What can your cellphone do for you?

The cellphone has become Africa’s personal computer. Unable to afford computers or laptops, the vast majority of people on the continent are innovative in their use of mobile devices — using them to access Facebook, surf the web or store applications that interest them.

Applications for these mobile computing platforms are now the subject of research at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. “The majority of the population can’t afford expensive laptops. We are trying to design better techniques and methods to enable people to use mobile devices as computer platforms,” said Janet Wesson, a professor in the computing sciences department.

The applications Wesson and her postgraduate students are investigating include mobile maps, tourist guides and in-car communication systems that detect the driver’s level of distraction by monitoring the speed and steering angle of the car, delaying incoming messages or calls if needed.

Building personalisation
They are building personalisation into mobile devices — meaning the device “remembers” your preferences and customises the information it provides.

For instance, one student is developing a mobile application for an online property company, which users can use to view a list of properties matching their preferences in a region of their choice.

One of Wesson’s PhD students, Bradley van Tonder, had a paper accepted for the Interact 2011 conference in Portugal taking place later this month for his work on one-handed, mobile tilt-based interaction, as opposed to normal keypad interaction. Wesson said: “Why should we always have to look to Europe and the United States for leading-edge research? We can do it here and make it relevant for the South African population.

“We want to provide users with the information they need, when they need it and how they need it. That is our main focus: How can we make the mobile user experience better for South Africans?”
Most of the applications under development are linked to the internet, but some information is cached on the phone to minimise costs. “We are developing a lot of mobile prototypes that will provide knowledge and expertise for future development,” said Wesson, who has also developed the country’s first postgraduate mobile computing course.

Wesson is the South African representative on the international technical committee on human-computer interaction. With Professor Paula Kotze of the CSIR’s Meraka Institute, she will co-chair Interact 2013 to be held in Cape Town, the first in Africa, with the theme “Designing for Diversity”.

Nicky Willemse is a freelance writer contracted to Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University.

We make it make sense

If this story helped you navigate your world, subscribe to the M&G today for just R30 for the first three months

Subscribers get access to all our best journalism, subscriber-only newsletters, events and a weekly cryptic crossword.”

Nicky Willemse
Nicky Willemse works from Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Freelance journalist, copywriter, proofreader, editor, booklover, parent Nicky Willemse has over 43 followers on Twitter.

Related stories

WELCOME TO YOUR M&G

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

Advertising

Latest stories

G is for glamour, not garage shop

Pantry by Marble is disrupting the forecourt shop status quo by offering restaurant-quality services on site

If the state won’t deal with civil war criminals, then...

Liberia decided not to prosecute anyone for crimes committed during its first and second civil wars. Now, one organisation is documenting and aiding prosecution outside the country

Home Suite Hotel: A hidden gem in Sea Point

Founded by the man behind LIFT Airlines, Gidon Novick, Home Suite Hotel knows a thing or two about curating a fresh experience on an old concept.

Latest design and foodie trends at Durban Home Garden Show

The event celebrates 40 years of the city’s design scene. The 2022 edition brings together fashion folk, beer culture, architecture and greenery, while giving visitors their cultural fix
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…
×