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Predicting Africa’s multiple futures

“Amid all the uncertainty surrounding disruptive technologies, managers can always count on one thing: Expert forecasts will always be wrong. It is simply impossible to predict with any useful degree of precision how disruptive products will be used, or how large their markets will be”

“The Innovator’s Dilemma”, Clayton M. Christensen

Predicting the future of one of the most disruptive technologies of recent times – the mobile phone – was precisely what Rudy de Waele asked twenty-eight mobile technologists to do earlier this year. And to make things a little more interesting, these predictions were meant to focus on Africa alone. Good friend Erik Hersman and I were asked to help ensure that people we felt were best placed to contribute – African technologists, or people with considerable practical experience working with mobile technology on the continent – were represented.

The result is here.

As Clayton Christensen points out in his excellent book, predicting the future is never easy, and almost always ends in failure. During a workshop at Stanford University back in 2006, it became abundantly clear that one of the biggest challenges facing predictors was “breaking the shackles of current thinking”. 80% of people get caught out here, and to a large extent this is reflected in Rudy’s paper:

1. Pick a technology or service currently in use.
2. Predict that in xx years time there will be more of it.

The easiest way to obtain a “shackles-free” out-of-this-world prediction is to ask children, and you’ll find they have just as much chance of being right as an adult (or an expert). Quoting a PC World article I wrote on the subject a couple of years ago:

Ask people what that mobile future might look like, and we’ll likely get answers that take us in one of two directions. Adults will probably be constrained by the parameters of what they see around them today, so predictions on what a mobile phone might look like in, say, ten years, would most likely center around smaller, lighter and faster. Children, on the other hand, would probably let their imaginations run riot and talk about phones that are invisible, implanted in our brains, or both

One thing that particularly struck me about Rudy’s “Mobile Trends 2020 Africa” exercise lies in the title. Are we assuming that mobile technology in Africa will have a very different future to mobile technology in the rest of the world? Perhaps so – I’ve previously argued that “many future mobile innovations will be borne out of the realities of the developing world”.

If that were the case then that would be a future I could get excited about.

100 comments

1 Ken Banks { 09.21.11 at 6:02 pm }

What will Africa's mobile landscape look like in 2020? "Predicting Africa’s multiple futures". http://t.co/4BJs6VZW #m4d

2 Ken Banks { 09.21.11 at 6:02 pm }

What will Africa's mobile landscape look like in 2020? "Predicting Africa’s multiple futures". http://t.co/4BJs6VZW #innovation

3 Dale Zak { 09.21.11 at 6:03 pm }

What will Africa's mobile landscape look like in 2020? "Predicting Africa’s multiple futures". http://t.co/4BJs6VZW #innovation

4 ActivSpaces { 09.21.11 at 6:04 pm }

What will Africa's mobile landscape look like in 2020? "Predicting Africa’s multiple futures". http://t.co/4BJs6VZW #innovation

5 dap innovations { 09.21.11 at 6:05 pm }

What will Africa's mobile landscape look like in 2020? "Predicting Africa’s multiple futures". http://t.co/FtIYYqgF #innovation via @kiwanja

6 VC 4 Africa { 09.21.11 at 6:06 pm }

What will Africa's mobile landscape look like in 2020? "Predicting Africa’s multiple futures". http://t.co/4BJs6VZW #innovation

7 Jonathan Akwue { 09.21.11 at 6:10 pm }

What will Africa's mobile landscape look like in 2020? "Predicting Africa’s multiple futures". http://t.co/4BJs6VZW #innovation

8 Reynaldo Anderson { 09.21.11 at 6:13 pm }

What will Africa's mobile landscape look like in 2020? "Predicting Africa’s multiple futures". http://t.co/4BJs6VZW #innovation

9 Adebowale Ojo { 09.21.11 at 6:15 pm }

RT @kiwanja: What will Africa's mobile landscape look like in 2020? "Predicting Africa’s multiple futures". http://t.co/oMeitCOH #innovation

