Category Archives: media

#data will fall

In a ground-breaking move, South African mobile operators have announced a deal whereby people who cannot afford data would be able to barter their goods in exchange for data bundles. The new deal is set to come into effect in 2017 as some ground work needs to be done to design a structure of how this system will work practically.

Speaking to reporters, Vodacom’s Jal nied ta jus Pay said, “we are tired of the FOMO that is going on out there because people cannot afford data and as one of the biggest networks in the country we have taken it upon ourselves to bring data to the people.”

 

The system will see collection centres being set up across the country to collect goods and other items in exchange for airtime/recharge vouchers. Although it is still unclear what goods will be exchanged for which amounts of airtime, unconfirmed reports also suggest that those who have nothing to exchange will even be offered the chance to get contract deals as long they can work it off in 24 months.

 

The deals on offer range from getting a Huawei p9 with 1G of data per month in exchange for doing the Vodacom CEO’s gardening for 2 years to getting an S7 with 5G of data per month for doing lap dances at Teasers on the outskirts of Johannesburg. The latter deal would see the club covering your contract costs.

 

Experts around the world are hailing this new cost model as the way most mobile network providers will go especially in developing countries where data costs are so prohibitive that some people are even unable to respond to friend requests from as far back as 2 years ago.

 

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Communication said, “hopefully this brings down the cost of airtime and who knows people could free up more money to afford university fees making the feesmustfall hashtag obsolete and in turn all the (insertproblemhere)mustfall hashtags”

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11 signs that show you’re a phubber

stop phubbing, phubbing
Taken from the stop phubbing website

These days, our obsession with our mobile phones makes it notoriously difficult to hold a meaningful conversation with anyone without them whipping out their phone while you talk. Until recently, many had no idea that there is actually a term for this type of behaviour.

Coined by Alex Haigh, the term phubbing refers to “the act of snubbing someone in a social setting by looking at your phone instead of paying attention”. Here are 11 signs that you or a friend could be a phubber.

  1. As you read this post right now you’re accessing it from a mobile device.
  2. Quality time with your loved one = the two of you sitting side by side typing away on your smart phones.
  3. You get a notification that your friend just checked in to a place. You comment on their post. You receive a comment on your post saying “Dude I’m standing right next to you.”
  4. You’ve asked to borrow a phone charger off a complete stranger or used one of those public power points to charge your phone because your battery died.
  5. You chat with your friend about how you miss them. You plan a get together. You get together face to face. You spend most of your time at that get together chatting to your other friend telling them how much you miss them and how you two should get together. You get together. You get where I’m going with this right?
  6. You find that people often have to repeat themselves around you even though you don’t have a hearing problem.
  7. You live in a high rise in Johannesburg. You don’t know any of your neighbours but you know a guy called Mouchine Saidi from Tunisia (You ‘met’ on facebook during during the Arab spring and yet the two of you have never seen each other face to face and you’ve never been to Tunisia)
  8. You’re still reading this now as you sit around a table with your friends.
  9. You’ve actually tweeted, updated your status, instagrammed etc while you were at a wedding…your wedding.
  10. You missed the birth of one of your children not because you were not there but because you were busy fiddling with your phone trying to figure out how to stream the birth on the internet.
  11. You eventually figured it out but by then the baby had been born already so all you got is a shot of your foot then as you moved the camera to shoot your wife and the newborn your battery died.

So are you a phubber? Leave a comment (hopefully you are not accessing this via a mobile phone).

Myths about Africa

map of Africa
We really don’t like being called the ‘dark continent’

It amazes me that in 2012 certain stereotypes about Africa still exist and some are even embraced by people one would think are open minded. There are many such misconceptions out there but this week I will focus on a few that I’ve encountered personally in my reading, in the media and in conversation with Africans and people from other parts of the world.

