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The African struggle for technological independence

Posted by admin on 1st August 2012

There has been a lot in the news recently about rekindling an interest in computing, ICT and technological innovation. Gadgets like the Raspberry Pi have been hailed in almost messianic terms, and rightly so, for the role it is hoped to play in inspiring a new generation of enthusiasts that might go on to invent the technology of the future.

On the other side of the world in Africa, a technological revolution is brewing on a similar scale. African inventors are cranking up the output with ideas and products that are making the wider technology world sit up and take note.

A great example is Inye; a low cost tablet, created and designed by 29 year old Nigerian Saheed Adepoju. Inye, which means “number one” in Nigerian language Igala, has been designed for the African market and has sold all 100 of the initial units with plans to go all out with mass production.

Moving closer with little steps

Africa’s long and somewhat embarassing dependence on the West for its technology is often debated but until now, there hasn’t really been any technology that has been designed for the African market, sufficiently meets African need and is within a price bracket the average African can afford.

Inye will retail for £225, less than half of what some see as its competitor and inspiration – the iPad – retails for. And although this will still be beyond the reach of many, it would at least make a technology designed by Africans for Africans more affordable for Africans.

Finally catching up?

This of course is not the first attempt at creating technology that meets the specific needs of Africa but, in previous examples, the technology is either so niche that it doesn’t have any use outside Africa or it is invented “after the Lord Mayor’s show”.

Inye runs on the flagship Android 3.0 and has all the features we have come to expect from tablets as well as local apps like Spinlet, an app for streaming Nigerian music

The paradigm of influence

Regardless of the bulging population, African developers don’t yet have the luxury afforded to their Western counterparts with the nature of the current influence paradigm that means many Africans model their lives so much on Western ideas but many Westerners are quite ignorant to African ideas. And for this reason, any mainstream technology coming out of Africa has a better chance of succeeding on the African market if it does well in the West.

Inye faces a challenge of whether or not it can inspire the confidence of Africans and Westerners alike. Will people choose this low cost, small time gadget created by an African startup over products from the likes of Apple who are rumoured to be working on a smaller version of the iPad and incidentally recently announced their plans to enter the African market? Only time will tell.

But whatever happens to Inye, there are more Saheed Adepojus in Africa. Maybe not all of them have parents that can invest £40,000 in their business but they have ideas, a passion for technology and a dream to play in the big time with the big boys. It is definitely something to keep an eye on.


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