The African Mobile Renaissance

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Kenya has been christened the ‘Silicon Valley’ of mobile phones, led by the success of money
transfer service MPESA and the high growth rate of start-up companies developing mobile
phone apps, the innovation wheel keeps turning with monthly mobile app competitions being
held at numerous technology hubs in the country. Coupled by the ability to regulate software
piracy on mobile platforms, the government assures investors a guarantee on return on
investment. Subsequent to piracy, a mobile app culture is already brewing up in the capital and
other major cities. Apps like Angry Bird and Foursquare are enjoying great popularity among
urban youths who flaunt their latest Android, Windows Mobile, Blackberry, iPhone, Bada and
Symbian smartphones. Foursquare in particular infuses social dynamics to their platform which
allow users to compete to be ‘mayors’ of locations they frequent. These game mechanics have a
domino effect beneficial to advertisers and location owners.

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The future of computing is mobile, the recent upsurge in smartphone use in Kenya has
presented an opportunity to develop interactive applications that add value to traditional phone
usage. QR codes, cameras, accelerometers, touch screens, GPS (Global Positioning System)
and haptic feedback all usher in a new realm of user experience. The latest entrant in the smart
features is NFC (Near Field Technology) technology, a radio communication standard that
enable mobile phones to exchange digital content over close proximity or by touch. This piece
of technology has already proven to be a disruptor in the retail market where consumers pay
by tapping their phones to a merchant terminal. The User Experience (UX) turf in the coming
decade will be dominated by these technologies.


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