African Innovators: Crocodile Browser Lite

With technology being a realm of infinite possibility, it is always a pleasant surprise to learn of someone doing something extra-ordinary in this sector.

This week, I turn my attention to two Nigerian brothers who have developed an app that is both innovative and access friendly.

13 and 15 year old brothers Anesi and Osine Ikhianosime have created an Android-based web browsing app that seemingly rivals the power and functionality of Google Chrome.

Crocodile Browser Lite was created because of a problem many people around the African continent face: slow browsing.

While there are a vast number of browsers available that can be fully customised according to your needs; the area where all of these fall short is that they cater to high-end smart phones and are significantly slower to load data (and frustrating) for feature phone users.

crocodile browser

The brothers, who are self-taught coders have always had an interest in technology and wanted to create something that is useful for individuals living a particular reality.

Remember: Most internet access on the continent is through mobile phones, and a large portion of these phones are feature phones which do not have the same functionality as smart phones.

Initially, the browser was available on the Mobango app before it was released on the Google Play Store.

Currently, it boasts over 50, 000 downloads on the Play Store as well as many positive reviews giving it an average rating of 4.6/5.

But wait, there’s more:

Aside from developing apps and coding which is a big part of both the Ikhianosime’s brother’s lives, they also have their own website inspired by the Microsoft Windows platform with which they want to build their own technology empire.

Blu Doors is the brothers brainchild and home for their projects. It has details about Crocodile Browser Lite as well as a look into other projects the boys are developing.

The most recent is CrocChat which aims to be a fun, smart and private chat application but it is still in its beta stage and will require some patience as the boys work toward developing it further.

The brothers taught themselves how to code, and found a need that many people have not been able to address as of yet. What is truly admirable is that they made use of a number of free resources to do something they would otherwise not have access to.

“I learnt to code by myself. I started in 2013, I used sites  like Code Academy, Code Avenger and books like ‘Android for Game Development’ and ‘Games for Dummies,” said Anesi.

The boys hope to study at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the future in order to broaden their knowledge and gain access to more educational resources.

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Net Neutrality: An Avenue to Access?

Net Neutrality has been a buzzword in some circles for quite some time. Not without it reasons, it could be the solution that we need when speaking of issues of access and internet use.

I recently read an article detailing how some people in The United States are attempting to bridge the gap between data costs and usage and thought there’s a possiblility from us to learn from this.
First and foremose, lets break down what it is.
Net Neutrality:
Net Neutrality refers to the principle that all internet traffic should be treated equally; not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or mode of communication.
So lets say we are talking about streaming movies. Net Neutrality would mean someone in South Africa can load and view these at the same rate as someone in the USA, for the same price and it shouldn’t matter which platform they’re trying to do this from.
Another description given by Columbia Law Professor Tim Wu, is that it’s like a network, where all content, sites, and platforms are treated equally.
Like the India-USA comparison in the article, there are areas in South Africa where the out-of-bundle data costs are simply not affordable.
As a mobile-first country, it is worth looking into how we might be able to change this.
Emerging Economies:
The main issue highlighted when speaking of net neutrality is not that of speed which might be a problem for more developed nations like the USA, but rather one of access altogether.
The main question is how do we get the infrastucture and access to the related internet applications?
The article mentions that some companies like Facebook and Airtel zero are attempting to bridge this gap by making certain apps free of charge.
However this model might not work in some emerging economies like South Africa due to the fact that we want ALL of the internet, and not just parts of it (Besides, doesn’t this just sound like a new version of digital divide anyway?). 
Furthermore, to create and have an app available on these platfroms also involves a number of rules and regulations so it brings in the question of if this is really as free and open as they say it is? 
One last thought to ponder…what happens to all our budding developers when established applications get a monopoly over the market?
Hmmm, so before we have even began, we have a number of issues to tackle…
Solutions?
One solution for the India-USA example was that in order to meet the costs of bringing all the needed infrastructure to emerging markets certain advertising models could be of use here.
So if you buy Brand A’s mobile device, you can get X amount of data for free for each month you are subscribed. Maybe take this further by integrating particular open internet applications directly to the device?
I think there could be a solution somewhere in this thought about how we could utilise this method in places like South Africa or even Zimbabwe.
After all, there are many large companies (Econet, TelOne, MTN, Vodacom, etc), not restricted to telecomms, that have such a huge stake in our market already, it could only make sense for them to invest in the development of our digital space.
While I am excited about the possibilities here, I don’t want to get ahead of myself. There are still so many things to consider before deciding if advertising is the way we should be going with this.