Over this last Tuesday and Wednesday was the Netsquared N2Y4 conference. It was a two day event that focused on mobile technology innovations, as well as having the winners of several contests announced at the end of it.
Overall, it was a good meeting. As is natural with any conference, some sessions were better than others and some keynotes were more engaging than others. But, they pulled it off well in the end and more than anything it was a great venue to learn more about projects that I hadn’t heard of as well as meet new people in a variety of fields. Oh, Maneno also gave a talk about what we’re doing as well which was great as we did this in more of a discussion setting which allowed us to interact with people who had some new ideas on what we’re doing which we are now looking in to. I liked this format a lot since having an information exchange is so much more useful than being lectured to.
In brief though, I just wanted to call out a couple of projects that I liked and caught my eye. The reasons for liking them vary, but it’s generally because they are sensible, technologically-minded approaches to solving everyday problems.
They are working to set up what is in essence a call center for SMS. Using the almighty Frontline SMS, they are creating a gateway to connect farmers, markets, and suppliers in Cameroon. I like it because it’s simple and extremely cost-effective. It is also easy to maintain with few pieces to break in it. They managed to get a $1,000 award from the Microsoft challenge, which will help their efforts. They should have gotten more, but so it goes. We’ll have an interview with Valery Colong in the near future who heads up technology efforts. Read more about them
This project requires a bit more implementation, but I like it because it sprung out of the founders’ annoyances with how things weren’t getting fixed in their neighborhood. As a person often annoyed by a great many things, I can appreciate this. I love the fact that they were presenting a system that is already up and running, although this may be a reason why they didn’t win any of the awards in that it seems like it’s all there. Another reason is that they’re actually a for-profit enterprise that already has some decent contracts with municipal governments. Still, it’s a good project worth checking out a bit more despite not having crystalline altruism nor being based in Africa. Read more about them
These guys got really overlooked and I hope they’re able to stick with what they’re doing as it’s solving a common problem in regards to mobile phones in countries where power is a real commodity. I didn’t manage to see their full presentation so I don’t know where they are getting the mobile solar chargers for the mobiles and most that I’ve seen can’t keep a phone running all day unless gigantic in size. I think that their approach may need to get a bit tighter and more focused (which is one of the reasons they probably got passed by voters), but they’re talking about something no one really wants to address right now as basic electricity needs aren’t “sexy”. Sure, it’s great to get Frontline SMS running for a project, but how on earth do you keep the mobile phones running that report back to it? More people need to think this through. Read more about them