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Southern Innovator Magazine Is Printed And Readied For Distribution | 31 May 2011

“What a tremendous magazine your team has produced! It’s a terrific tour de force of what is interesting, cutting edge and relevant in the global mobile/ICT space… Really looking forward to what you produce in issues #2 and #3. This is great, engaging, relevant and topical stuff.” 

Rose Shuman, Founder & CEO, Open Mind and Question Box

I had the pleasure of visiting the printing plant to witness the presses rolling with the first issue of new global magazine, Southern Innovator. The magazine has been in careful development and saw its name evolve from Creative Sparks to Southern Innovator. As Shakespeare noted in his play Romeo and Juliet, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.” And it is what Southern Innovator is that counts the most.

This first issue is just the beginning of a process, a back-and-forth dialogue with our readers as we refine and improve the magazine to boost its impact. The first issue’s theme – mobile phones and information technology – was chosen because of the sheer dynamism of this area and some jaw-dropping achievements: the growth of mobile phone usage in Africa represents an unprecedented take-up of a new technology, often in some of the poorest places on the planet. That impresses and it seemed right to share information about the amazing people behind this phenomenon and the lessons they learned along the way. It has also become clear in the research behind the monthly e-newsletter Development Challenges, South-South Solutions (published since 2006), that significant future development gains will not happen without the aid of mobile phones and information technology, and, important to note, will need these tools to raise living standards for all the world’s people in an environment of increasing competition and pressure for resources.

Used right, mobile phones and information technology allow the efficient use of resources. But, as anyone who has worked with technology knows, this isn’t a given. Vast sums of money and time can be squandered if technology is not used intelligently, or lessons not learned from past failures. It is hoped Southern Innovator‘s first issue can contribute to a better use of resources, and by taking a broad look at what is happening out there, enlighten readers to new ideas, people and concepts.

Southern Innovator is designed in Iceland by Graphic Designer and Illustrator Solveig Rolfsdottir. 

“Question Box was featured in Southern Innovator, a new publication of UNDP that profiles some of the most innovative ideas coming out of the global South. We were pleased to see many friends in the sector profiled as well, such as UshahidiMedic Mobile, and TxtEagle. Take a look at the magazine, as it is a great primer on ICT and mobile innovation from around the globe.”

Question Box News

“Beautiful, inspiring magazine from UNDP on South-South innovation. Heart is pumping adrenaline and admiration just reading it”

Peggy Lee on Pinterest
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ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2011

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Wireless Internet Culture Helping Zimbabwe Economy Recover

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

Zimbabwe’s turbulent descent into hyperinflation at the beginning of the 2000s – and the food crisis it caused as prices soared and purchasing power shrank – captured the world’s attention. From refugees fleeing the country to widespread hunger and poverty, the impact of hyperinflation was stark and distressing. Since the country’s economy stabilized in 2009, various signals are showing that Zimbabwe is slowly making its way back to growth and stability.

The scale of the hyperinflation is summed up by Zimbabwe’s eye-popping inflation rate. By December 2008, inflation was estimated at 6.5 quindecillion novemdecillion percent (or 65 followed by 107 zeros — 65 million googol) (Forbes Asia).

One recovery strategy is emerging in Zimbabwe’s booming eating and drinking establishments. It seems the urge to socialize and network has become the source of economic vitality where so much else has been damaged.

The proliferation of coffee shops with wi-fi (wireless internet access) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wi-Fi) has spawned a new, connected business culture that is flexible and entrepreneurial.

Zimbabwe’s unity government was formed in September 2008. By the beginning of 2009, the government relented on the crippling hyperinflation and allowed business to be conducted in the US dollar. This made it possible to save again and do business with greater predictability. At this time, the country had the world’s highest inflation rate and the central bank printed a 100 trillion Zimbabwe dollar note.

The economic result of greater stability has been new shopping malls opening and a boom in new eating and drinking establishments.

During the hyperinflation, eating out was the last thing on most people’s minds. Just surviving was the paramount daily task.