10 Africa.com { 09.21.11 at 6:20 pm }

RT @kiwanja: What will Africa's mobile landscape look like in 2020? "Predicting Africa’s multiple futures". http://t.co/rtLTi6nD #innovation

11 The Ghana Report { 09.21.11 at 6:21 pm }

What will Africa's mobile landscape look like in 2020? "Predicting Africa’s multiple futures". http://t.co/4BJs6VZW #innovation

12 Fr@nthro { 09.21.11 at 6:22 pm }

#anthro blog post: Predicting Africa’s multiple futures: Amid all the uncertainty surrounding disruptive tech… http://t.co/nok742HR

13 Rudy De Waele { 09.21.11 at 6:22 pm }

Great collaboration, Ken. Thanks! RT @kiwanja Predicting Africa's multiple futures http://t.co/GiqQUr36

14 Erik Hersman { 09.21.11 at 6:23 pm }

RT @kiwanja: What will Africa's mobile landscape look like in 2020? "Predicting Africa’s multiple futures" http://t.co/uaoPnLJi

15 Internews { 09.21.11 at 6:24 pm }

RT @kiwanja: What will Africa's mobile landscape look like in 2020? "Predicting Africa’s multiple futures" http://t.co/uaoPnLJi

16 Kathleen Ndongmo { 09.21.11 at 6:27 pm }

What will Africa's mobile landscape look like in 2020? "Predicting Africa’s multiple futures". http://t.co/4BJs6VZW #innovation

17 Rebecca Harrison { 09.21.11 at 6:28 pm }

What will Africa's mobile landscape look like in 2020? "Predicting Africa’s multiple futures". http://t.co/4BJs6VZW #innovation

18 Alison Carlman { 09.21.11 at 6:29 pm }

@Joelcarlman @cenfri_org RT @whiteafrican Africa's mobile landscape look in 2020: "Predicting Africas multiple futures" http://t.co/CwNSFgJC

19 changefeed { 09.21.11 at 6:31 pm }

->@kiwanja: Predicting Africa’s multiple futures http://t.co/IPQeEW6b

20 Joel Selanikio { 09.21.11 at 6:37 pm }

RT @kiwanja: What will Africa's mobile landscape look like in 2020? "Predicting Africa’s multiple futures" http://t.co/uaoPnLJi

21 ASItweets { 09.21.11 at 6:39 pm }

RT @kiwanja: What will Africa's mobile landscape look like in 2020? "Predicting Africa’s multiple futures" http://t.co/uaoPnLJi

22 Bertil van Vugt { 09.21.11 at 6:47 pm }

RT @kiwanja: What will Africa's mobile landscape look like in 2020? "Predicting Africa’s multiple futures". http://t.co/ilMyPKB0 #innovation

23 Imperialist Barbie { 09.21.11 at 6:50 pm }

What will Africa's mobile landscape look like in 2020? "Predicting Africa’s multiple futures". http://t.co/4BJs6VZW #innovation

24 fionamce { 09.21.11 at 6:50 pm }

What will Africa's mobile landscape look like in 2020? "Predicting Africa’s multiple futures". http://t.co/4BJs6VZW #innovation

25 Frank Rijsberman { 09.21.11 at 6:56 pm }

What will Africa's mobile landscape look like in 2020? "Predicting Africa’s multiple futures". http://t.co/4BJs6VZW #innovation

26 Lauren Rosenberg { 09.21.11 at 8:25 pm }

RT @kiwanja: What will Africa's mobile landscape look like in 2020? "Predicting Africa’s multiple futures" http://t.co/uaoPnLJi

27 Predicting Africa’s multiple futures | Global Health Hub { 09.21.11 at 10:01 pm }

[...] More: Predicting Africa’s multiple futures [...]