  • Firstly, contrary to some beliefs we actually have airports. Some of these airports rank quite highly due to their world class facilities. So no worries, when you visit you will actually land. You won’t have to parachute off your plane while it circles the country to allow for everyone to jump off.
  • Secondly, Africa is a continent and not a country. It is the 2nd largest continent and is made up of +/- 60 countries (depending on your politics and whether you count a peck on the cheek as a kiss). So before you ask, No! I don’t know that guy you met in Ghana this one time. I’m from Malawi which is a separate country very far away from Ghana.
  • Although we have wild animals that live in the wild, we don’t have pet lions. Instead, we have these weird creatures called dogs, cats and birds amongst other things that we like to keep as pets. I know a guy who used to have a Lion though (psssh! giving us all a bad name).
  • In addition to this, we have computers, broadband, Blackberries, iPhones, Tablet PCs, the internet and in fact most technologies that people in the 1st world (whatever that means) are used to . We don’t have a soothsayer who posts Facebook status updates on our behalf using smoke signals. In case you need to send a text message, make a call or send an email via your phone we also have 3G connectivity in most areas.
  • Most of the major media companies would have you believe that it’s all doom and gloom here. What with all the stories of corruption, hunger, war and disease. Yes, like Britney Spears, Joe the plumber and Homer Simpson we have our problems (like running out of beer on a weekend) but despite this we go to movies, we have comedians, we gossip about celebrities doing what most people can’t imagine their parents doing, we have parties (where we actually eat), we worry about health insurance (yes we have that too) and we go to the park on weekends with our families.
  • Though Nelson Mandela is an icon he is not the only icon to come out of Africa. In as much as we appreciate the work that Mr Mandela did for his country and the rest of the continent we have a large number of Africans working hard to effect change in their countries today. Off the top of my head names that come up are Kofi Annan, Nwanko Kanu, Roger Milla, Desmond Tutu and many more.
  • Furthermore, we don’t need your help (I am of course referring to Tarzan, Superman and whoever feels that we need to be saved from something). We have the intellect and the human resources to come up with solutions to our problems. Don’t get me wrong everyone needs a little assistance when they are facing difficulties however giving us 22 million pounds or dollars and then lecturing us about ‘good governance’ doesn’t really sit well with most Africans especially if you are involved in a myriad of dodgy wars across the world and your airport security policies regard toothpaste as a potential weapon. That said, Oprah we love the school you opened and we hope you come here and do another one of ’em shows where you give away cars.
  • Finally, most of our clean water is provided to us via the tap and not Matt Damon.*

*Matt Damon funds projects in Zambia to bring clean water to communities in some areas that do not have access to it.

Hi, my name is Africa and I’m addicted to my cell phone

One of the new smart phonesOne of the most used technologies when it comes to communication in Africa is the cell phone (mobile phone). It is so widely used that most African banks now use it to deliver banking solutions to suit those people who live in remote areas or those who prefer not to deal with that clingy bank teller who rattles on and on about how she can’t find true love despite all her good efforts.

However, the cell phone, with all its advantages, has irreversibly changed the way we interact with each other. Gone are the days when someone spent a year without talking to you because they genuinely couldn’t get in touch with you. These days we have Facebook, BBM, Mxit, Whatsapp and a whole host of tools available on our phones that make it harder to use the “I didn’t have your number” line on anyone.

Although I am a fan of technology, I feel that as cell phones have become smarter they have also become so pervasive that there are few things in our lives that are not in some way connected to them. For example, I struggle to have a conversation with my friends or my girlfriend without someone or something on my phone petitioning for an audience with me.

We talk about being free and living in a civilised society yet our biggest slave master is right there with us all the time in our pockets, handbags and even inside our bras (yes TIA some people do that here). Upon leaving our houses every morning, we pad ourselves down every now and again as a ritual to check that we haven’t forgotten our phones.

It has become so ridiculous that we spend the day chatting to friends and loved ones telling them how we can’t wait to see them only to visit them, whip out our phones, start chatting with other people who are not there feeding them the same sentimental BS about how we must do lunch sometime. I am no expert but it is safe to suggest that we are very much addicted to our cell phones like alcoholics are to alcohol.

Think about it, we are on our cell phones almost all the time except when we are sleeping (with our phones right by the side of the pillow just in case). We spend money (that we don’t have sometimes) to feed this habit by buying the latest smart phone that we simply ‘need’ to have. We get irritated when someone even suggests that we are addicted to our cell phones and even retort with the “I can stop any time I want to” line.

I end this with a challenge; in fact forget that I dare you. I dare you to leave your Blackberry, iPhone, Tab or whatever your poison is… I dare you to leave that at home today and not look at it for the whole day. Prove to yourself that you are not a slave to your phone and that you can survive without it like you probably have for a large chunk of your life. Okay hold on brb my friend just pinged me.

