This is quite a startling statement, given that a majority of the developing world has already become highly dependent on smartphones and can hardly go a day without them. Virtually everyone has a smartphone for one reason or another—mainly, it’s for staying connected, but it can also be used for keeping track of everything that’s going on in the world. Whether it’s for used casually or as a business phone, just about everyone with access to a smartphone has one. So why is this Kenya thing such big news?
How exactly is it changing Africa?
Jimmy Wales, in his talk, revealed that he owns an unlocked Android smartphone made in China – but the same model was currently selling for 50USD in Kenya just last year. This is a big step up, because until recently the mobile phone trend in Africa was limited to devices that are only capable of calling and texting. According to the statistics from ABI research, there are as much as 11% of mobile users who use 3G connectivity, and are therefore using smartphones, in Africa today.
Over 300,000 Android smartphones have already been sold in Kenya alone. The numbers come from the Safaricom CEO who spoke at the Vodafone Mobile for Good Summit. According to the statements made by him and other representatives, this change in Africa’s electronic landscape was unexpected. While they did foresee Africa adapting to the trend sometime into the future, the realization that there truly is a growing smartphone user base there is new development.
The Budget Android that could
While they may not be quite like the US’s powerful iPhones or Galaxy S3s, Africa’s own budget China-made mobile phones have touch screens that are smaller than the iPhone, but still have excellent battery power. Jimmy Wales believes that this could herald a change for the better in African nations.
Recently, Wikipedia’s projects included expanding online encyclopedia access to areas that do not have access to 3G communication and to areas where computers are not accessible. However, the knowledge that smartphones are becoming prevalent in Africa means that progress can move much faster than even the staff at Wikipedia were able to anticipate.
This has turned Wikipedia’s attention towards broadening their efforts in Africa. They had previously been focusing their attention on certain areas in India; but with this new development, they realized that there is even greater potential in Africa. The Android-powered mobiles provide a pathway for Wikipedia to continue spreading the accessibility of the online encyclopedia and spread free knowledge to these areas without much difficulty.
While they do admit that the numbers are still small, there is a huge potential for the budding smartphone user base in Africa to grow even larger. With the speed of the change, it would not be a surprise if the market began to grow some more, especially if it’s carefully cultivated for the sake of education and learning. The statistics show that 3G access as well as bandwidth usage in various parts of Africa, including Nigeria, have been rising exponentially, giving Wikipedia a lot of hope.
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