If you’ve heard me talk about African Christian College in presentations the past two years, you’ve heard me talk about the way Africa has a tendency to “leapfrog” over some technologies. The most common example is going from having no telecommunications straight to cell phones everywhere.
Even the “landline” phone at my house is actually a wireless phone that technically works as mobile but is made to feel like a landline phone inside the house (little boxes we must plug a traditional, wired phone into) — but there are no physical land lines leading up to my house.
I was finishing up my collection of Fast Company magazines last night. It’s one of my favorite reads and I miss getting it fresh each month. Instead I tend to get several months’ or a year’s worth at a time so it takes a little longer to read. That’s my excuse for the issue I was finishing last night being almost a year old (April 2013).
The article was about a Nollywood entrepreneur (Nollywood is Nigeria’s film industry; Nigerian Hollywood = Nollywood). The article’s focus is of little consequence to me, but here are the two sentences that jumped out:
“Just as Africans leapfrogged landlines– 65% are mobile subscribers– most experts expect them to skip over PCs and consume video exclusively via mobile… If [his company’s] future is in Africa, it’s also in mobile.”
– Andrew Rice, “The Mogul of Nigeria”, Fast Company, April 2013
Experts are expecting Africa to leapfrog PCs? I googled it and found at least a little confirmation, including this article from a IT business service agency in Johannesburg.
I hadn’t thought of this scenario, but I should have. It makes sense.
Students are well versed in using mobile internet on their phones. I usually call their phones “smart enough phones” because most do not have what is considered “smart phones” but they can still check and post Facebook and read the news from home on them. And, what else is there online than Facebook and the news? 😉
I was amazed one day in 2011 when a student commented in class, “The Nairobi newspaper this morning had an article about just this thing…”.
I stopped and said, “Wait. What?! How do you know what the Nairobi newspaper said this morning?”
“I read it everyday on my phone,” he replied showing me what looked like a simple mobile phone to my untrained eye. In reality is it a ‘smart enough phone.’
Even with confirming conversations, experiences, and observations, I haven’t truly considered what it would mean for Africa to leapfrog PCs — desktops and laptops — and go straight to full-blown mobile. Not just in education (where mobile is certainly growing). But in business. What does it mean for government, NGOs, ministry?
It’s not time to toss our computer skills course out the window quite yet. Students develop important and helpful skills that will (hopefully) serve them into the future.
But, maybe this means that as we explore a future in IT or other technology-related skills for our students we must focus more heavily on what it means to use mobile, to develop mobile apps and tools, and the like.
If the future of the “mogul of Nigeria” is in mobile because his business and monetary success is tied directly to the people of Africa’s future in mobile, then the future we should be preparing our students also includes mobile.