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The $200 Nexus 7 Google Tablet is a Game-Changer for ICT Adoption in Africa

By Wayan Vota on June 29, 2012


On Wednesday, Google announced the specs and price point for its Nexus 7 tablet. Engadget reports that for $200 the Nexus 7 has a 7-inch 1280 x 800 IPS LCD to show off Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. It also has a NVIDIA Tegra 3 T30L quad-core processor running at 1.2GHz with 1GB of RAM and 8GB of storage and 802.11b/g/n and Bluetooth wireless connectivity. Or as Engadget says:

You’re looking at a $199 tablet with a quad-core processor, a high-quality display, and the latest version of Android. How can you ignore that? Despite Google’s lack of marketing reach, this is by far the best value for the money in Android tablets.

And that Nexus 7 value for money is going to turn on ICT adoption in Africa.

Previously, there hasn’t been a quality tablet at such a low cost. Yes, there are cheaper tablets, but they’re just cheap Chinese or Indian knock-offs. The Nexus 7 is quality at a low cost. Now, I can see classrooms lit up buy tablet-empowered teachers. Not children mind you – $200 per child is still too expensive. I see nurses using tablets in health clinics. And I see a Cambrian Explosion of Android apps.

Get ready for Android app overload

Android is already the most popular app development platform in the developing world, mainly because Android devices are more popular than iOS devices among consumers. Now supercharge it with millions of new users who can now afford a high-quality tablet and you will see a mad rush to develop local Android apps that cater to specific African markets.

A Kiswahili language app for children, a traffic tracker for Lagos, a crop pest database in Xhosa, and that’s just a few ideas that will now be attempted where before they were only dreams.

To add to what Kachwanya said, Africans should be developing for Android, not USSD, SMS, or feature phones, and by doing so, we’ll soon see Apps4D, smartphone application development as ICT4D.

Say goodbye to African hardware OEMs

While an apps avalanche is the good news, TechLoy rightly points out the downside to a $200 quality Android tablet – the decimation of nascent African tablet OEMs:

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, how does a budget tablet OEM begin to compete with [the $200 Nexus 7]?

VMK’s tablet costs about $300. Encipher’s Inye 2 isn’t likely to cost less. At just under $200 dollars, a Google backed tablet might not only prove irresistible to budget conscious users, but also wipe out whatever market there was for VMK, Encipher et al. If I was any of these companies, I would be considering a significant pivot right now

Like my point above, Techloy says OEMs should drop the hardware and join what will be a scrum of software developers rushing into the custom solutions market. Education, businesses, enterprise, and government buyers will need tablet applications adapted to the local context. And with over 1 million Android activations a day now, there are plenty of opporunites to be the next Zenga.


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Written by
Wayan Vota co-founded ICTworks. He also co-founded Technology Salon, MERL Tech, ICTforAg, ICT4Djobs, ICT4Drinks, JadedAid, Kurante, OLPC News and a few other things. Opinions expressed here are his own and do not reflect the position of his employer, any of its entities, or any ICTWorks sponsor.
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12 Comments to “The $200 Nexus 7 Google Tablet is a Game-Changer for ICT Adoption in Africa”

  1. Anonymous says:

    A version of the same with 3G / 4G would be a sure solution, given that most areas would not have wi-fi readily available.

  2. Merryl Ford says:

    Google’s decision to exclude a microSD option shows the company is pushing people to use their Google drive cloud-based storage service. Unfortunately, here in Africa the lack of high bandwidth, affordable connectivity options, make this a serious issue. The fact that most cheaper no-name brand tablets provide for expansion up to 32GB via SD, still make them a more viable option, imho – they may not be as powerful, as slick, as pretty, but many are quite stable and provide enough power for what is needed. We are about to test tablets in rural schools in the Eastern Cape in South Africa and depend on the extra storage options to preload a lot of the content (much of it multimedia, esp video), knowing that connectivity is an issue. In addition, the tablets include 3G dongle options, for those who are willing to pay extra for data (e.g. the teachers, who are already spending about $20 – 100 on internet access from their cellphones). So we shouldn’t underestimate these no-name brand Android tablets and their potential use in schools.

