Monday, 31 October 2011

Back in Action

It's been a little bit since my last post *cough* 29 months *cough*, and we've left all the blogging to Nathaniel for way too long now, so I thought I'd try to get back on this train with a quick post here to get the juices flowing again.

I'll leave the stories about the recycling centres and the projects that we are currently maintaining to Nathaniel, since he's the one on the ground there, and try to bring some attention to any and all issues related to the work that we have done and would like to do.

One of the things that has always impressed me in Kenya is how they have managed to adopt technology to fit their surroundings. Mobile phones are used in so many innovative ways that I would have never thought of.

For those of you that haven't been to Kenya or East Africa, you may not have heard of a thing called M-Pesa, which is a service provided by Safaricom (the local telecom). It's a simple but effective medium for money transfer which uses cell phones to text money to one another. Everyone and their dog has a cell phone in Kenya, but not everyone's got a bank account. Watching it in action is pretty remarkable, if you want to pay someone for a day's worth of work but don't want to carry cash on you? Text it. Need to borrow a few bucks from your friend but he's across town? Text it. Want to pay your utilities but don't want to wait in line? Text it. The part I like about it the most is the fact that all this money is being moved around without any banks being involved (asides from the Commercial Bank of Africa that acts as a float), they're occupying wall street without even knowing it ;) Here's a good article about it from the Economist.

Mobile Movement takes this concept to another level by not only providing funds through phones, but technical expertise and microcredit to individuals and groups that are trying to make a difference in their communities.

And finally, here is another simple but effective use of the cell phone: report cards. The people at Tusquee Systems, a Kenyan-based company, have come up with a method of texting students' exam scores, attendance, and other school-related information to parents. All I can say is that I'm glad that this was invented after I graduated from high school...

Although this has nothing to do with cell phones, today is apparently the day that the world hits the 7 billion marker, so I thought I'd leave this NPR video to illustrate how we've gotten to where we are.

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