In downtown Bamako, Mali an entrepreneurial bookshop owner, Mamadou Coulibaly, has been attracting an ever-increasing number of clients and curious onlookers since the owner set up an odd-looking computer. “The Source” is a handmade computer box that acts as an offline distributor of online multimedia material. Anyone can step up to the kiosk and pick up anything from Wikipedia pages to local music. Their most popular requests: the Koran and Malian music.
“Our goal is to give people a wider access to educational and cultural material, so this can help to trigger their desire to learn and expand their knowledge.”
This type of innovation really brings home the slow, or expensive, capacity of local internet connections. Bypassing internet cafes (slow) for local, or more static content, can be done through local-only internet hosting too. However, what’s ingenious here is the idea that most people in Bamako don’t need the internet connection at all. That by acting as a simple distribution node for dynamic information and media (the web) they are successfully filling the needs of the local population.
It’s always good to see local-level entrepreneurs benefiting from taking outside ideas and making them work for their needs in Africa. Many times a completely new solution isn’t needed, just a culturally relevant one.
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