Meet Ingenious Labs, mobile and web development startup in Togo

Head over to one of my favorite African related site on the net to check an interview with Togolese entrepreneur and developer Tiyab Konlambigue who created Nomad, an Android app “that allows users to have a digital and social life asynchronously thorugh the Oasis server” (Finalist of the Android Developer Challenge for Africa 2011 competition). I like these “From-the-horse’s-mouth” interviews because they allow you to get a first hand account of the situation on the ground and I learned quite a bit about the business, internet, mobile and software environment in Togo. Highlights:

  • Internet in Togo is still too expensive for most people although increased bandwith and cheaper prices seem to be on the horizon.
  • Main mobile carriers are TogoCel and Moov.
  • “Self-entrepreneurship is almost nonexistent in Togo”, but the scene is slowly building up with the first edition of the Lome Barcamp in November 2010.
  • Small development companies like MMS (Multimedia Mobile Strategies) who created the Togolese ToietMoi (YouAndMe) social networking web app.
  • IngeniousLabs incubated with Mcom Multicartes which helped them expand in mobile development
  • Other apps IngeniousLabs have created include Contacts Converter which converted Togolese phone numbers from 7 to 8 digits on user’s phones following the country’s update to 8 digits phone numbers, and ‘African Music Box – The Savanna’, an edicational app that showcases the African savanna as an example of their intention to create purely African content.
From a technical point of view, Tiyab explains their choice of Android in the following terms:
[…]we believe in it will succeed and will be a good substitution to personal computers in Africa. It is mobile, affordable, easy to configure, has a free SDK, policy facilitation and openness on the African continent by Google and Samsung[…]
Also of note is the asynchronous model Nomad and Oasis are built upon, visit the site for more details but to make a long story short:

        Nomad is an beta Android application that allows you to communicate over a private or public social network called Oasis. It allows you to create digital snapshots with your camera or your photo gallery, share and comment it with your friends and the world from your Smartphone.

The particularity of Nomad is its ease and its asynchronous management of data. Imagine you are in an area without network coverage, or imagine that you have access to the Internet periodically, with Nomad you can still create your digital content, geolocate, save and send it when you can. When it’s connected to Internet Nomad save the news online on your Android device and you can read them when you are offline and also comment it. On offline mode, Nomad keeps safely your data created who will still be editable until they are sent once an internet connection found.

This completely makes sense in a hard to get Internet environment like Togo. Check out the complete interview here.

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