In the capital, Harare (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harare), the shopping mall Sam Levy’s Village (http://samlevysvillage.com), in the prosperous Borrowdale area of the northern suburbs, is full of thriving coffee shops, restaurants and pubs.

Outside of the wealthy enclaves, coffee shops have sprung up in the city’s art gallery, in sports clubs and a local supermarket chain.

While the coffees are still expensive relative to local wages, the Zimbabwe Online Hotspots (ZOL) (http://www.zol.co.zw) in the coffee shops have proved a big attraction. Most people in Zimbabwe have unreliable or non-existent electricity or, if lucky, poor-quality phone and internet dial-up in their homes.

ZOL Hotspots typically offer the first half hour of internet use for free. To surf longer, users must buy a voucher.

The damage done to the economy from hyperinflation and the political crisis means the country is still on the mend. But people have now resorted to what they call “networking,” according to Bryony Rheam in the Daily Telegraph newspaper. The functioning economy is all about making deals. And coffee shops with wi-fi are the perfect place to meet with a potential business partner.

But while the coffee shops are buzzing with people doing business, the proprietors still need to work out how to make better profits. Sales are still poor as people are mostly fixated on the wi-fi. One owner told the Telegraph: “We need to start charging people who sit here all day surfing the net.”

It is the restaurants who seem to be enjoying the boost in incomes and better spirits after the economic troubles. Zimbabwe’s black middle class are enjoying big occasions and celebrating with friends and family in restaurants.

“We went without for so long, that a lot of people almost see it as their right to spend money on eating out,” one patron told the Telegraph.

More good news has come from outside investors as well: Amstel Securities NV (http://www.amstelsec.com), based in Amsterdam, Netherlands calls Zimbabwe’s economy “the final frontier market in Africa”. It believes the country has the potential to grow its GDP (gross domestic product) to US $12 billion by 2015. The International Monetary Fund says the economy jumped from US $4.4 billion in 2009 to US $9 billion now.

In Amstel Securities’ report, it pegs the dollarization of the economy as the reason for stability: “These improvements have made Zimbabwe a much more vibrant economy with good further recovery potential.”

And these good vibes are contagious: it has been reported that the American hamburger chain McDonald’s is revisiting the idea of setting up in Zimbabwe. McDonald’s is currently present in a handful of African countries: South Africa has 132 restaurants.

Published: September 2010

Resources

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator. 

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022

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Crowdfunding Technology Start-up Success in Africa

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

Technology is the future for the South, and South African start-up culture is trying to get a foothold on the African continent and forge a more supportive environment for entrepreneurs and innovators.

Modelled on the successful approaches pioneered in U.S. high-technology centres like California’s Silicon Valley (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silicon_Valley) , Crowdfund (http://www.crowdfunding.co.za) aims to connect start-up technology companies with cash, experience and contacts, helping them get to the crucial prototype stage so that they can go big and go global.

It works like this: in order to build up a fund of cash to invest in start-ups, 1,000 people get together and invest R1,000 (US $128) into a Crowdfund – a pool of investment cash. A board is set up and uses the pooled cash to invest in between 10 and 20 of the best start-up ideas submitted. The ideas are funded and developed into working prototypes in return for a stake in the business. Once the working prototype is up and running, traditional venture capitalists are approached for further funding and usually Crowdfund will then cash in its equity.

The concept of crowdfunding allows groups of people to use the internet to pool their money together to help support a person or a cause (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crowd_funding) . There are now many variations on the concept, with online services providing crowdfunding for artists, designers, film-makers, causes, scientists and technology pioneers.

As a model for raising funds for small businesses, the concept has a long history in poor communities across the South. Often, it can be a group of poor women pooling their resources to help each other start small businesses. Technology in the form of the internet and mobile phones has helped the concept jump to the next level, and expanded the pool of people who can support a crowdfunded idea around the world.

