January 8, 2007
From Matatu to the Masai via mobile
The BBC has a wonderful piece on the impact of cell phones in Kenya.
Newsnight correspondent Paul Mason travels through Kenya using a map of the country's mobile phone networks as his guide.
"How big a change have cellphones made to Africa?" Isis Nyong'o, Kenyan-American executive at MTV Networks Africa, tells me calmly: "It's had about the same effect as a democratic change of leadership."
"... With one in three adults carrying a cellphone in Kenya, mobile telephony is having an economic and social impact whose is hard to grasp if you are used to living in a country with good roads, democracy and the internet.
In five years the number of mobiles in Kenya has grown from one million to 6.5 million - while the number of landlines remains at about 300,000, mostly in government offices.
... Matatu minibus drivers has been revolutionised by the mobile phone. It's not rocket science, it's just that if you need a new brake block, you don't have to walk to the shop, find the owner, do lots of face to face business, walk back, have lunch etc. And soon, ou will even be able to pay for a trip by Matutu by mobile phone.
Tomorrow Paul Mason continues his journey and finds out what mobiles are doing for people beyond the big cities.
Image of Masai from Weblogs Jupiter Research
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