by DC activist on
This is a good start by the writer but it seems he is only marketing these other companies.Does this writer have a vested interest in those companies or do they give a kick back to world bank? I think world bank needs to investigate.This article is like a marketing article(ad).I think Glen Beck has to look at such choices of bloggers by the world bank.World bank is really gone to the very low by trying to market businesses to us through bloggers.

An information century unfolds, but in no small measure through the efforts of the people who work to take resources from the ground - hence "Silicon Valley" - a sense of ownership counts for much yet it is difficult to literally own information, so once again we look to the earth and its resources for this too.

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