Ken Banks (FrontlineSMS) Part 4 - Afrinnovator
This is the last in a series of interview posts from a discussion with Ken Banks, the founder of Kiwanja.net and FrontlineSMS.
In the first part of the interview, Ken gave us some of his background and how he came to get involved with mobile technology and how the FrontlineSMS project began. In the second part we talked about SMS technology and more FrontlineSMS. In the third part we talked about projects such as FrontlineSMS:Medic and FrontlineSMS:Credit which are specific applications of FrontlineSMS to ‘vertical’ scenarios such as medicine and informal banking.
To wind up the interview we sought to find out what Ken sees in the future for mobile technology specifically in Africa…
Afrinnovator.com: What do you think is the future of mobile in Africa? What are your predictions on some trends we might start seeing in the near future (specifically relating to mobile in Africa)?
Ken Banks (Kiwanja.net, FrontlineSMS): The future in mobile is difficult to predict, and I could say things like ‘data enabled phones for all by 2015′ and so on and be totally wrong.
Instead, I’d rather focus on what I hope to see as the future of mobile in Africa. And without a doubt that future would include increasing levels of home-grown innovation around the technology, and potentially more financial investment in those innovations, something which is generally lacking (although Appfrica Labs is a good example of what a solution may look like). Things like the iHub, which my good friend Erik Hersman has helped establish recently in Nairobi, is another good example of the way forward.
I’d also like to see more training and support, and concrete efforts to generally empower mobile users and developers in Africa, so we ultimately see more innovation and problem solving happening on the ground. Although it may sometimes work, outsiders building and developing solutions largely struggles to achieve any kind of sustainability.
For reasons I mentioned earlier, I think mobile gives a unique opportunity for local solutions to flourish, and we need to do everything we can to support that, and not stifle it. Mobile for development in Africa should be driven by people in Africa. That’s the most sensible way forward, right?
A big thank you to Ken Banks for taking the time to do this interview!