Nerval's Lobster writes "Mobile phones are kicking off a revolution in Africa, with everyone from farmers to villagers relying on apps to make electronic payments, check on expiration dates for medicine, and predict future storms or the best prices for produce. In a SXSW session titled “The $100bn Mobile Bullet Train Called Africa” (which would also be a pretty good name for one of the indie films playing at this massive convention), Tech4Africa founder Gareth Knight explained the contours of this revolution. According to Shapshak, more kids in Africa have access to the Internet than consistent electricity. Nobody owns a PC or can access a fixed-line telephone, so mobile phones are a conduit for everything from email to news to making payments via SMS. Many people on the continent also own phones equipped with flashlights and radios—“Radios are the killer app in Africa,” Shapshak said—and the percentage of the population equipped with mobile devices is primed to explode over the next few years. Many of the mobile devices used in Africa aren’t cutting-edge, and SMS-based platforms are a necessity when it comes to sharing information. “SMS is so fantastic because it gets to every device everywhere,” Shapshak said. “SMS has a 100 percent read rate; you read every SMS you get.” Here’s how a typical SMS platform might work: someone purchasing a box of malaria medicine could send the barcode information to a text number, which would send back an SMS message identifying the drug as real or counterfeit. Famers and other food-producers can receive SMS messages about the best ways to handle pests, for example, or take care of their cows."
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