MobileActive08 pulled off the impossible by convincing over 350 mobile technology enthusiasts, funders, and developers to descend of Wanderers Club in Johannesburg, South Africa for a three-day feast on all thing mobile and development.
MobileActive08 kicked off with an informal get-together at the swanky and tech-friendly (free, usable, honest-to-goodness wifi!) Wish Bar in Melville. It was a crowded affair, which made it the perfect occasion for practicing your elevator pitch between hand shakes, h’ordorves, feeding the mobile connectivity monster and swigs of gin and tonic (or whatever your poison, eh, social grease of choice happened to be). I was hours removed from a brain-baking BarCamp Jozi just a few miles away, so I was glad for the informal setting where I got to practice my elevator pitch as to why Project Diaspora was crashing a mobile technology confab. With about 70 people, the get-together also provided an opportunity for attendees to get a headstart on the biz-card trading game. More on this later.
The opening session the next day was choke-full of activity. Yours truly gave lessons in vuvuzela-blowing madness to my other continental representatives. The running joke of the convention was the unanswered question as to why I—representing Africa—got the “black” vuvuzela. After a few rounds of ideation musical chairs—where we all got to switch seating assignments and share, discuss, and sketch out various points of view on the future of mobiles in development—the sessions started in earnest.
Here’s an aggregated list of some of the presentations shared on Slideshare.
Extended aggregation of conference coverage by other media and attendees can also be found on the MobileActive08 blog maintained by Katrin Verclas, co-founder of the Mobile Active.
I dropped in on the Rapid Application Development (RAD) engine demo, Global Voices’ session on mobiles in citizen media, and a session on the evolution of the mobile web to name a few. Paul Cook provided some excellent notes from the Mobile Banking and Mobile Commerce while White African sat in on the launch of Open Mobile Consortium (a very big deal in this young marketplace).
There was a Project Diaspora-specific open-session that I held on day three. There will be more on this once I get a chance to upload the audio and do a write up.
DINNER UNDER THE AFRICAN MOON
One of the great none-tech highlights of the evening was dinner at Moyo. David Sasaki, White African, Juliana Rotich, myself and others made use of the free drinks and bountiful buffet. We also traded some pretty bad jokes about generational gaps and depends courtesy of David. I guess that’s part of the fun of free booze.
WE CAN GO FURTHER
While the three-day fest was full of activity, I think it lacked in a few areas. And I only say this with full knowledge that this is a young conference with room to grow. I think it was a great place for people to meet and share ideas about the future of mobiles in development.
When I looked around, though, there were very few mobiles in actual, real-world use, (myself included, although I did check my email on my iPhone only for one of the days). The student journalists from Rhodes Universtity probably made the best use of their mobiles. It was seemingly the only tech they had on them, a Nokia (N85s?), pencils and notepads. The conference could have used more of this mobile-only action, instead attendees were hunched over their laptops in every plenary session, presentations and demo. From a Western point of view, I can understand this. But the conference should have pushed attendees to experience what’s it’s like to have a mobile as the only technology you own, as is the case for most developing nations, who are targets of the very same technology and applications at this confab. I am assuming handing out official confab-issued mobiles as the only tech required for the conference would have been a design knightmare.
Here’s another point. This was a mobile-tech conference. Can somebody explain to me why I have over 200 hundred business cards and handed out equally as many? If we’re going to be pro-active about mobiles in development. It can’t be too much of a stretch to go a step further and be environmentally conscious and instruct attendees to sling their vCards over bluetooth or other appropriate mobile file transfer protocol. To be fair, MobileActive08 does have database of all the attendees on it’s confab website here.
All in all it was great start, congrats to the Katrin and team for pulling off an excellent confabb and I am certain all the attendees plus more will sign up early for the next year’s conference rumored to be in Thailand or Jordan. If my vote counts, I wouldn’t mind “one night” or three in Bangkok.