« What gets measured | Main | Straight to the point »

September 27, 2007

Flash me

Reuters had an interesting story this week on a phenomenon known in Kenya as "flashing."

It's not what you think.

To the uninitiated, to "flash" someone is to dial their cell phone, let it ring for a split-second, then hang up before they can pick up. That way you don't get charged for the call, and it's an implicit message to the other person that they should call you. According to Andrew Heavens of Reuters, this practice happens all over Africa and goes by different names -- "missed call" in Sudan, "beeping" in Rwanda, etc.

The skyrocketing cellphone market in Africa now has 200 million users -- the vast majority of whom buy their airtime in small, prepaid increments. Unlike in the U.S., you don't get charged for receiving calls, only for making them. So flashing is an easy way to keep that last bit of credit going on your account by getting the other person to pick up the cost of the call.

When I first moved here two years ago, I found the practice more than a little annoying. In the U.S., both parties bear the cost of a call in spent minutes on their cellular plan. In Africa the system is to assign ownership: the person who needs the call more, needs to pick up the tab.

310168347305_0_alb1As with all tech phenomena, there are unwritten but deeply observed rules for flashing. When your mechanic wants to tell you your car is ready, for example, he can flash you -- it's your car, after all, and if you want it back, you'd better call him. (Never mind that he may have taken a week longer to fix it than he promised.) It's also hierarchical: an employee calling a superior, who makes more money, is justified in flashing -- unless he really needs a favor.

And of course, if you're trying to woo a lady, don't flash her. Ever.

My first few months here, I picked up a lot of calls that were meant to be flashes. (I often carry my cell phone in my hand, so I have a pretty quick trigger.) This embarrassed a few flashers and irritated others. "Why did you pick up? Why don't you let it ring?" a caller asked me once. "Because you called me" isn't a good answer.

The Reuters piece illustrates just how big flashing has become. An official with the cell phone giant MTC in Sudan says that there 130 million missed calls every day, and 355 million actual calls. That's an astonishing proportion, and it presents a dilemma for cellular operators, who don't make any money off the missed calls and yet find a big chunk of their technology devoted to putting them through the system.

In Kenya, Safaricom, the biggest cell phone company, allows customers to send a certain number of free text messages saying, "Please call me. Thank you." It's much nicer than flashing -- and it reduces traffic on the phone lines -- and apparently other companies are trying similar methods. Until then, flashing/beeping/miskin/bipage will remain the order of the day.

Which, I suppose, is fine. You always have the option of not calling back. Unless you've got a determined flasher, in which case you'd better be prepared for your phone to ring, briefly and repeatedly, sometimes over the course of several days -- until you get a new number.

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451c64169e200e54efe76978834

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Flash me:

Comments

Preston

So that's what it is! I have been getting hangups from Kenya on my cell for months. Have never called back, Mystery solved!

Love the new blog!

Thomas

http://snow412.info/index.html drudge report
http://www.games2web.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=16396 Cheap Phentermine Free Shipping
http://www.games2web.com/forums/viewtopic.php?p=22172 free ringtone for nokia cingular phone
http://www.games2web.com/forums/viewtopic.php?p=22174 airfare car cheap cruise discount hotel insurance las rental travel vacation vegas
http://www.games2web.com/forums/viewtopic.php?p=22177 Cheapest Domain Registration And Web Site Hosting
http://www.games2web.com/forums/viewtopic.php?p=22179 employee free motivation survey

http://zacefronforum.com/forums/viewtopic.php?p=58794
Acne Proactive Solution Treatment
http://zacefronforum.com/forums/viewtopic.php?p=58802 Dessert Food Kraft Recipe
http://zacefronforum.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=30087 3000 Bad Credit Loan Personal
http://zacefronforum.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=30088 Consumer Credit Counseling
http://zacefronforum.com/forums/viewtopic.php?p=58805 Iron And Glass Coffee Table

Big Breast Picture

adult2008.info big breast picture
adult2008.info/lesbiangangbang lesbian gangbang
adult2008.info/freeporn free incest porn videos
adult2008.info/teennudity teen nudity
adult2008.info/vaginalcumshot vaginal cum shot
adult2008.info/proposalxxx xxx proposal
adult2008.info/narutoxxx naruto xxx
adult2008.info/myfirstsexteacher my first sex teacher
adult2008.info/catfasterkillpussy cat faster kill pussy
adult2008.info/venezuelanpussy venezuelan pussy

assbigparade

assbigparade.today.com ass parade
bigbreast.today.com big breast picture
freeporn.today.com free porn
frogsex.today.com free frog video sex
lesbian.today.com lesbian gangbang
freemotorolaringtones.today.com free motorola ringtones
nokia3360freeringtones.today.com nokia 3360 free ringtones
polyphonicringtones.today.com absolutely free polyphonic ringtones
cingularringtones.today.com free cingular ringtones
totallyfreeringtones.today.com totally free ringtones

