BGDD Plenary: Mobiles and new approaches to ICT in Africa

This week I went to the annual meeting of the EPSRC-funded Bridging the Global Digital Divide Network. in Cambridge.

The BGDD network has had four projects over the last three years that have looked at aspects of digital inclusion in Kenya, India and Chile. The meeting reported back on progress from each of the projects, which are now nearing completion.

Guest speakers Paula Kotze and Gary Marsden from South Africa talked about their ongoing projects using mobiles and “digital doorways” – robust internet kiosks.

A key theme of both their talks was the move towards more flexible, ongoing projects that spend more time percolating technology into a community. Similarly, technology is becoming more flexible and not dictating how it should be used. Notable is the success of the MobileEd project, which provides an voice interface to wikis on a mobile, and Big Board, where users can download (and upload) content over bluetooth connections without charges.

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