I've been a faithful Last.fm user since I left Britain. In case you are unfamiliar with it, Last.fm is a website that (with your permission) monitors your listening habits, telling you which artists and songs you listen to the most. So far, so normal. However things become cool when last.fm compiles a radio show based on your habits, makes recommendations of other songs and artists you may like and gives you the opportunity to get in touch with other people with similar listening habits. Tonnes of fun for music-obsessed individuals like myself.
Sadly, last.fm have just announced that they are going to charge listeners outside of the Western world to stream music from their website i.e. no more radio unless I pay three euros a month.
I understand the importance of having a workable business model especially, in these interesting times, but I am increasingly getting the feeling that internet users in Africa are getting some kind of cyberparthied treatment.
Maybe my expectations are unjustifiably high but I thought this brave new world was supposed to be the great equalizer. It sure doesn't feel equal when I want to watch a new music video and I am told by YouTube that I cannot watch it because I am not based in the US.
It's hard enough resisting the temptation to illegally download music, movies and TV shows otherwise not made available out here. Sure we're not owed media by anyone, but still... using Paypal or credit cards from local banks to try and get stuff sent to you from the likes of Amazon seems - at least for now - a non-starter. I don't think they do Africa.
The internet - with all the comforts it makes possible - may not be much of a big deal in Africa at this moment in time. Thinking longer-term though, that fact makes Africa the market with the most potential for growth and, have no doubt, grow it will. New technology always finds a way to trickle down and the amount of time it takes to do this is always shrinking. Things will be no different in Africa.
I can easily foresee a not-so-distant future where more people (especially in - but not exclusive to - the cities) will have more access to the worldwide web, be it through computers (big or basic) in their homes or offices, in communications centres offering cheap Skype calls or on premium mobile phones (the prices of which are always dropping) giving people access to the mobile internet, even during power cuts.
Those people will be looking for content. I hope there will still be some left.
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