*TIA = This is Africa

You can’t open a Steri Stumpie #butyougotthatiPhone5though

350ml bottle of stei stumpie
If you can’t open this without spilling you do not need an iPhone…any iPhone.

I was well on my way to saving up for an iPhone4 when I heard that Apple had released the iPhone5. As far as technology goes I know enough to get by in today’s world. I know that when my TV is not working I must first make sure I am facing the screen before I call for help. I know that repeatedly pressing the up or down button while waiting for an elevator will not make it come to where I am any faster. I also know that there are no little people inside my TV.

I am a lot of things but what I’m not is one of those people who queue outside a store at odd hours of the morning waiting to buy the newest edition of a phone. I am not alone. Mere observation around the time the iPhone5 launched will tell you that around Africa there wasn’t a rush to buy the iPhone5 as was seen across the developed world. This is mainly because the iPhone5 is expensive and out of reach of most average Africans. That said there are still many people here who can afford to buy it.

I am all for technological advancement. I get excited when new gadgets are invented that make our lives easier while at the same time making the goal of getting a six-pack harder. However, I think that advancement in one aspect of our lives i.e in phones; TVs and cars etc. should match advancement elsewhere. I will give you some examples.

In an age where we have smart phones, like the iPhone5 you’d expect that the guys at Steri Stumpie (South Africa’s current number one flavoured milk brand) would have by now figured out how to make a 350ml bottle of the stuff that opens easily without spilling all over the place. The current 350ml bottle of the flavoured milk is covered by foil that is notoriously hard to crack open without pulling really hard resulting in a jolt that catapults the first 10ml of the stuff all over whatever and whoever is in front of you at the time of opening.

You’d think that in an age where some cars can almost drive on autopilot we would by now have a machine that can put the thread into the eye of a needle so that you don’t have to do it yourself.

You would think that here in South Africa and around Africa by now we would have an efficient public transport system that makes it easier for people in remote areas without cars to plan their days and get around.

Instead, what we have is an iPhone that has a taller screen, a whole 0.5 inches more than its predecessors, a faster processor, a new operating system and still no slot for a memory card.

Most Africans might not have satellite television, computers or cars but almost everyone has a mobile phone. This continent presents a large market for mobile phone manufacturers so they ignore us at their own peril. However they face a challenge in making their products affordable so that we don’t have a situation where you are so broke you eat cornflakes with a fork just to save milk #butyougotthatiPhone5though.

Google+ : ‘weird’ names not wanted!

Today, I tried to open a google+ account using my real name.

As I found out, my real name is not cool enough for the guys at Google because when I tried to open a google+ account using my real name (which they encouraged, I might add) I was greeted with a screen that told me that my real name was in violation of their naming policy.

Berkia Banda name not accepted on google
Berkia Banda is not good enough for google+

This is mainly because as humans we rely on computers that are set to specific algorithms when giving names. We don’t, as most people think try to give our children names with cultural significance, meaning or any such other non-programmable variable that would not get picked up by computer algorithms.

With the knowledge that Google is an American company I had a gut feeling that if I had a, how you say… “normal” name, I probably would not have this problem.

I admit that as far as names go, mine is pretty rare, even by African standards. I’m not quite sure where the name “Berkia” comes from or what it means but I’ve been led by many to believe that it has Afghan roots and it means a strong man (surprise, surprise).

I therefore did what any self-respecting African would do when faced with such a situation, I changed my name (on google+ at least). I figured that since my name sounded weird to google+ I would change my name to Blanket Jackson (the name of Michael Jackson’s kid in case you were wondering he is the one who was dangled out of the window of a Hotel by his then alive, crazy and always weird Pop King of a father).

I did that more as a joke than anything and it actually worked (as you can see from the picture below).

Blanket Jackson more acceptable as a name than my real name
“Blanket Jackson” my new google+ name

Since my name is not actually Blanket I tried to change my profile name back after successfully opening a google+ account and guess what? It wouldn’t let me change it back. Instead it asked me to provide urls where I have been addressed using the name Berkia Banda to prove that I am who I say I am.

I am still awaiting a reply from the guys at google (apparently it will take 24 hours). While I wait I just thought I’d let them know that I’m not chaffed about this.

