Strengthening Africa’s ICT ecosystem means analyzing results and adjusting goals

A recap of ICT ecosystem goals set at the Connect Africa Summit held in October 2007 (in attendance were hundreds of participants from forty-three African countries) provides interesting commentary on how far African ICT has progressed in six years. Much has improved in terms of broadband access and policy, for example, but the level of development has fallen short of what stakeholders hoped for six years ago. Connectivity, universal access, policy, ICT skills, and e-applications take time to improve even when resources are focused.

The 87-page Connecting Africa Main Report, launched by AfDB during the Transform Africa 2013 summit (held in Kigali, Rwanda), assesses the goals set in 2007 and provides an updated outlook for African ICT development. Most often, goals have been pushed back by three years and additional means of reaching these goals have been added. read more

Report:Mobile Phones and Economic Development in Africa

Access to and use of mobile telephony in sub-Saharan Africa has increased dramatically over the past decade. Mobile telephony has brought new possibilities to the continent. Across urban-rural and rich-poor divides, mobile phones connect individuals to individuals, information, markets, and services. These effects can be particularly dramatic in rural Africa, where in many places mobile phones have represented the first modern telecommunications infrastructure of any kind. Mobile phones have greatly reduced communication costs, thereby allowing individuals and firms to send and to obtain information quickly and cheaply on a variety of economic, social, and political topics.
An emerging body of research shows that the reduction in communication costs associated with mobile phones has tangible economic benefits, improving agricultural and labor market efficiency and producer and consumer welfare in specific circumstances and countries.
This paper first examines the evolution of mobile phone coverage and adoption in sub-Saharan Africa over the past decade. We then explore the main channels through which mobile phones can effect economic outcomes and appraise current evidence of its potential to improve economic development. We conclude with directions for future research and outline the necessary conditions for mobile phones to promote broader economic development in Africa.
Article Full-Text Access Full-text Article (Complimentary)
Aker, Jenny C. (Tufts U and Center for Global Development, Washington, DC)
Mbiti, Isaac M. (Southern Methodist U)
JEL Classifications

H54: National Government Expenditures and Related Policies: Infrastructures; Other Public Investment and Capital Stock
L96: Telecommunications
O11: Macroeconomic Analyses of Economic Development
O17: Formal and Informal Sectors; Shadow Economy; Institutional Arrangements
O33: Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes

Arab Mobile App Challenge (AMAC) Looks to Spur New Entrepreneurship Wave –

Against the backdrop of a rapidly changing Arab world fuelled by the demands of young people for jobs and economic opportunity, Silatech and the Applied Innovation Institute, in partnership with Ooredoo, have launched the first Arab Mobile App Challenge. Teams of up to six members, under 35 years of age, will work to develop applications (known as “apps”) for mobile phones that address needs in the education, health, entertainment or employability/entrepreneurship sectors. The winning teams will receive a prize of USD 50,000, USD 30,000 and USD 20,000 respectively for first, second and third position.

The main objectives of the competition are to introduce young Arabs to the concept of entrepreneurship and the path to business start-up, as well as opportunities for enhancing employability skills particularly relevant to the tech space. Teams will go through an acceleration process, opportunities for multiple workshops, and also be assisted by an experienced mentor who will provide coaching and advice in how to turn good ideas into viable businesses. Starting as a pilot challenge this year in Tunisia, Qatar, UAE, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, the intent is to roll the contest out to the entire region in the future.

The global mobile app market is growing at very high speed and the Middle East mobile apps market is in line with this especially due to a high regional uptake of mobile phones. Though the region is well placed to benefit from mobile app opportunities, the number of commercially successful Arabic apps has been relatively few. The Arab Mobile App Challenge is a step toward developing the region’s underutilized potential in this regard.

Silatech and the Applied Innovation Institute are the founding partners of the Arab Mobile App Challenge, and Ooredoo has joined forces in the early stages as a Platinum Regional Sponsor supporting this initiative. The Regional Partners include Microsoft, Pearson, Yahoo, Tam Projects, Wamda, MIT Enterprise Forum, Potenial, and ArabNet. Country hosts are the Queen Rania Centre for Entrepreneurship (Jordan), Sup’Com (Tunisia), International Medical Centre and Saudi Telecom (KSA), The Hub (UAE) and Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar. by

5 Billion People to use Mobile Phones by 2017

Four years from now, 5.1 billion people will be mobile phone users around the globe — almost 1 billion more mobile users than the 4.3 billion people worldwide using them now.

Asia, the region that will see the most growth, is already home to the most mobile phone users. Some 2.4 billion people there use mobile phones, a figure projected to grow to 2.9 billion by 2017

Statista‘s chart, below, compares mobile phone penetration in 2013 to forecasts for 2017 in different regions of the world.

mobile phones