It is an answer to the need for so-called “angel funding” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angel_investor) : somebody with lots of cash who is willing to help a start-up entrepreneur. Crowdfund’s founders felt South Africa lacked enough angel funders to meet the needs of the country’s technology start-ups. This can be a big problem in countries where there is no history or culture of angel funding and searching far and wide for the “next big idea.”

In April of this year, Crowdfund was able to raise R1 million (over US $128,000) from 229 investors.

Venture capitalists (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venture_capital) – people or investment groups looking for high-growth start-ups to invest in – usually prefer to put their money into proven ideas for big, fast returns. They often lack interest in smaller ideas that may grow more slowly. It is a classic dilemma: how can an entrepreneur know if their idea will work if nobody will give them the cash to prove it?

This is a critical problem in the information age. As broadband technology spreads across Africa, the opportunities for online businesses will just grow and grow. But few will be able to benefit and African start-ups will not stand a chance against global competition if funding is not available to nurture new businesses.

Crowdfund assesses ideas and identifies skill shortfalls. The cash is used to help with the skills shortage, provide office space, bandwidth, hosting and mentorship. The funded team will also have access to legal, marketing and management experts to get through the development stage and avoid costly mistakes. The development process in stage one takes three months. The Crowdfund Board will then search for potential investors to take the start-up to stage two and a working prototype.

By this stage negotiations will take place to set the start-up off on the path to global success. They are helped with the tricky negotiation process with investors.

Apart from the start-up cash, the powerful idea behind Crowdfund is the network of support and advice that comes with it. Two of the board members are South Africans based in San Francisco, USA, and can make that crucial connection with the buzzing U.S. technology scene. Investors are asked to mentor the start-up concepts, meaning start-ups are accessing normally costly business advice.

Crowdfund tries to get a response back to potential start-ups within 48 hours (http://digitalgarage.co.za/2010/04/12/filtering-the-applications-for-funding/) , so, if you have a great idea, get submitting!

Published: June 2010

Resources

  • TechMasai: Pan-African start-up news and reviews. Website: www.techmasai.com
  • Kickstarter: This new site allows US artists, journalists, entrepreneurs, explorers and others to raise the funds for their next big idea. Anyone with an idea for a new endeavour can post a description of their project on Kickstarter along with a deadline, a funding goal and incentives to encourage others to pledge financial support. Website: http://www.kickstarter.com/
  • AfricaUnsigned: This African alternative way of producing African music started this year. Unsigned artists record their music, funded by fans. Music fans from all over the world listen to the selection of artists, pick their favorite(s) and chip in a minimum of $1 dollar to the recording of a professional EP. The music is then distributed to the fans who backed the artist and sold on all major online stores (incl. Amazon & iTunes). Website: www.AfricaUnsigned.com
  • Afrinnovator: Is about telling the stories of African start-ups, African innovation, African made technology, African tech entrepreneurship and entrepreneurs. Their mission is to ‘Put Africa on the Map’ by covering these kinds of stories from all over Africa. As their website says, “if we don’t tell our own story, who will tell it for us?” Website: http://afrinnovator.com

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator. 

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This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022

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Mobile Applications Market: Opportunities for South

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

As the number of mobile phone users around the world mushrooms, so does the mobile phone applications market. Revenue from downloads of applications, or apps, topped US $10 billion in 2009, according to market analyst firm Juniper (http://juniperresearch.com).

Applications have two distinct advantages for the poor in the South. Apps targeted at the poor can boost incomes and increase health and education. And they are an emerging way to make money.

Somebody who develops an application can expect to make up to 70 percent of the download cost. Apple (http://www.apple.com/iphone/apps-for-iphone) – owner of the iPhone application store – claims it has already given developers over US $1 billion in revenues.

It is a growing industry. The market-leading Apple App Store now boasts more than 225,000 applications for download and sale. It says they have been downloaded an impressive 5 billion times.

Android Market (http://www.android.com/market/#app=com.com2us.HG), run by the search engine Google, has more than 60,000 apps on offer. GetJar (www.getjar.com), an independent mobile phone application store from Sweden, says it has 72,000 apps available and has had 1 billion downloads.