28 Africa The Good News { 09.22.11 at 5:50 am }

RT @whiteafrican: RT @kiwanja: What will Africa's mobile landscape look like in 2020? http://t.co/dqTN1LlX

29 Craig Atherfold { 09.22.11 at 6:03 am }

RT @whiteafrican: RT @kiwanja: What will Africa's mobile landscape look like in 2020? http://t.co/dqTN1LlX

30 AfricaAlumni.com { 09.22.11 at 6:12 am }

RT @whiteafrican: RT @kiwanja: What will Africa's mobile landscape look like in 2020? http://t.co/dqTN1LlX

31 Vanessia Wu { 09.22.11 at 6:20 am }

What will Africa's mobile landscape look like in 2020? "Predicting Africa’s multiple futures". http://t.co/4BJs6VZW #innovation

32 Gerd Leonhard { 09.22.11 at 7:20 am }

Great collaboration, Ken. Thanks! RT @kiwanja Predicting Africa's multiple futures http://t.co/GiqQUr36

33 Rafiq Phillips { 09.22.11 at 7:27 am }

Predicting Africa’s multiple futures http://t.co/lBR2RfK5

34 MIT Sloan Africa Biz { 09.22.11 at 7:38 am }

RT @kiwanja What will Africa's mobile landscape look like in 2020? "Predicting Africa’s multiple futures". http://t.co/s7sNgEu3 #innovation

35 MAARTEN KALFSBEEK { 09.22.11 at 7:45 am }

Mooie presentatie over de wijze waarop Mobile Apps in Afrika democratie, educatie, economie en zorg kunnen verbeteren: http://t.co/tpCMpnM7

36 sverre ole drønen { 09.22.11 at 8:33 am }

Good blogpost about Africa's mobile landscape – http://t.co/scRvMnOB

37 Adina Mulder { 09.22.11 at 8:54 am }

#wod2011 Interesting read! @kiwanja: What will Africa's mobile landscape look like in 2020? http://t.co/2NQ2tUYu #innovation

38 Jaume Fortuny { 09.22.11 at 9:40 am }

RT @kiwanja What will Africa's mobile landscape look like in 2020? "Predicting Africa’s multiple futures" http://t.co/IMThlXhh #innovation

39 Ken Banks { 09.22.11 at 10:46 am }

What will Africa's #mobile landscape look like in 2020? "Predicting Africa’s multiple futures". http://t.co/4BJs6VZW #innovation

40 Dan Ilett { 09.22.11 at 10:47 am }

What will Africa's #mobile landscape look like in 2020? "Predicting Africa’s multiple futures". http://t.co/4BJs6VZW #innovation

41 Ime Asangansi { 09.22.11 at 10:48 am }

What will Africa's #mobile landscape look like in 2020? "Predicting Africa’s multiple futures". http://t.co/4BJs6VZW #innovation

42 Emrys Schoemaker { 09.22.11 at 10:49 am }

@kiwanja & @whiteafrican report on Africa's #mobile landscape in 2020: "Predicting Africa’s multiple futures". http://t.co/ZoLeA0Sv #ict4d

43 Eliza Anyangwe { 09.22.11 at 10:49 am }

@kiwanja & @whiteafrican report on Africa's #mobile landscape in 2020: "Predicting Africa’s multiple futures". http://t.co/ZoLeA0Sv #ict4d

44 Carolyn DerVartanian { 09.22.11 at 11:01 am }

I just saw the future!Wow!“@kiwanja:What will Africa's #mobile landscape look like in 2020?"Predicting Africa’s futures http://t.co/GRqrPxrf

45 Cyprian Kumwaka { 09.22.11 at 11:02 am }

RT @kiwanja: What will Africa's #mobile landscape look like in 2020? "Predicting Africa’s multiple futures". http://t.co/CRId3vVT

46 Mobile Web in Africa { 09.22.11 at 11:04 am }

What will Africa's #mobile landscape look like in 2020? "Predicting Africa’s multiple futures". http://t.co/4BJs6VZW #innovation

