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Arthur Attwell Talks to Alan Knott-Craig Jr and Gus Silber at the Launch of Mobinomics

Gus Silber and Alan Knott-Craig Jr

On Tuesday evening, the techno-savvy and techno-curious alike packed into The Book Lounge for the launch of Mobinomics: Mxit and Africa’s Mobile Revolution. The book is co-written by Alan Knott-Craig Jr, CEO of social networking platform Mxit, and Gus Silber, an award-winning journalist and “digital technology fetishist”.

Alan Knott-Craig Jr and Arthur AttwellMobinomicsAccording to Silber, “Mobinomics” is a term for “the economics of the mobile phone and the way mobile affects our society”. Silber argued that the development of the social networking platform Mxit is “up there with Chris Barnard’s heart transplant and the invention of the Creepy Crawly”.

Knott-Craig and Silber were in conversation with “digi-guru” Arthur Attwell, Shuttleworth Foundation Fellow and founder of the print-on-demand service Paperight. Attwell noted how, despite meeting Knott-Craig and Silber face-to-face for the first time, the digital world makes it so that he felt he had known them a lot longer. Attwell lead the discussion around the book and the emerging stories of Mxit’s social impact, skilful entrepreneurship and technological innovation.

According to the authors, the competing social network Twitter receives 400 million messages a day while Mxit receives between 700-850 million, with a staggering 1,2 million people using Mxit on their BlackBerries. Knott-Craig noted that the difference between Mxit and something like Facebook, for example, has to do with the way in which Mxit is “a synchronous social network where people look for real time application”. Furthermore it’s “not built on selling you”, but rather on interactions.

Knott-Craig explained how “something like Mxit totally changes the lives of people, especially youngsters and people in low-income communities”, using the example of the Dr Math program. Dr Math assists children with their maths homework via Mxit and has helped to improve maths literacy in schools. While this function is less useful when it comes to English studies, as Mxit language is a mixture of sms talk, slang and lingo, the network does allow you to download books, one chapter at a time.

Silber reflected on the vast difference between “digital natives” and “digital immigrants”, admiring how there is virtually no learning curve for children today when it comes to technology. According to Silber, the gaming aspect of Mxit does a lot to hook young people. Silber revealed that, “Mxit started as a cellphone game, which turned messaging into a game”.

The launch of Mobinomics was a night of fast-paced discussion around a rapidly developing addition to South African technology. Packed with engaging content, the authors promise that Mobinomics will be available on Mxit soon.

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Carolyn Meads tweeted from the launch using #livebooks:

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