Happy Science Uganda

November 8, 2010

Two days ago I arrived first time to Africa to present my first research paper in mobiles for development (M4D) conference. Caused by blackouts and connection problems yesterday, I am writing only today for my first days in Uganda. Sea cable is reaching Uganda soon hopefully. So, after breakfast and gym I headed for a walk. First thing that put me wondering was the add below:

Happy Science Uganda
Happy Science Uganda

How can we contribute on happiness with science and technologies is my question here. When we are talking about mobiles for development (M4D) we need to consider the ”D” very carefully. In development and happiness I would refer to two prominent young master minds. Simo Vassinen with his collegue argues that happiness is a process in TEDx Amazonia presentation and Clint Rogers wonders asks who defines the development, we or them. These are relevant question in my journey to mobiles in developing regions and use of mobiles in socially excluded ”customer” segments. Development is freedom of mind and freedom to build your life.

Little side walk here. I was talking in earlier post on busines view on ICT4D and M4D. One wonderer last night gave me some relevance for my arguments. Mr. Brennan is building low cost houses to low-income segments in Eastern Africa. He has been doing that for 8 years and said that first two years he lived in low cost hotels before he got his business running. He argued that as government does not understand how to build low cost houses, he will make good living with this in future when he can scale his business with very low margins. He said that stereptype NGO can only works for 3 years for one goal and wasting most of the resources on expensive hotels, have fun social networking and report writing. I don’t know if this is true, but he might have point. Just to remind that I am first time in Africa and stay in 5 star hotel. He has done “business” here 8 years and he is staying in his friends house. Still, in the bar he acted like a world class businessmen. Is this social entrepreneurship? If you only want to make the world better place you will fail in long run, but if you want to make a fortune and just have good heart, the world will change. The socially oriented business model conceptualization will follow.

Next I picked up Heli, who works for Nokia, from her hotel to see how mobile looks in Uganda. We ended up talking with operator store keepers. Arguments followed that Tecno, Spice are Chinese and Indian new commers to Africa, and Samsung and Blackberry are known mainly in corporate life. Nokia was unanimously named as the number one brand in all segments, exept very high end phones. Chinese Tecno was critisized on bad usability and interoperability as Indian Spice copies Samsung with same defiencies as Tecno. Only real value of these two new commers was the standard dual SIM specification. High taxing was named as main reason for lack of affortability.However, PCs sold to educational sector get tax benefits accordingly. 82% of Ugandans does not have access financial services so M-Pesa and other mobile banking services have huge potential here. I will report more on this next week when I will visit Kenia, the land of mobile banking.
Aasian mobile invation
Store selling Asian brands Tecno and Spice, and of course M-Pesa

The sun started to shine so we headed to discuss our findings to hotel pool. Next I read what local media had to say about Uganda. Elections are coming and everyone are affraid of violence, similar what happened in Kenia 2007. World Bank names Ugandans as the laziest people in Eastern Africa. Could some wise man help me to understand objective of this research? Accordingly, Ugandans ignored this classification. Is it because they consider this study so irrelevant or that Ugandans agree to be lazy? Reference was made to demonstration that started when homosexuality was criminalized with penalty of dead sentence. Young people are future of the nations and productivity seem to be issue here. Young should learn to work already when they are in school: ”It is not advisable to get a car or cell phone for a school going teen because that is not best way to teach responsability”. This argument is quite contrary on telecommunication and M4D studies that find many times correlation between mobile use and economic development. Maybe we should ask how mobile use increases when economy grows and stop taking mobiles for granded.
Serena pool
Sunday relaxing in Serena hotel pool

When I walk back home and give short visit to shopping I realize that security is a big issue here. Al Shabeeb from Somalia can be blamed for this. According the taxi driver who took me to hotel on Sunday, the security has been the only thing that current goverment has done well. He was a huge Liverpool fan but was complaining on the government for lack of support for sports.
Security check
Entrance to shopping

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4 Responses to “Happy Science Uganda”


  1. […] Ali has a strong drive on contributing on global well-being while building his own capacity on telecommunication industry. He has never got any funding. He moves like a feather and sting like a bee. Be aware World Bank when you call these people as the most laziest in Eastern Africa. […]


  2. […] means if we don’t know who playes it, where and what time. For Ken Banks it meant open innovation model on Monday breakfast […]


  3. […] even these countries share same cultural history. For Ken Banks managing football teams meant open innovation model on breakfast […]


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