47 Andy Black { 09.22.11 at 11:10 am }

What will Africa's #mobile landscape look like in 2020? "Predicting Africa’s multiple futures". http://t.co/4BJs6VZW #innovation

48 Chirchir Emmy { 09.22.11 at 11:16 am }

What will Africa's #mobile landscape look like in 2020? "Predicting Africa’s multiple futures". http://t.co/4BJs6VZW #innovation

49 iMAXi Cooperative { 09.22.11 at 11:23 am }

What will Africa's #mobile landscape look like in 2020? "Predicting Africa’s multiple futures". http://t.co/4BJs6VZW #innovation

50 Roos Korste { 09.22.11 at 11:38 am }

RT @kiwanja: What will Africa's #mobile landscape look like in 2020? "Predicting Africa’s multiple futures" http://t.co/Sw8amqF6 #innovation

51 Jonathan Simnett { 09.22.11 at 11:46 am }

What will Africa's #mobile landscape look like in 2020? "Predicting Africa’s multiple futures". http://t.co/4BJs6VZW #innovation

52 Vote4Africa { 09.22.11 at 12:12 pm }

RT @kiwanja: What will Africa's #mobile landscape look like in 2020? "Predicting Africa’s multiple futures" http://t.co/Sw8amqF6 #innovation

53 Michael Christopher { 09.22.11 at 12:21 pm }

What will Africa's #mobile landscape look like in 2020? "Predicting Africa’s multiple futures". http://t.co/4BJs6VZW #innovation

54 Robert Daguillard { 09.22.11 at 12:25 pm }

RT @kiwanja: What will Africa's #mobile landscape look like in 2020? "Predicting Africa’s multiple futures" http://t.co/Sw8amqF6 #innovation

55 Vallabh Rao { 09.22.11 at 12:31 pm }

What will Africa's #mobile landscape look like in 2020? "Predicting Africa’s multiple futures". http://t.co/4BJs6VZW #innovation

56 Peace Dividend Trust { 09.22.11 at 12:35 pm }

What do you think? MT @kiwanja: What will Africa's #mobile landscape look like in 2020? http://t.co/5mNcRYQG #innovation #tech #ict4dev

57 Carol Jean Gallo { 09.22.11 at 12:36 pm }

What do you think? MT @kiwanja: What will Africa's #mobile landscape look like in 2020? http://t.co/5mNcRYQG #innovation #tech #ict4dev

58 Valérie Itey { 09.22.11 at 1:27 pm }

What will Africa's #mobile landscape look like in 2020? "Predicting Africa’s multiple futures" http://t.co/yOr8Vbqi #innovation”

59 The Futures Agency { 09.22.11 at 1:35 pm }

RT @mtrends: Great collaboration, Ken. Thanks! RT @kiwanja Predicting Africa's multiple futures http://t.co/AvXWtgmg

60 Oliver Stegen { 09.22.11 at 1:56 pm }

Africa's #mobile landscape in 2020? "Predicting Africa’s multiple futures" by @kiwanja http://t.co/1fZFAOJD #innovation via @kouya

61 Victor d'Allant { 09.22.11 at 3:58 pm }

Many future #mobile innovations will be borne out of the realities of #Africa and developing world @kiwanja http://t.co/5yRhNwij

62 socialedge { 09.22.11 at 4:10 pm }

RT @dallant: Many future #mobile innovations will come out of realities of #Africa and developing world @kiwanja http://t.co/wyHEKByA

63 Mumbi Kaptere { 09.22.11 at 4:13 pm }

RT @dallant: Many future #mobile innovations will come out of realities of #Africa and developing world @kiwanja http://t.co/wyHEKByA

64 Vuyelwa Mniki Mantyi { 09.22.11 at 4:19 pm }

RT @dallant: Many future #mobile innovations will come out of realities of #Africa and developing world @kiwanja http://t.co/wyHEKByA

