Africa’s Cell Boom: Overcoming Government Corruption Through SMS

April 7, 2009

The face of Africa has been changed overnight. The recent boom in cell phone use across all nations and regions of Africa in the past ten years has at least partially revitalized its people, allowing them methods of circumventing the oppressive corruption of their native governments. One of the biggest obstacles preventing Africa from reaping the benefits from its rich natural resources and native industry is the phenomenally corrupt governmental system. The government not only warps the political system to fill their own pockets, but they also monitor communications networks for objectionable content and censor it.

Recently, with the phenomenal boom in cell phone use and their permeation throughout all regions of the continent, Africa has entered a communications renaissance of sorts. There are scores of services that have been developed by African companies and programmers that enable a much greater degree of personal autonomy than ever before. With the ability to report information, receive agricultural information, market management, and a censorship free SMS substitute all available from regular mobile phones it is easy to see why the mobile phone is “the default device in Africa.”

The benefits of Africa’s current freeware-lite model of cell technology sharing has afforded many Africans the ability to reap the benefits of the Web 2.0 era communications revolution in a continent where steady unfiltered Internet access is at a premium. The African people have wholly embraced this new technology and are working to spread its influence to as many parts of the continent as possible. There have been freeware updates to support Amharic characters for support in Ethiopia, and even an Amharic specific SMS client.

It is crucial that the new African technocracy fully utilize their advantage in communications before the presiding governments truly grasp their potential. As George Ayittey said in his speech on the future of Africa the Hippos will not change, they like the status quo the way it is, with them rich and powerful of the work of their subjects. The Hippos have enacted some basic digital communications monitoring, but the current generation of African tech elite have plenty of ways around it. This is the time for the Cheetahs to strike against the Hippos.

Patrick Farley


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