freemotorolaringtones

freemotorolaringtones.fopim.com free motorola ringtones
forum.radiohouse.org/index.php?showuser=5170 nokia 3360 free ringtones
www.clantags.netsons.org/forum/index.php?showuser=3120 absolutely free polyphonic ringtones
pdonline.keypress.com/user/view.php?id=3038&course=1 free cingular ringtones
www.wirelessforums.org/members/thomas15k.html totally free ringtones
sixsigmaonline.org/aveta/aveta/user/view.php?id=5528&course=1 verizon wireless ringtone
thomas15k.phpnet.us tracfone ringtone
thomas15k.prohosts.org sprint pcs ringtone
www.islam.com.az/forum/index.php?showuser=1026 100 free ringtone
www.althanas.com/world/member.php?u=7179 Order Cheap ambien online
www.poorrichardrocks.com/forums/index.php?showuser=514 Adipex without prescription
www.realityport.com/forum/members/thomaskkk.html Order adipex online
www.irishisptest.com/forum/members/thomaskkk.html buy ativan
www.clublavela.com/forums/member.php?u=8105 buy hydrocodone without a prescription
www.visualtron.com/forums/index.php?showuser=1044 Buy adipex without a prescription
cfhelp.ru/forum/index.php?showuser=2722 Adderall xr anger
board.thesacredyoga.com/members/thomaskkk.html Tenuate Dospan
www.wildcatarmy.com/forum/index.php?showuser=7477 buy cheap viagra
www.recomp.com/forum/member.php?u=67 payday cash advance
voip-forum.tmcnet.com/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=49767 faxless payday loan

easypaydayloan

www.bluehostforum.com/member.php?u=21957 easy payday loan
www.1house.fm/forum/member.php?u=3503 payday advance loan
www.babelistings.com/forums/member.php?u=3870 cheap payday loan
glutenfreeworks.com/forums/member.php?u=9116 buy generic cialis
www.tokio-hotel-fan.ro/forum/member.php?u=1421 buy cheap cialis
www.nokiaclub.ro/forum/member.php?u=4562 cialis online discount
www.bingo.org.uk/forum/member.php?u=2929 buy discount cialis
forum.commonpassion.org/profile.php?id=2730 generic cialis prices
www.maidireborsa.it/member.php?u=3344 teen bikini
www.assopoker.com/forumvbulletin/member.php?u=8306 wedding speech
www.zamzata.com/forums/member.php?u=20136 blonde babes
www.quilledcreations.com/quillingforum/member.php?u=4208 akon lonely
www.animeitalia.com/forum/member.php?u=2427 jordan capri
psychostick.com/forums/member.php?u=6391 big naturals
www.bollywood2000.com/forums/member.php?u=9888 big breast
thydoom.com/forum/member.php?u=5564 suicide girls
www.viperalley.com/forum/members/chuviskkk.html skinny dipping
www.gambling.co.uk/forums/members/chuviskkk.html bikini models
rsforums.com/member.php?u=1064 micro bikini
forum.athletes.com/member.php?u=161511 anna nicole
www.tamilterminal.net/forum/member.php?u=64300 hummer h3
www.collegehoopsnet.com/community/member.php?u=2894 nudists
copyforum.de/member.php?u=11668 bow wow
www.my-bulldog-hell.co.uk/forum/member.php?u=1753 omarion

bad credit personal loan

Bad credit personal loans online
There are many bad credit personal loans online. More and more companies are offering quick cash loans (like Internet Cash Advance) to people with bad credit, without the inconvenience of having to go to a bank of office and fill out paperwork.

http://www.geckoforums.net/member.php?u=6555 bad credit personal loan
http://www.gedichte.com/member.php?u=35416 guaranteed bad credit personal loan
http://pix-hoster.com/forums/member.php?u=4031 bank personal loan for bad credit
http://ldsfiles.com/newforums/members/chuviskkk.html bad credit personal loan lender

Anna

To read a http://AutoCitys.com car review, start by selecting a manufacturer from the list below...
There is more than one way to get the car of your dreams.

Anni

For general health information only.
Welcome to http://beelead.com
Bee products: Bee pollen, bee propolis, royal jelly.

Buy Viagra

hello fellas, i really like this blog is incredible, intresting and usefull.

The comments to this entry are closed.

ABOUT THIS BLOG

shashank

Somewhere in Africa was written by McClatchy correspondent Shashank Bengali, who covered sub-Saharan Africa from 2005 to 2009. He's now based in Washington, D.C., as a national correspondent.

Read Shashank's stories at news.mcclatchy.com or send him a story idea.



THIS MONTH

    Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7
    8 9 10 11 12 13 14
    15 16 17 18 19 20 21
    22 23 24 25 26 27 28
    29 30