Monday, 19 May 2014

Ghana 2.0 Update, Now Downloading....

People keep asking me, “Dela why are you not on whatsapp”. Well aside the annoying chain messages, my mom is on whatsapp. I remember the first message I got from her, “Dela, I don’t like your profile picture”. My first reaction was shock, shock that my mom was on whatsapp in the first place. The fact that she was complaining about my profile picture wasn't a surprise. If you know my mom, you will understand.
I had always considered my mom a technophobe and with good reason. It used to be that any time she wanted to watch a movie, she would shout for me and I would come connect the VCR to the TV for her. I liked this arrangement because it gave me some sense of importance and power. Any time I was upset with her for punishing me, I would change the connection and go out to play just before she got back from work. No video for her was her punishment for punishing me. That was long ago before I grew a beard but I still took comfort in the idea. These days she only calls me to send a mail to so so and so address for her or to check her mail.
She had now gotten a smartphone and was sending her own mail and sending me whatsapp messages every other minute. She was now independent of me and I didn't like that. As for my Dad, the least said the better. The old man had become such a big fan of technology that his current phone is always nicer than mine. He had found a way to trade his old phones for new ones and was always current. Signs of the end times! Quite a few of my friends have complained about their now tech savvy parents.
People in Ghana are becoming more tech savvy every day. Not as fast as in Europe or America but they are getting there. Gone were the days mobile phones were luxuries. Now they are necessities. I remember when Vodafone, then OneTOUCH started selling SIM, they cost an arm and a leg. My dad had to write an application and pay a lot of money; he got his SIM card early because he knew someone who knew some. Now a SIM card is so cheap even kids can buy them.
Then came Hi5, then Facebook and all the many social media platform and everywhere young people were visiting cafes to ‘like’ people’s status and poke them. We’ve come a long way. Every serious business has a website. Everyone and their mother has a blog. Everyday someone is launching his mobile app. More people are reading Computer Engineering and Computer Science in the University. Ghana 2.0 update is on!
Still the biggest challenge to even further tech development in this country is cost. Recently Vodafone decided to put a limit on data bundles. Previously, if you bought data for a month, you had unlimited data till the month was over. Now, you have a certain amount of data to use which could get exhausted before the month is over. If you didn’t finish it before the months end, it would expire and you had to buy new data.
Lots of time, people have data but can’t browse or the internet is too slow. This cuts across major the network providers. People are constantly complaining about network outages. The ISPs do not compensate you for your lost time.
There’s nothing in the world more satisfying to today’s youth than free fast WiFi. A very rare thing in this country. You should see the unbridled joy on people's face when they get free and fast internet.

Another challenge is the mistrust of all things new. The banks recently tried to introduce an electronic payment system call Ezwich. This didn't catch on very much because people just prefer to handle the real cash even though the card is safer. I had an Ezwich card but could never seem to find a shop that had the card reader to accept it.
If you live in Ghana, you know that getting directions to anywhere is a chore. Poor street naming means to get anywhere you need a popular reference point. So you say something like, I'm going to Sytris bookshop, it's near Papaye at Osu. Recently, I had to go to a Blogging Ghana meeting at 37 Mensah Wood Road. I didn't know the place so I entered the address into Google Maps, hailed a taxi and showed the map to the driver. I know, silly me. All the driver kept asking me was, “Please, where is it near?” I'm not a great map reader but Google Maps' direction helped me direct the driver. On arrival the driver said, I should have told him, “After Shiashi take the right turn from Galaxy International”.
Our current President is quite tech savvy. He prefers to read his speeches from a tablet, has a twitter and facebook account and there are quite a few selfies of him around the web. The website of the presidency is updated often (though I'd like the see more information there) and the other ministry seem to also update their sites regularly. I remember under the previous president, I went to one ministry's site and it hadn't been update in over two years.
The most active politician on social media is the Honorable Hanna Tetteh. She's very active on twitter and replies as many of her followers as possible. If only more of our politicians were like her... sigh!
Ghana 2.0 update is on! Let's hope that we don't get the dreaded, “Download failed at 99%”

Kasahorow Keyboard: 
Ghanaian languages have characters that do not appear in the English alphabets so typing a sentence in Twi or Ewe on your phone can be a problem. The Kasahorow keyboard which is available in the Android Play Store (sorry iOS and Windows users) has all these characters so you can type freely without having to replace Ι› with 3, Ε‹  with n, Ι” with )or C, Ζ’ with f etc. It's free so you don't really have an excuse not to have it if you are an Android user. Kasahorow is a twi word that means, “Many Languages”. 

Easy Taxi:
EasyTaxi is a mobile app that as the name implies, make getting a taxi easy. Rather than stand at the road side flapping your hands at taxis as we do in Ghana, just get easy taxi. This app is available on iOS and Android (No idea about on Windows Phone). Just log into the app where ever you are and turn on your GPS and enter your destination. The nearest easy taxi to your location will call you back and will be with you shortly. I must admit when I first used the app I didn't think the driver would arrive early. The driver arrived five minutes after the request and I was a bit embarrassed because I wasn't yet ready. The driver, Isaac, reminded me to wear my seat belt and we left Kaneshie to Lashibi. Comfortable ride. When I was done with whatever I went to do, I used the app again to get another ride back home. Very convenient. Both taxis were very comfortable. It's was a good experience and I recommend everyone to try it. For now Easy Taxi operates only in Accra but I'm sure they will spread to other parts of Ghana soon.  

the Easy Taxi I took from Kaneshie to Lashibi

Animation on how to use Easy Taxi
There's an interview with the MD of Easy Taxi Gh here that you can read. 

If there's an app or a Ghanaian technology you would like me to check out, you can write about in the comment box and I will check it out. Let me know what you find frustrating or pleasing about technology in Ghana.