Technology cheerleaders love to talk "leapfrogging," the idea that developing regions that haven't adopted traditional technology (like an electrical grid or banking systems) can jump straight to the newest, "better," thing more quickly. Occasionally, that's true, like in parts of Africa where empowering mobile phones took off long before most people had landlines. Now the big idea is that drones will negate the need for roads, and save lives in the process. The Economist presents a more measured view:
...Such caveats hardly dampen the mood at business conferences in Africa, where you find hundreds of investors gushing about their plans to help the poor with new technology and make big profits while doing it. “Within the next few years you’ll really see leapfrogging taking off,” says Ashish Thakkar, a British-born, Ugandan businessman whose Mara Group, a business-services firm, is setting up tech businesses across the continent. Perhaps, but tech booms based on leapfrogging have been wrongly anticipated in the past. Americans who turn up in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam with millions of dollars hoping to buy startups that have risen as part of the so-called “Silicon Savannah”, an east African cluster, for example, frequently leave empty-handed because there isn’t all that much to buy.
African tech types often think they can quickly copy rich-country products and sell them to the urban middle class. But then they discover that there is no getting around complex tax laws, a dearth of engineers and fragmented markets. The Western investors who back them have even less grasp of just how dysfunctional basic infrastructure can be, notes Ory Okolloh, a Kenyan investor and a political activist. All the evidence suggests that technology firms are no better at leapfrogging such hurdles than, say, a carmaker. The only part of the continent with a mature tech scene is South Africa: a country which also has good roads, reliable power and plenty of well-educated graduates.
Founded in 1989, Mr Bongo is an exquisitely-curated indie record (and film) label that uncovers incredible Brazilian psych, rare soul, avant-jazz, and deeply groovy Afrobeat recordings and reissues them in beautiful and informative vinyl and CD packages. Based in Brighton, UK, the label’s latest compilation is titled The Original Sound Of Mali and the clips […]
Late last year, famed South African artist Esther Mahlangu visited a number of major American cities with a traveling display of her work and hands-on workshops for aspiring artists. It’s a great glimpse into her body of work.
William Onyeabor, the Nigerian musician who pioneered African electro-funk in the 1970s, has died. He was 70-years-old. Onyeabor’s music experienced a resurgence in recent years thanks to the Luaka Bop label’s reissues of his deeply groovy albums. From Luaka Bop: It is with incredibly heavy hearts that we have to announce that the great Nigerian […]
Proofreading your own writing can be tough. WhiteSmoke is a marked improvement upon the spellchecker bundled with your word processor of choice. It detects complex stylistic errors like monotonous language, inconsistent tense, and punctuation mistakes to ensure that your writing flows naturally with technical accuracy. While it’s definitely a boon to non-native speakers who might […]
If you are camping during rainy season, or just want a TSA-approved lighter, these plasma torches make perfect travel companions. These gas-free lighters create a small plasma beam that’s safer than butane to use and more environmentally friendly. It creates a super-hot, splashproof flame so you can get a campfire going, or have a smoke […]
If you don’t want to get stuck footing the bill for a hit and run, this dashboard-mounted camera offers up to 2K resolution to make sure you always have a reliable witness, and it’s available in the Boing Boing Store for 30% off it’s usual price.The PapaGo mounts unobtrusively to your windshield to see everything […]