In 2012 you would not think that the John Smiths, Jane Smiths and Blanket Jacksons of the world have less stress opening google+ pages simply because someone at google is not progressive enough to develop a naming policy that is inclusive.

I mean, what if my name really is Butros Butros Gali or上官文清上官文清 (Shangguan Wenqing)? Does this mean that I have to wait 24 hours longer than normal people (the Johns and the Janes) to start using google plus?

10 things I hate about African Soap operas

When the British came to Africa they brought with them the Four C’s: Commerce, Coke, Charles Dickens and Eastenders (Okay that’s an E but anyway). For all their melodrama, endless twists and lack of appeal to the majority of the male species, soap operas are here to stay. Rather than fight them I have learnt to accept them. However, I have noted some concerning trends that need to be urgently addressed if audience numbers are to be maintained or increased with regards to African soaps.

1. No trap doors/secret closets etc.

Our soap operas never have secret doors or trap doors that open some secret hole somewhere deep beneath the main character’s mansion. We (Africans) are not an inquisitive bunch. If ever we encountered a trap door in reality we would rather run first than find out what’s inside lest you dupe us into getting on some ship sailing to some far away land (just saying).

2. When people die they die.

Down here we have a name for people who die then come back to life…”witches”. The directors have caught on to this so they try to limit this occurrence although contract disputes between actors and film producers have been known to be at fault for this rule being broken in the past. We need more people coming back to life if we want to be in line with international standards.

3. The rich people.

There are lots of rich people in America and Britain. There are very few in Africa. In fact there are so few that the majority of people who watch soaps cannot really relate to the characters. For the majority of us TV is an escape however African soaps must stay true to reality. Rich Africans don’t go to gentlemen’s clubs or smoke cigars they have more important things to do like eat sushi off the stomachs of beautiful naked models.

4. People have photocopiers.

Ever watched The Bold and the Beautiful to see some guy stressed out because the file that has evidence that his arch enemy is not as clean as he pretends to be just got stolen from him? Well in a lot of African soaps this rarely works because people have learnt and know how to use photocopying machines. Leading me to my next point…

5. People know how to use Nero

Ever watched The Bold and the Beautiful to see some guy stressed out because the CD that has the video of his arch enemy cheating on his wife just got stolen from him? In African soaps there’s always a copy somewhere as a result characters rarely blackmail each other and this is honestly such a buzz kill.

6. Things happen a lot faster

In as much as we are not an inquisitive bunch we are also not very patient. Damn it, most of us had to wait for decades for political freedom so give us a break. Imagine Mandela’s frustration when after 26 years in jail he watches an episode of Days of our lives and it basically repeats itself for a week because the story goes back and forth without any real developments. You don’t get this in African soap operas so if you miss a month it’s like trying to write a Stats exam using English Lit notes.

7. People lock their doors

For all their advancement you would think that characters in African soaps would at least forget that doors have keys and keys lock doors and locked doors can be the difference between you being found in bed with your brother’s wife who it turns out is not really your brother but your father etc. This is the reason why in African soaps people rarely overhear things resulting in less drama putting us light-years behind the international standard. Yet another buzz kill.

8. The music.

Soap operas are not famous for their soundtracks. African soaps are no exception. Mix corny dialogue, melodrama and average acting with the added pressure to sound African then you have the worst accompanying music any TV programme could have. We’re big on sounds that move you (drums etc). Melodrama is a legacy of colonisation and just like the office coffee machine we’re still trying to figure it out.

9. Edutainment

They can be educational.

10. They change characters so often

In Africa, acting is still a mickey mouse profession for people with mickey mouse degrees or no degrees at all. Don’t let the celebrity status fool you. A lot of these stars are not that well off. Some even have real jobs or a string of mickey mouse jobs to keep them afloat.

If you are sitting there thinking “oh that’s not true!” Think about it, do you ever see Beyonce doing adverts for washing powder? Due to the fact that you can’t really retire on a soap opera salary alone many don’t stay that long. Unlike The Bold and the Beautiful, where we’ve watched Ridge grow, grown with him then outgrown him.

mickey mouse degree – any degree that teaches you to think with an open mind and live with open hands.

mickey mouse profession – any profession that your parents are not really keen on but is actually fun