The goal of African Interactive is to create collaborative digital interactive arts projects between the UK and Africa, particularly Kenya in the first instance.
In March/April 2012 Tim Kindberg made his first journey to sub-Saharan Africa: a 2.5 week trip to Accra and Nairobi. He worked for the British Council for a few days in Nairobi, acting as a mentor on their Culture Shift programme at the iHub. The rest of the trip was an initial personal exploration of the technical and cultural scenes in those two very different cities. He gave presentations and talked to people in universities, start-up hubs and the independent creative sectors.
He created African Interactive after that trip, to generate discussion and to make collaboration happen.
The UK – and the rest of the world – stands to gain by unlocking Africa’s digital creative potential. What’s in it for the countries of Africa? ICT4D (Information & Communication Technology for Development) tends to focus on providing technologies for education, healthcare, agriculture and other important areas concerned with people’s staple, rather than cultural, wellbeing. It also assumes that there is some “D” to be done – as opposed to, e.g., mutual work between the West and the South, or unlocking of as-yet relatively unexplored applications of technology in the developing economies.
Even with a development agenda, there is no particular emphasis on the creative industries in ICT4D and this seems to be a significant gap, particularly when it comes to digital media.
Digital media includes content and interactivity used as a means or medium of expression, including:
- Informational independence
- Education and training
What types of content and businesses centred on content are needed or of interest in the developing economies of sub-Saharan Africa? For what types of interactivity is there an appetite? What patterns of production and consumption are feasible, given limited resources? Then we may ask: what gaps in tools and technology are implied?
The approach of African Interactive as far as African ‘development’ is concerned is not ICT4D but DMWA (Digital Media with Africa). The focus is on lightweight ways for individuals in Africa to produce and manage content, including media and software and hardware for delivering it, so as to:
- Unlock creativity in the digital realm
- Create a relationship with digital creatives & artists outside Africa
- Stimulate the Arts through easily distributable digital creations, and by adding interactivity to non-digital art forms (as at the Pervasive Media Studio)
- Enable relatively low-income people, especially, to earn money or enhance their existing businesses through digital media work.
Modern, PC-based tools in the ‘developed’ world facilitate relatively lightweight forms of personal expression and business. People with no particular training can create and share text, images, videos and websites; they can set up e-businesses for both physical and virtual goods.
Which of these activities can be supported in Africa largely without PCs and expensive software, but with mobile phones?
Imagine a scenario in which Africans routinely created websites or uploaded content to African websites – African content, consumed by both Africans and people outside Africa. Imagine a world in which individuals could run an e-business using nothing more than a (moderately) smart phone or feature phone. The existence of M-Pesa and other forms of mobile currency, together with mobile finance and insurance, in parts of Africa shows the appetite for innovative ways of conducting business.
Get in touch
I am keen to work with partner organisations to develop projects with the approach described above. Please get in touch.