Friday, September 28, 2007


Oh dear, Reuters really are behind the times on this one:

If you are in Sudan it is a 'missed call'. In Ethiopia it is a 'miskin' or a 'pitiful' call. In other parts of Africa it is a case of 'flashing', 'beeping' or in French-speaking areas 'bipage'.

Wherever you are, it is one of the fastest-growing phenomena in the continent's booming mobile telephone markets -- and it's a headache for mobile operators who are trying to figure out how to make some money out of it.

You beep someone when you call them up on their mobile phone -- setting its display screen briefly flashing -- then hang up half a second later, before they have had a chance to answer. Your friend -- you hope -- sees your name and number on their list of 'Missed Calls' and calls you back at his or her expense.

It is a tactic born out of ingenuity and necessity, say analysts who have tracked an explosion in miskin calls by cash-strapped cellphone users from Cape Town to Cairo.

"Its roots are as a strategy to save money," said Jonathan Donner, an India-based researcher for Microsoft who is due to publish a paper on "The Rules of Beeping" in the high-brow online Journal of Computer Mediated Communication in October.

Really, really behind the times. The whole pehnomenon was discussed in great detail in Michaela Wrong's "In the Footsteps of Mr Kurtz", an excellent book on the fall of Mobutu in Zaire. From, err, May 2001.

How excellent, don't you think? The world's premier newswire only 6.5 years behind the publishing industry. Even better, I think Wrong was a stringer for Reuters when she actually wrote the book.

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