  3. James F says:

    I don’t see how this benefits Africans at all.

    Firstly, it’s not even available in African countries (not even the vast majority of Western countries), and I wouldn’t count on it being available any time soon.

    Secondly, as has been pointed out, if it was available there it would just destroy the market for tablets made in places like Nigeria.

    Thirdly I don’t agree at all that ‘Africans should be developing for Android … not feature phones’. It’s going to be a very long time until you can get smartphones for under £10 like you can in African countries, and SMS-based services are doing great things. Putting too much focus on smartphones at this stage would be greatly detrimental; the focus needs to be on reaching as many people as possible and that means developing services that can work on the cheapest of handsets.

  4. James F says:

    I meant: “smartphones for under £10 like you can normal phones in African countries”.

  5. Gordon Cressman says:

    In general I agree with the article. However, we’ve been using the Kindle Fire for Tangerine Early Grade Reading (EGRA) (http://bit.ly/OImN0p) at the same price point.

  6. Wayan Vota says:

    Some folks are complaining that 8GB isn’t enough storage for a device that doesn’t have 3G. My iPad has 8G and I have yet to turn on 3G or feel its any way deficient in storage. For school applications, where documents and eBooks would be the greatest use, 8G is plenty.

  7. Dan Sutera says:

    Also agree with the article largely as well as the comment.

    We’re in the same boat as Gordon– using kindle fires works well for our specific e-learning application (impactnetwork.org). Only downside is they don’t have the android marketplace easily accessible. There are workarounds though– http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2396276,00.asp

    The only other thing is that I sort of expect that android smartphones in the $50 range will be more of the a game changer than a $200 tablet, depending on the app, though both are more than welcome!

  8. Wayan Vota says:

    So then a Nexus 7, with the full Android market and better specs would be welcome then, right?

  9. Carmen Strigel says:

    I would think the real differentiator is battery life – I venture to guess that for 80% of uses, the difference between a dual and quad core processor will be not mission critical. Battery life, however, is key to effective educational use of these tablets in low-resource, low-power environments.

  10. Wayan Vota says:

    Looks like its battery life is very good.

    The Nexus 7’s battery is slightly smaller (lower capacity) than the batteries in the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet. That said, the base battery life of each device is very similar (around 8 hours of video playback).

    We came within spitting distance of 10 hours on a charge using out standard rundown test, which has the tablet connected on WiFi and looping a video endlessly. That’s very, very good for a budget 7-incher and bests many bigger, more expensive slates.

  11. Sam G says:

    I wonder how much it will retail in Nairobi! I would love to try one and see how i can Use in to leverage my ICT4D interests. For example update my blog via 3G research on Pest and crop disease management while in the filed (farm) and get feed back on best practice just to mention a few.

    Your example of Nurses employing the Nexus in Health care looks like it would really work well here the usual paper based record (Pre doctor visit) collection could all be electronic and easy to manage and archive.

    The other area is that of using local learning content (public school curriculum) made available in rural settings and using the Nexus 7 as the preferred gadget of choice. Swahili content would also see a great lift and faster adoption, as now it will be deemed cool even in urban centres 🙂

  12. Merryl Ford says:

    Nope, its not if you start looking at multimedia learning resources. We have a series of small video clips for mathematics alone that take up 3gb of space. We are looking at local content servers to store the bulk of the multimedia content, which makes it available at school, but we need a solution that enables learners to take the content home as well and we’re looking at SD cards for that. SD cards could also be a convenient way to distribute content, the same way you buy Nintedo DS games, etc. Obviously these workarounds become unnecessary in environments with ubiquitous and affordable network connectivity.