Has Apple helped the free flow of information in Africa?
Aveseh, Netherlands: "For sure, his vision and work impacted greatly on the free flow of information in Africa. Now people are twitting and face booking with the iPhone, ipad and life is alot easier!"
Sherrine, Zambia: "The world has lost a master genius. people like him are hard to find. Gone too soon."
Kassim, Kenya: "This what a friend posted today:I mean no disrespect at all but please enlighten me why Steve Job's death is being eulogized by Young Kenyans particularly on fb more than that of the late Wangari Maathai."
Kiza, Netherlands: "I expect from RNW to discuss 'the conflict diamond' issue. I link Apple's growth and success with the African War, 6,000,000 innocent people dying [is] a thing to talk about."
Originally published on the RNW Africa Facebook page
Around the world, news of the passing of Apple founder Steve Jobs is being met with respectful pause. The man was responsible for a new generation of consumer must-haves like the iPhone, iPod and iPad. But is the Apple genius a hero of just the wealthy West or has he also left a mark elsewhere?
The wealthiest people in urban areas, and people generally attracted to ideas of usability and design: those are the users of Apple’s products in developing countries. For the less affluent, a mobile telephone is a functional tool, and preferably not too expensive. The same applies to computers and tablets. And the creative types cannot be without their Android phone. That you can manipulate, and more importantly, you can develop applications for yourself.
Too much influence
The biggest problem with all of Apple’s products is the closed operating system. For the cheap, wind-up computer for school children in developing countries, the One Laptop Per Child program, Steve Jobs freely supplied the Apple-operating software. But his offer was refused.
People do not want to be dependent on future, Apple-imposed updates, but want an operating system adjusted to their own ideas, says webmaster Haapee de Groot from the Dutch development organisation Hivos who regularly works in Africa.
“Steve Jobs is widely recognised as a visionary, but visionaries can also make bad decisions. What you see from Apple is a link between the hardware they produce and the software that goes with it. They ultimately decide what users can and cannot do. And it comes with a price tag. That is one reason why Android is used more often. At the same time, you see sms messaging is the most popular function for mobile users in Africa. For that, you don’t need fancy smart phones or iPads.”
OLPC eventually opted for Linux. In Brazil, where a similar ICT program runs, the same thing happened. The usability for which Apple became famous is now rather common, so that appeal has disappeared. Neither Apple’s slick design nor usability made for a breakthrough in the ICT of the country. Instead, it was the One Laptop Per Child programme that caused the breakthrough, according to Stijn van der Krogt from the International Institute for Communication and Development (IICD) which deals with ICT in developing countries. Suddenly it became clear that you can make a laptop for just a few hundred dollars.”
The new generation of users of mobile phones and laptops want to be in control. They are incredibly creative and use the latest software, says Van der Krogt, and they will altogether stop buying applications. Not because they can’t afford them, but because they don’t find them important. They build ones for themselves.
“All young people fantasise about doing things with smart phones, computers. They want to develop applications themselves and work with those; they like to see what's under the hood. At the first chance, people turn to solutions where they can see something such as Android phones and open source systems, because there you can do something with it yourself.”
Moreover, you cannot repair an Apple device yourself. Even the battery does not come out. In Africa or Latin America, you bring a phone or laptop to the corner store for repair. Or you can do it yourself.
It doesn't look likely that Apple will be able to close the gap. It is the Chinese who are flooding the market with cheap phones.
“There are all kinds of ordinary variants on the market that are easily accessible and fast. It has been that way for quite some time with laptops and computers. That is now the way, especially in Latin America. In Africa, it is slower because of a number of import taxes. But, we hope that within a year these things can be set up for our ICT programmes for agriculture, education and healthcare.”
That does not that the passing of Steve Jobs will be ignored. Jobs is indeed recognised as a visionary, says webmaster Haapee de Groot of Hivos.
“I have received messages from Kenya where Steve Jobs is placed on a par with Wangari Maathai (Kenya’s Nobel Laureate for Peace). In one week, two visionaries were taken by cancer. Jobs' role as a visionary is definitely recognised."