Thursday, 13 August 2009

The Grid: a first for Africa?

This week's BrandChannel carries an article ("The Grid: line by line") by Mandy de Waal on The Grid. Explains the article, The Grid is a mobile social network that allows users to chat with friends, locate them on a map and share media:
"... The Grid is a first for the African continent. Part Facebook, part Flickr, and a dash of Twitter combined with a GPS-type navigation system, The Grid allows customers to share their lives in a mobile location-based matrix with all of their friends.

The application is all about socializing on the go. If users want to have a cup of coffee with a friend, all they need do is log into The Grid to see which friends are nearby and tag the location of a nearby coffee shop. Then they send a coffee invitation with directions to tempt their mate to pop on over. If the coffee drinking duo wants more friends to join them, they can log in again and type up a blog, message or record a quick video and invite everyone who’s free and happens to be nearby.

Because The Grid displays the user’s approximate position on a street map, everyone can easily see where friends are and what they are doing where. Users from any network can join in because the independent and network-neutral application was developed to showcase innovative new technologies to all South Africans".
Promoted by Vodacom, The Grid has generated its own commissioned content:
"... the world’s first geo-tagged documentary for mobile phones, which centered on the issue of youth culture in South Africa’s biggest urban township, Soweto. Called Mobikasi (literally translated this means mobile township), the mobile documentary utilizes The Grid’s location-based service capabilities to tag real-life physical locations and link them to relevant content in the movie.

When users look at the film, they can explore Sowetan youth culture on their mobile phones from anywhere in South Africa through The Grid’s map interface, or by physically touring the famous township and watching documentary clips on their phones at the locations where they were shot.

Mobikasi features people, music, fashion, social issues and places of interest and is unique in that it is not linear in nature. Rather, Mobikasi splits the content up into 25 one-minute inserts, and each is geo-tagged to the location where it was shot. This means that viewers can now explore Soweto’s vibrant youth culture by virtually “traveling” through a mobile street map of the township and stopping off at points of interest to enjoy the short video clips about each destination.

The mobile documentary has proved so successful that a second season of Mobikasi is on its way and will take place in other townships around South Africa".
How much of a first this is, Afro Leo isn't sure. The Grid, which is also available in Tanzania, is said to have been around for a couple of years. Nor is our lion certain whether this is truly a genuine networking product or merely an advertising and marketing gimmick that was found to have wider uses. He wonders whether the same mix of media is available outside Africa, under the same name or not, since he's embarrassed to say that he has never come across it before and thinks he should have done if it were launched in, say, the US or Europe. In any event, readers' comments are welcomed.

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