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« More Mobile Stories from Developing World, Taxis and Bicycles in Bangladesh | Main | So how's that 3G coming along? Funny you should ask.. »

October 22, 2009



I like this:

"In developing markets (and certainly in most of Africa) the mobile screen is not the fourth screen (after cinema, TV and PC) but rather the first and often only screen."

So many opportunities. ;-)

Str8 outta the big ZA

Matthew Dawes

I agree - and would go further and say that the potential that exists for true mobile innovation in Africa is exceptionally high. In Europe we take technological advances for granted, in Africa it’s a different story - the potential of the power of mobile on the continent is just so high.
The first screen concept is soemthing which i think is difficult to comprehend. A mobile being the first bit of technology that you interact with and take advantage of, something that connects you, educates you, a personal tool that can actually deliver information that can improve and empower. It has a lot more relevance than my first experience of technology which was watching TV or playing games on a Commodore 64.
As the organiser of Mobile Web Africa, the event that Tomi refers to above, and someone who was worked on the development of mobile in Africa for a god few years I think the two most important things that I have picked up is the need not to dictate and assume and also the need to gain a true understanding of how life practically works.
If you look at something like Frontline SMS that works because a basic platform is provided and then after that point the rest is left up to the users. It isn't delivered as a "I created this and it is going to solve your issues' solution, it is what it is, something for people to take advantage of.
A lot of the experiences I have gathered have been with companies like Nokia, Ericsson and NSN and if you see the amount of resources they dedicate to understanding the situation and surroundings they are operating in it is really impressive. I remember NSN overcoming problems of theft from base stations by equipping the base station with somewhere where the local people could recharge their mobiles. This meant that not only did the theft stop but it also solved a problem for the people in the area.
As for Mobile Advertising, well at Mobile Web Africa there was, and I think is, a tendency to overly focus on this particularly area of monetisation. Whilst not saying that the work being done over there isn’t really impressive, my take on the situation is that the development of a mobile ecosystem all over Africa is when the real potential will begun to be realised (obviously the cost of using the mobile internet needs to be addressed as well as non-commercially viable areas for Operators to work in). That is when a host of creative individuals will have the tools to develop the applications, widgets and mobi sites to deliver truly useful services and content that will continue to push social, political, economic benefits whilst taking into account the environment (both technical and physical) that they are in. The work that Google, Nokia, The Grameen Foundation, etc, etc are doing at the moment is starting to address this, utilising mainly SMS but increasingly the Internet as well.
One of the boundaries that needs to be overcome relates to a couple of conversations I had with top executives from media companies – there question is ‘where is the quantitative benefit of getting involved?’ well that’s a difficult one to nail down. I believe that at this point the benefit is a lot more qualitative and I think the quantitative benefits will unveil themselves in the future. What is for sure though is that if you don’t get on the mobile bandwagon early then your brand will suffer, especially if your rivals do. If you look at some of the companies that are succeeding in mobile – the BBC, Facebook, MXit, Google, Twitter, etc then these aren’t companies with a huge monetisation focus – but their brand is vitally important to them... and this is the crux of the matter on this area – getting involved in mobile is for companies who have a long term outlook.
Strangely I had to do a couple of radio interviews when I was over in South Africa for the event and the main thing I tried to get across is that we are not talking about a ‘revolution’ here, it’s an evolution and it is still very early days. Mobile advertising is an important segment of that but there are a huge number of factors that will shape it, having a locally based thriving mobile ecosystem, I regard to be a really important facet of that development. Google Trader had 1m enquires in its first 5 weeks, that is a demonstration that there is a huge desire to take advantage of the mobile platform.

And in terms of terminology I was always told that to use the term ‘developing’ is actually a little impolite, although nowhere near as ‘Third World’, and in fact the right wording to use is ‘Emerging’. :-)

Matthew Dawes,
Managing Director,
All Amber

Tomi T Ahonen

Hi Myphotographer and Matthew

Thanks for the kind words, Myphotographer, and thank you very much Matthew for the lengthy comment, very very good useful insightful ideas there that I can wholly endorse and learn from.. Cheers!

Tomi Ahonen :-)

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