65 dominique gagnon { 09.22.11 at 4:20 pm }

talk to children for breakthrough innovation ideas? interesting thought. Mobile Trends 2020 Africa RT @TopsyRT http://t.co/mncPUfqc

66 Byron D. Hill { 09.22.11 at 4:25 pm }

What will Africa's mobile landscape look like in 2020? "Predicting Africa’s multiple futures". http://t.co/4BJs6VZW #innovation

67 Heather Gies { 09.22.11 at 4:32 pm }

"The easiest way to obtain a “shackles-free” out-of-this-world prediction is to ask children…" http://t.co/ObXkVoT3

68 Omidyar Network { 09.22.11 at 5:57 pm }

RT @dallant: Many future #mobile innovations will come out of realities of #Africa and developing world @kiwanja http://t.co/FJlHPJHC

69 Chris Wolff { 09.22.11 at 5:59 pm }

RT @dallant: Many future #mobile innovations will come out of realities of #Africa and developing world @kiwanja http://t.co/FJlHPJHC

70 Biztudio { 09.22.11 at 6:23 pm }

RT @OmidyarNetwork @dallant Many future #mobile innovations will come out of realities of #Africa and developing world http://t.co/ZDoALa0Y

71 Tayo Oviosu { 09.22.11 at 6:34 pm }

RT @dallant: Many future #mobile innovations will come out of realities of #Africa and developing world @kiwanja http://t.co/FJlHPJHC

72 ayo alli { 09.22.11 at 6:38 pm }

RT @dallant: Many future #mobile innovations will come out of realities of #Africa and developing world @kiwanja http://t.co/FJlHPJHC

73 Ivan Melezh { 09.22.11 at 6:51 pm }

RT @africagoodnews: RT @whiteafrican: RT @kiwanja: What will #Africa's #mobile landscape look like in 2020? http://t.co/nNgC0qYa

74 Pifflek { 09.22.11 at 10:56 pm }

What do you think? MT @kiwanja: What will Africa's #mobile landscape look like in 2020? http://t.co/5mNcRYQG #innovation #tech #ict4dev

75 Mama D { 09.23.11 at 12:02 am }

RT @dallant: Many future #mobile innovations will come out of realities of #Africa and developing world @kiwanja http://t.co/wyHEKByA

76 Social Entrepreneurs { 09.23.11 at 5:11 am }

Predicting Africa’s multiple futures | Build it Kenny, and they will come… http://t.co/8Pum1fO8, see more http://t.co/6UVca9MM

77 Nebila Abdulmelik { 09.23.11 at 9:33 am }

RT @kiwanja: What will Africa's mobile landscape look like in 2020? "Predicting Africa’s multiple futures". http://t.co/rtLTi6nD #innovation

78 Movyloshop { 09.23.11 at 9:46 am }

What will Africa's #mobile landscape look like in 2020? "Predicting Africa’s multiple futures". http://t.co/4BJs6VZW #innovation

79 Butterfly Works { 09.23.11 at 5:46 pm }

What will Africa's mobile landscape look like in 2020? "Predicting Africa’s multiple futures". http://t.co/PHPv2qKu #innovation v @kiwanja

80 Lars Hasselblad Torr { 09.23.11 at 5:47 pm }

What will Africa's mobile landscape look like in 2020? "Predicting Africa’s multiple futures". http://t.co/PHPv2qKu #innovation v @kiwanja

81 emerbeamer { 09.23.11 at 5:48 pm }

What will Africa's mobile landscape look like in 2020? "Predicting Africa’s multiple futures". http://t.co/jnEoP2OP #innovation v @kiwanja

82 Jonathan M Gramling { 09.23.11 at 6:13 pm }

What will Africa's mobile landscape look like in 2020? "Predicting Africa’s multiple futures". http://t.co/PHPv2qKu #innovation v @kiwanja

