Cape Town Mobile Lab

The Samsung Mobile Innovation Lab aims to tap directly into the needs, constraints and opportunities which Africa offers to develop innovative mobile applications targeted at both individual Samsung handset users and, more generally, applications that use the mobile communications platform for social development in Africa.

The Samsung Mobile Innovation Lab will husband UCT’s resources, experience, student development efforts and academic management abilities to focus these more exclusively on the development innovative prototype applications in the mobile arena and ensure that the most promising ones are fast-tracked to full commercialization through a formal partnership with the Bandwidth Barn. The Samsung Mobile Innovation Lab establishes an innovation environment for the creative development of mobile applications which take into account the unique constraints and opportunities of the South African context in particular and, by extension, that of the sub-Saharan African continent. Although Africa shares the rapid economic and mobile adoption growth of other emerging markets, other aspects of its contexts are unique: higher income distribution disparities, lower fixed line infrastructure, different cost structures, distinct competition profiles, along with a unique and diverse set of cultural, social and political dimensions.

This gives rise to different demands and opportunities, as evidenced in innovative mobile applications such as Mxit (a South African mobile chat system circumventing the high cost of SMS) or M-Pesa (a Kenyan mobile payment system addressing the lack of a formal financial infrastructure in rural regions). Within the Information Systems department, the emphasis is on building multi-user, multi-tier, multi-platform information systems with strongly integrated back-end systems integrating database, workflow, reporting and security components. In the past, these systems have tended to focus on commercial business needs and thus on traditional architectures, such as local area networks and fixed-line internet interfaces.

In the last year, this emphasis has shifted towards systems addressing the needs of the wider community – including government and NGOs – with a corresponding shift towards mobile channels interfaces. It is envisaged that these systems would be implemented on uniquely identifiable hosts, typically associated with a particular existing or to-be-established non- profit organization. The Information Systems department aims to develop between six and ten innovative social development-oriented systems each year.

IMT is co-directing the lab by providing a wide range of services from designing of the processes and structure of the lab to offering workshops and traning courses.

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