Developing Technology for the “Developing World”

I had a interesting discussion with yet again my IT guru friend, Uche (u don become blog famous…lol!), a couple of weeks ago about the challenges involved in developing technology for the “3rd World”. We were discussing about the issues he has to address in a web project he is currently working on!

While in developed countries the focus is on upgrades to existing technologies, individuals, businesses & organizations in developing countries have to establish systems to harness the power of technology!

Developing technology to be used in the developing world has its own challenges…3As & Ss come to mind….

– Availability

– Accessibility

– Affordability

– Simplicity

– Security

– Sustainability (designed in a way that allows for continuity, maintenance..i.e. people are self sufficient to trouble shoot and repair failed or faulty systems)

I think one of the technologies that was successful introduced in Africa which people cannot seem to live without is the “Mobile Phone” (so how is it phone technology??lol). Africans can TALK, TALK & TALK….so Telecom companies are going to be making money for a very long time!!

MTN made an excellent decision to expand out of South Africa in the late ’90s…and it paid off big time!When I left home in 1998 there were no cell phones (except for the mighty ones owned by a handful!!). It is almost 10 yrs since the introduction of this technology in Cameroon. MTN Group has been “reaping where it sowed” since it launched operations in Nigeria in 2001.

It started out as an exclusive service..SIM cards and phones were damn expensive….It slowly moved in the remote areas (who had reception only in specific spots in the villages!) and now it is relatively common place…The “Pay as you You” system is excellent since our society “cash” driven..If you cannot buy a recharge card to top up your “credit”..then you cannot make any calls…period!But people figured a way around this…and are now constant “peebeurs” or “flashers”….lol

Another company that understands how to market its products in the developing world is Nokia (which is truely “Connecting People”). Nokia caters for all:High, Medium & Low Tier, Simple vs. Complex, Stylish vs. Plain etc…..I love Nokia phones (simple ones!) any time any day!

The “Mobile Phone technology” is now available, accessible & has become relatively affordable! It is simple…easy to use.(from topping up your phone to following simple instructions in manuals). Security may not apply to this one..’cause people have become targets because of their “flashy” phones…I think it is sustainable…I am sure every “quartier” has a “Cell Phone Technician”…lol…We are just too smart!If one of these guys cannot figure out what is wrong with your phone..then it is time to get a new one…

One area which still needs a lot of work is Medical Devices..Infact the health care industry as a whole needs a total revamp in a lot of developing countries…Medical devices are a major contributor to the efficiency of this industry…
My sis wrote a very insightful paper for one of her Biomedical Engineering Undergrad Projects…on the Design & Development of Medical Devices for the developing world!The design criteria (and constraints) of devices need to consider the end user and environment.
How many Donated machines are now covered with dust because they cannot be used anymore…..Spares are too damn expensive & the expertise for maintenance is non-existent. I can go on

An article, “Medical Basics still needed in the Developing world” brings to light the following

– Making a shift towards medical care that is low cost but highly innovative

– Designing simple and robust systems

– The development of… ““point-of-care” diagnostic devices, such as a blood-testing system that goes “direct from finger to device. They must be high-throughput and low cost, for use at the point-of-care.””

Another interesting article….“Making Diagnostics Affordable”

Last year, Bill Gates stepped down from Microsoft to run his family’s charitable foundation. This foundation has become the richest and most influential voice in Global Public Health!

Technologies combined can help to promote awareness. Read about Mhealth (Mobile Health Technology) here

Also Check out….Projects & Perspectives on Global Health!

There seems to be a lot focus on global public health….Slowly but surely something is happening!

OK…back to my IT gurus….lol
IT Entrepreneurs( like Uche & Mambe!!) designing systems for Africa constantly address issues….IT gurus..please shed some light into the problems you face……I can already think of a few..(check me too..with my technophobe self…lol!!)

– Web Pay Systems

– Security

– Speed (Internet speed for one…ehmmm…something to do with Bandwidth???)

OK..that was a long one!!

Let’s see what the Technocrats have to say….lol

Have a nice weekend…


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  1. Mami you said it almost all ooh but for sure we have our own share of the cake here when it comes to implementing technology for Africans by Africans.
    We have a low Tech community which is what helps the folks in Silicon Valley grow very fast and we lack the time and money to invest into innovation rather we turn to spend more time making money than thinking of coming up with new things. A lot of tech guys love coming up with new things but they have to pay their bills so they get client work or they get a job full time while they play with technology when they are free hence slow innovations.
    Coming to think of it, building sustainable technology in Africa is not an issue because programming is all we need to get it running and servers and domain names are relatively cheap but like you said online payment infrastructures are not in place so its difficult for us to make payments directly and also hinders African developers from making money with their tech or solutions online.
    ooh mami make I no take over your blog ooh 😉 there is more for a post maybe 😀

  2. wow, i’m loving this yef! great post and great insight yef. i need part 2 for this matter lol


  3. I sense a turn of tide because the African entrepreneurs of today understand our unique challenges exemplified by your A’s and S’s. Evidence that we are breaking ground can be taken from the large amount of successes.

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