Mobile Technology, Driving Change and Opportunity in Developing Countries: Mobile Technology Is Changing the World More Quickly and Profoundly Than Any Other Innovation. in Emerging Markets the Scale of Uptake and the Impact on Local Communities Are Too Important to Be Ignored

Article excerpt

In Kolhapur, a hub of India's lucrative textile industry, a local textile agent is using mobile technology to increase efficiency and maintain a competitive edge. Nikhil Gadhia inputs a shopkeeper's order--three bales of cotton--into his phone, then presses send. He receives a text message from the manufacturer confirming his order is being processed. This reduces the amount of paperwork and administration and enhances efficiency of the whole order, distribution and sales management process. This easy-to-use software makes communication faster and more reliable. While this is just the beginning, it reveals the potential of technology to those who work across the whole spectrum of creative industries.

Most of us take the convenience of using a mobile phone for granted, but for billions of people, mobile devices and services can transform their lives. A recent study reported that adding an extra ten mobile phones per 100 people in a typical developing country boosts economic growth in gross domestic product per person by 0.8 percentage points. People in emerging markets are using mobile technology in more powerful ways than those in the developed world. Their first-ever Internet experience will be on a mobile phone and services like mobile email are seeing some of their highest adoption rates in developing countries.

In 2000 developing countries accounted for around one-quarter of the world's 700 million mobile phones. By the beginning of 2009 that share had grown to three-quarters of a total that by then had risen to over 4 billion. This has fundamentally altered the mobile telecommunications industry, with the biggest changes taking place in developing countries.

By 2015, 83 per cent of the global population is expected to be living in emerging markets. As incomes in developing countries rise, household spending on mobile phones is growing faster than spending on energy, water or other necessities. Telecom analysts Juniper Research predict that 80 per cent or more of all new mobile phone subscribers each year will come from emerging markets.

Increased access to mobile technology in developing countries is having a profound impact on every business sector including the creative industries. From film (see Pangea Day box), music and art to literature, digital animation and advertising--all have the potential to reap the benefits of mobile phone technology and improve the lives of people working in those sectors.

Adapting to the challenges

Offering consumers relevant and localized services is critical, but they must also be affordable. The total cost of ownership of mobile devices and services remains far too high in many markets and is the most significant barrier to uptake. To reach emerging markets and drive further take-up of mobile communications, services must be accessible, relevant and affordable. Therefore, the key to improving access for emerging markets lies in reducing the cost of not just the handsets, but also the other costs associated with mobile phones.

It is also vital for telecommunications companies to recognize that every market is different. Just like the developed world, each market in developing countries is unique. Each country is governed by its own ethics and environment, so it is crucial to understand that a single approach to services and technology offerings will not suit all markets. The need to work within each to find locally relevant solutions is critical. Whether offering mobile devices with flashlights and extended battery life in regions where electricity is scarce or using durable materials for harsh climates and remote conditions, innovation and adaptability are required.

Business solutions beyond voice

In developing countries, new mobile technologies such as data services, mobile phone-based agriculture and business advice, health care and money transfer are providing enormous economic and development benefits. …