Gustav Praekelt, founder of Praekelt Consulting and the Praekelt Foundation, spoke at m:Lab East Africa's Wireless Wednesday event last week. The event was hosted at the Mlab, Nairobi's Innovation Hub for the technology community.
The talk attracted audience from students at m:Lab East Africa, NGOs who are looking at integrating mobile applications for the social good; representatives from media, mobile solutions developers and entrepreneurs. Gustav shared the overall vision of the two arms of the organisation and experiences in working with network operators, having millions of users access mobile portal and data movement implications; content management and understanding what motivates users information seeking and consumption behaviour as well as overall barriers to mobile solutions. Gustav sampled solutions that Praekelt consulting had developed such as streaming television content with DSTV, work with Guinness campaign and the overall creativity that is entailed in engaging audience through social mobile devices.
Inevitably the Young Africa Live Project, delivered through the Praekelt platform, Vumi, generated a lot of interest and discussion around creation of useful social media sites and following. Young Africa Live was first initiated in South Africa and focuses on discussions with youth aged between 16-24 on issues around love, sex, and relationships with an overall aim of promoting good reproductive health, reducing HIV/AIDS stigmatisation and linking with medical experts, providing an interactive platform where youth can interact directly with medical experts and ask questions that they would never ask their parents. Young Africa live generates discussion by linking youth to what is happening in their local and international environment and works in partnership with NGOs who specialise in youth related issues. Young Africa Live is scheduled to launch in East Africa and there is also massive interest from middle east. Discussions of launching in East Africa are at an advanced staged with different network operators in East Africa.
Gustav said he still had a vision where one day all network operators will zero rate access to their networks for the projects that target the most marginalised people in Africa so they can harness the possibilities availed by mobile communication with zero pressure on prices. Information can make a difference to people's lives and that's what motivated him to make all the platforms that Praekelt has created open source. The foundation is working in collaboration with different NGOs in areas of maternal health; socio-economic empowerment, education and governance and democracy related across different countries in Africa. Gustav reiterated the importance of making mobile solutions very simple, customising content to local language and culture, and continuing to find ways of availing the facilities even to the illiterate communities by looking at options like integrating voice interactions. He remains inspired and motivated by the projects that have made a real impact on people's lives.
Praekelt is current working on a beta version of Vumi to be released soon. Other platforms which are availble include Jmbo, which also integrates with Vumi.
Participants were happy after the talk and different ongoing discussions are taking place on how to involve interested parties in Young Africa Live, and other projects of interest.
m:Lab East Africa is a consortium of four organizations aiming to be a leader in identifying, nurturing and helping to build sustainable enterprises in the knowledge economy.