83 Annamara Hamersma { 09.23.11 at 6:36 pm }

What will Africa's mobile landscape look like in 2020? "Predicting Africa’s multiple futures". http://t.co/bPbQiI1h #innovation v @kiwanja

84 LenaJupiterLarsson { 09.25.11 at 6:59 pm }

What will Africa's mobile landscape look like in 2020? Predicting #Africa ’s multiple futures #innovation http://t.co/rqkjs0SC

85 Mark Taylor { 09.27.11 at 8:46 pm }

Predicting Africa’s multiple futures | Build it Kenny, and they will come… http://t.co/lusczxvZ

86 Carolyn DerVartanian { 09.28.11 at 1:08 am }

What will Africa's #mobile landscape look like in 2020? "Predicting Africa’s multiple futures". http://t.co/4BJs6VZW #innovation

87 Lauren Fox { 09.29.11 at 5:34 am }

RT @kiwanja: What will Africa's mobile landscape look like in 2020? "Predicting Africa’s multiple futures" http://t.co/uaoPnLJi

88 MediaPraxAFRICA { 10.05.11 at 10:50 am }

RT @whiteafrican: RT @kiwanja: What will Africa's mobile landscape look like in 2020? http://t.co/dqTN1LlX

89 John Karr { 10.14.11 at 7:12 am }

Mobile Trends Africa 2020 http://t.co/c7y30JPL

90 A Sneak Preview: The Future of Technology and Media in Development | FoME Symposium 2011 { 10.22.11 at 12:59 pm }

[...] Links: Memeburn YR-Johannesburg “9 Ways Twitter is good for democracy” at Memeburn “Predicting Africa’s multiple Futures” at kiwanja blog [...]

91 Ken Banks { 12.15.11 at 3:12 pm }

It's that time of year when everyone gives their "mobile in 2012" predictions. Here's some for #Africa. In 2020. http://t.co/4BJs6VZW

92 Justin Long { 12.15.11 at 3:25 pm }

It's that time of year when everyone gives their "mobile in 2012" predictions. Here's some for #Africa. In 2020. http://t.co/4BJs6VZW

93 Bill Barhydt { 12.15.11 at 3:42 pm }

It's that time of year when everyone gives their "mobile in 2012" predictions. Here's some for #Africa. In 2020. http://t.co/4BJs6VZW

94 Emrys Schoemaker { 12.15.11 at 3:47 pm }

It's that time of year when everyone gives their "mobile in 2012" predictions. Here's some for #Africa. In 2020. http://t.co/4BJs6VZW

95 TekFin { 12.15.11 at 3:55 pm }

It's that time of year when everyone gives their "mobile in 2012" predictions. Here's some for #Africa. In 2020. http://t.co/4BJs6VZW

96 Top Anthropology { 12.15.11 at 3:59 pm }

It's that time of year when everyone gives their "mobile in 2012" predictions. Here's some for #Africa. In 2020. http://t.co/4BJs6VZW

97 Carl Jackson { 12.15.11 at 4:38 pm }

RT @kiwanja: It's that time of year when everyone gives their "mobile in 2012" predictions. Here's [.] #Africa in 2020. http://t.co/uxn1dWi3

98 Fran Indigo { 12.15.11 at 5:18 pm }

It's that time of year when everyone gives their "mobile in 2012" predictions. Here's some for #Africa. In 2020. http://t.co/4BJs6VZW

99 The Indigo Trust { 12.15.11 at 5:22 pm }

It's that time of year when everyone gives their "mobile in 2012" predictions. Here's some for #Africa. In 2020. http://t.co/4BJs6VZW

100 Claudia Musekamp { 12.15.11 at 8:36 pm }

RT @kiwanja: It's that time of year when everyone gives their "mobile in 2012" predictions. Here's [.] #Africa in 2020. http://t.co/uxn1dWi3

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