Future of MobiTech in Developing Countries

Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2013
By Farrukh I. Younus
Freelance Writer - United Kingdom

With 80% living in the developing world, 90% of the next 2 billion connections will also be from the developing world.
Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2013

Continuing the keynotes theme, day two was opened by Guy Zibi, Head of Research at Pyramid Research. Guy observed that with 80% of people living in developing countries, 90% of the next 2 billion connections will also be from the developing world, where the impact won’t be just business, but human.

Nasser Marafih, group CEO of Qtel, which has been rebranded as Oredoo, an Arabic word meaning, ‘I want,’ spoke of their massive growth from 1 to 90 million customers over 6 years. Still, just 13% in the Arab world are connected, and more importantly barriers exist in the Middle East, North Africa region as 23% are illiterate.  That is to say, there is a problem that hinders development of products and services for this segment.

Manoj Kohli, CEO of Bharti Airtel, outlined a five- phase program, where phase 4 referred to everyone being on-line and phase 5 focused on services such as health, Machine-2-Machine, and education as being services delivered to everyone.

Crucially, he gave the example of already having brought on-line 450,000 of the 600,000 village in India. Kohli further predicted that within 5 years, all phones will be smartphones.

Stepehn Elop, President & CEO of Nokia, adopted a strongly holistic approach, showing that there is a fundamental change taking place where in the physical world, to travel, a person needs a drivers license or a passport, but in the digital world, you simply need a number and you are now on-line, able to ‘travel’ anywhere.  Elop also touched on how for some the internet means platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. That is to say that there is a generation of people who have yet to discover the fuller potential of the internet.

Gary Kovacs, CEO of Mozilla, touched on the launch of the Firefox Operating System with 21 partners, marking a change to the way phones and services are perceived. Kovacs asked how just half a dozen companies could possibly serve the seven billion people on earth? Showing that our differing needs require more personalized and relevant solutions. The theme Kovacs propagated is that the heart of everything is people, simply you and I.

Suk-Chae Lee, CEO of KT corporation observed that while his company by comparison to so many others was very small, that is exactly why they are at MWC, to share the learning curve and experience. In specific he touched on the virtual goods market which is estimated to be $192 billion by 2016. He observed that it was the operators’ arrogance which led to the creativity and success of OTT services (such as Facebook), and that perhaps now the operators have understood the importance of an open platform, hence their support of Firefox OS.

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Tomlan Marco, CEO of Viber, showed that price is not necessarily the reason for engagement, rather, it is innovation, a new way of doing things – and if that happens to be cheaper, all the better. His example was that of Monaco, where 90% of the population use Viber every day, this is despite Monaco telecom not charging for sending SMS. What the consumer seeks is an experience.

Rene Obermann, CEO of Deutsche Telekom, observed that operators are expected to do more with less. He touched upon the idea of having a single price plan which covered all of your communication needs across multiple platforms. – Frankly a brilliant idea if it can ever take off!

Hans Vestberg, President & CEO of Ericsson, spoke on the importance of packaging – content and services, in a way that the consumer could identify and manage with ease. Moreover, he touched on rethinking the roles members of the eco-system currently offer, delivering a more complimentary overall service.

In all, the speakers spoke on the subject of the next billion, the developing world, and the eco-systems that would be required to deliver contextually relevant engagement, content and experiences to the global community. The message in short, what worked in the part should not necessarily be used as a framework for going forward. Rather, that the industry needs to rethink its position, its strategy, understand the services being delivered by OTT offerings and respond in a way that meets the growing and changing requirements of society, whether in the developed or the developing world. And these can be no greater example of this than with the launch of the Firefox operating system for mobile phones.

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Farrukh I Younus has a background in mobile phone strategy across Europe and Asia, and has visited China on more than 25 occasions. Dedicated to understanding and delivering solutions based on new technology, Younus has spoken on the subject to the European Parliament in Brussels, and regularly attends industry-leading conferences. He currently runs a video platform, Implausibleblog, delivering lifestyle content via social media; where his focus is on understanding consumer behaviour with regards to digital content and digital advertising. His interests include travel, nouvelle cuisine, and chocolate.

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