Nokia has embarked on an aggressive campaign to promote the Ovi online store among software developers in East Africa.
Nokia, the world's largest manufacturer of mobile-phone handsets, is holding developers' forums to introduce the online store in Nairobi, Kenya, Kampala, Uganda and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
"Nokia is partnering with service providers in the region to provide payment through mobile money channels. We appreciate that the credit card is not widely used in the region," said Agatha Gikunda, Nokia's head of Messaging Services for Middle East and Africa.
The Ovi store is a marketplace where developers upload their applications and Nokia users can download them from anywhere in the world. The Ovi store is in direct competition with the Apple store for the iPhone.
Software developers in Africa have not been competing in global events or uploading applications online because of bandwidth concerns, lack of proper corporate structure and intellectual property issues.
"We have been organizing the Mobile Boot Camp at Strathmore University every year. People present very good mobile applications but they do not enter global competitions," said Jessica Colaco, the coordinator of the mobile boot camp.
The problem is that there is no legitimacy and people fear that their applications will be stolen, Colaco added. But with an entity like Nokia, which has substantial local presence, more developers will participate, Colaco said.
"I have seen very nice mobile applications locally, but people just share with friends and they do not upload them online or monetize the software; they share it free," Nokia's Gikunda observed.
Patenting and the trademarking of digital material is still a challenge in Kenya, but Nokia is willing to work with the police and the Bureau of Standards to raise awareness on intellectual property issues, said Dorothy Ooko, Nokia communications manager for East and Southern Africa.
"With the infrastructure projects nearing completion, cost of bandwidth will drastically reduce and users will be downloading relevant applications; the best thing is for developers to address local needs," Ooko said.
The Ovi store is expected to start accepting applications next month. Developers will get 70 percent of the revenue and can track the number of downloads through the Ovi Web site.
Developers at the forums have been introduced to Nokia technologies and development platforms including Flash Lite, Web Runtime, Qt, maemo and Nokia touch-screen interfaces. Company officials also discussed partnership opportunities as well as funding opportunities for developers through Nokia's venture capital arm, Nokia Growth Partners.
"This is a great opportunity for software developers because Nokia is available locally to demystify any issues that local techies may have," said Wilfred Mworia, a software developer based in Nairobi.