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August 18, 2009

Global hullabaloo and rumpus – US, Europe, and Africa

mfg09BOSTON, USA – We spend all day glued to our data streams looking at phones and gadgets and Web services and changes in tech and so on. We fall into the rabbit hole of the nitty gritty and crave to touch the fantastic hardware.

But, I try hard to see what’s happening above that, as well, such as large industry trends (or non-trends) or events that I think are tremendously significant, but usually missed by the folks around me.

Below, I list two very interesting things that will get you talking. The first one compares phone usage patterns in the US and Europe. The second one is about some African hackers.

PhoneBoy’s got a point
Ars Technica reports on a study that claims that Americans pay almost five times more for wireless service than those living in EU countries such as Finland and Sweden.

The inestimable PhoneBoy chimed in, mostly in response to the US wireless lobbying organization, CTIA, which had crafted a response to the study, stating the study was flawed.

PhoneBoy rightfully points out that aside from difference in usage patterns between countries, there are significant differences to how users are billed. For example, in Europe the caller pays, while the US subscribers pay for out-going and in-coming minutes. In the US, subscriptions with bulk minutes included in monthly price are more common than in Europe, where there is a large percentage of pre-paid customers.

I’d like to add that in Europe it’s not hard to be roaming, whereas in the US you can go from Boston to Phoenix (equivalent to going from Espoo to Lisbon) and never roam. And, as one would expect from Americans, the US has more “all-you-can-eat” options, such as text and internet, and free off-peak or intra-network calling.

On my part, having lived in Finland and now in the US, I do feel that the cost is higher in the US (and the phones are certainly krappier and the plans more Byzantine). My last bill in Finland is close to my current bill in the US in price, but I know that our usage here will be higher as my kids take advantage of unlimited messaging and internet access, which they never had in Finland. Also know that Finland has in the past years moved towards bulk pricing of minutes and heavily subsidized phones.

It’s a moving target and any discussion might approach an “angels on a pin-head” discussion.

What do you think?

Hacking in Africa
MAKE magazine has been a leading voice in the DIY (do-it-yourself) trend that has boomed in recent years due to the ability to connect with crafters over the Web. One fun event run by the folks at MAKE is the Maker’s Faire, where crafters of all kind come together to share the things they’ve made.

I’ve been to one and it was a whole lot of fun.

This past weekend, Maker’s Faire Africa burst to life in Accra, Ghana [via core77]. The range of things folks were showing was pretty cool. It looks like there were tons of ingenious creations, and lots of discussions that had all these hackers and crafters sharing and working together, innovating, and even working on local solutions to local issues. And, of course, there was also the usual robots and electronics, a staple at every Maker’s Faire.

Were any of you there? What was it like?

We found a collection of images from the Faire. Enjoy.

My vote is that the next Faire be a few countries over in Nigeria. That’s to please my pal David O.

Images from whiteafrican’s photostream from Maker Faire Africa