Watch Africa Today

by Doc Searls

"In Africa people are much more attuned to blogs than you'd think." Ethan Zuckerman just said that. (You might remember Ethan from GeekCorps.) It's one quotable line among a cascade of them. And he hasn't even gotten around to the remarkable Eric Osiakwan yet. Both are talking about The Climate of Innovation Around Information Technology in Sub-Saharan Africa, the topic of today's luncheon at the Berkman Center. It's being streamed live, and it's so different from the usual geek fare — yet both geeky and extremely important for both Kenya and Africa.

Here's the IRC: irc:// Join in. I'll take notes here.

Ethan says functional cell phone coverage — including rural areas — in Africa is "approaching 100%". Eric's point: sharing has been critical, from infrastructure to individual phones. A goal (in the case Eric is detailing): "build a Eurpean quality network and company without paying a single dollar in bribe".

The result is Zain.

"I can use my Zain number in the Middle East, anywhere in Africa..."

"You can go into a rural area and share common infrastructure."

Ethan: "The really interesting entrepreneurial projects are the ones that aim at Africa 2s" (the new middle class). Their aspirational needs — and their travels — drive the growth of mobile networks.

East Africa is the only major world population that doesn't have an undersea cable. They're working on that, through . Right now you might pay $7k per month for a 2Mb connection. Afterwards, far less.

On the IRC, somebody is wondering if Wikia's World University might "work in Ghana, using video-capable programmable, iphone-like devices".

Eric bought an EeePC.

On screen: Inside Nairobi, The Next Palo Alto?

Ethan: "The thing everyone fears in Africa is nationalization". As a caution about public money reducing private risk in building undersea cable and other major investments.

Eric just told about an African guy working on a simulated iPhone, without having one. This reminded Harry Lewis, who teaches computer science here at Harvard, of how Bill Gates simulated the Altair 8080 on a PDP-10 at Harvard so he could write BASIC for the 8080 without ever meeting one.