Now that the apps economy has been running for a couple years, it is possible to divine what increases a developer’s success. Some believe the apps marketplace mimics the dynamics of the music business, rather than the traditional software business.

GetJar chief executive Ilja Laurs told the Economist that it takes as long to write an app as a song. Apps on average cost about the same as a music download: US $1.90. And just like the pop music charts, a few become big hits but most never make it. Apps are also a quick hit: even after becoming successful they can quickly fade back to obscurity again. In short, they are fad and trend driven and are very much about the moment and a current need.

That means they are wide open to newcomers from the South.

With mobile phones now the main channel for information in East Africa, for example, and mobile penetration exceeding 40 percent of the population there, vast markets have opened for apps. East Africa has more than 120 million citizens, with a large majority living in rural areas: many needing poverty-fighting apps to change their lives.

Various new applications show the creative thinking already coming out of the South. South Africa’s Afridoctor (www.afridoctor.com) is Africa’s first personal mobile health clinic. Users submit photos of ailments and receive advice from a panel of professionals, or use the mapping feature to find doctors, clinics and all health industry related services nearby. The emergency feature notifies next of kin of your distress and location. Features include symptom checkers, first-aid information, health calculators and quizzes. Afridoctor hopes to make health care affordable and accessible to Africans. It is made by 24.com (http://store.ovi.com/publisher/24.com), South Africa’s largest digital brands group.

In Mexico, the tragedy of migrants dying as they try to cross the border to the United States is being addressed by Mexican professor Ricardo Dominguez, with funding from charities. He has developed an app tool to help people who cross the US-Mexico border find drinking water in the desert, churches with shelter, and human right groups offering them help. Immigrants download the app – being called a “platform for Migrant Border” – onto their mobile phones.

“The purpose is to provide a platform to travel safely through the desert,” said Dominguez, who led the design team.

App action has heated up in India, where Spice Mobiles (http://www.spiceglobal.com/SpiceMobiles/SpiceMobiles.aspx) – a wing of the Spice Group – is launching an application store with 250 content providers. India’s Bharti Airtel launched its first home-grown mobile application store in February of this year – Airtel App Central (http://www.airtel.in/apps). It clocked up over 13 million downloads in four months.

India’s Reliance Communications (http://www.rcom.co.in/Rcom/personal/home/index.html) also launched an application called Socially. It has been designed to enable users to follow the recent activity of friends, and also allows the user to update their status on different social networks like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn through a single client.

Jon Gosier, from Appfrica Labs (http://appfrica.net/blog) – behind the highly successful crisis crowdsourcing Ushahidi application (http://www.ushahidi.com) – explained the thinking behind apps in Africa:

“Our goal is to show the world that Africa is capable of solving some of its own problems,” he told CP-Africa.com. “Too often Africans aren’t even considered as a resource when discussing how to improve their own quality of life.”

He has the following advice for would-be app developers: “Think global. Too many entrepreneurs here (Africa) think of themselves as competing with peers within their school or country. That’s not true. You’re competing in the global market now. If your website or web app doesn’t look as flashy or polished as the stuff from 37 Signals (www.37signals.com) or Carsonified (www.carsonified.com), you’ve still got work to do.

“You don’t get a pass on the web because you’re African. You get the challenge of working harder.”

NEW: Apps4Africa Competition: Apps 4 Africa is a regional competition with the goal of promoting local technology entrepreneurs as they build tools to serve the needs of NGOs and the local community. This unprecedented partnership meshes civil society with developers and designers to create technical solutions to local challenges. The competition will ask civil society and citizens throughout the region to submit local community challenges on issues like transparency and better governance, health, education and more where technology can be a part of the solution. The burgeoning ranks of innovative techies in the region will then use this list of community challenges as the basis of their work, thus creating “an app for that.” Website:www.apps4africa.org

Published: August 2010

Deadline: August 31, 2010

Resources

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator.  

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022