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The recent defeat of South Africa’s Springboks at the Rugby World Cup may have resulted from their players’ desire to return home quickly and snap up some very enticing new pricing plans available for broadband service. Despite the rugby loss, South Africa is poised to become the Southern Hemisphere’s leader in telcoms.
A retail pricing war is underway in South Africa. Vodacom, MTN, incumbent carrier Tellkom, iBurst, and others are dramatically lowering prices while improving consumer choice and service quality.
An example of some of the changes:
…stepping up to the plate is MTN, which has launched an unlimited and uncapped data promotion that gives customers navigating options on MTN’s network at peak HSPA+ speeds from as little as R289 (FJD 70) a month.
…And iBurst has also introduced new data packages ranging in price from as low as R49 (FJD 11) per month for 1GB to 50GB at R445 (FJD 105).
New devices such as smartphones and tablets drive consumer demand for data. Serame Taukobong, MTN South Africa’s chief marketing officer, said that with the increase in smartphones and tablet technologies data usage has gone up:
“We have seen a significant number of our customers taking up latest smartphones, tablet PCs, wireless routers and laptop deals that MTN is offering. This promotion is a response to the increased data appetite that comes with the usage of these devices,” he said.
At the same time, the Vodacom Apps Store has reached 100,000 downloads in its first month of operation and the company is now launching a program to support local talent in applications development.
South Africa has achieved that enviable balance where the pipes are in place, and there are adequate numbers of players at wholesale and retail level to drive widespread adoption. As more consumers buy smartphones and tablets, increased data usage will enable even more volume discounting. Most importantly, there will be a user base in place to support an app development community that will have a local market of millions who are in position to buy their creations.
This thriving ecosystem is something the Pacific Islands can only dream of—as I was reminded by a local telecom CEO who said, “we don’t do applications and services”. You might as well be telling me that you don’t do the future. So much for all the empty rhetoric on ‘innovation’.
Where the previous post concerned discussion of the impact on organizational culture resulting from a shift toward openness with data, the discussion here is about creating new tools for collecting data, with the purpose of aiding decision-making.
Filtering through a great many articles on ICT and development, I came across the example of the mFarm initiative in an article on Ghanaweb. The project is part of a wider policy drive to increase agricultural output in Ghana.
The issues surrounding the lack of information in the agricultural food supply chain were on my mind when I had opportunity to catch up to my long-time friend, Corneliu Cotofana–entrepreneur/engineer. I described to him the difficulties growers, suppliers, and buyers contend with operating in an information vacuum and we discussed some of the policy initiatives in Ghana. Before long, we realized that there was enough of an engineering problem and policy challenge to merit a collaboration.
So, Ladies and Gentleman, we would like to introduce our joint initiative:
Farm-e, a combination SMS and web-based market information exchange, decision-support tool, that will use technology to build the linkages to support planning, production and marketing. For the first time in Fiji, it will be possible to have a real-time birds-eye snapshot of agricultural food production at the macro level. Our mission is to have the information serve the purposes of growers, suppliers of seeds and fertilizers, buyers and exporters, and everyone involved in the policy discussion around food policy.
Across the developing world, agricultural output falls short of its potential because of a lack of linkages between the different players involved. Growers face uncertainty about whether they will find buyers for their crops. Suppliers of seeds and fertilizers are never certain how much stock to keep on hand. Buyers, made up of consumers, food processors, and exporters are at the mercy of irregular supply.
The mFarm initiative was so compelling to me because the wider policy initiatives achieved a 15-20% growth in income for farmers, while lowering transaction costs some 30%. For people with the lowest of incomes in Fiji, these possibilities represent a revolutionary, not evolutionary leap.
Please remember that the collaboration between Corneliu and I, would not be possible without the near ubiquity of mobile phones in the developing world. It’s only because this device is already in the hands of so many that we can think about how we can try to transform it from its intended purpose of social communication device to business tool.
Looking slightly further ahead, we have a rough outline of how we expect to proceed over the first year. Software development should take take 6-9 months. Toward the end of that time frame, we hope to bring in the first round of early-adopters and beta-users to help test the system and provide feedback. Once design and implementation with telecom partners is achieved, then we undertake the challenge of marketing on the national level.
We expect Farm-e to change and evolve as we work to ensure timely and relevant data is available to facilitate good decision-making by our users
We’re also in search of a logo/mascot to make Farm-e a recognizable brand. Here are some possible contenders:
In May of this year, Indian telecom companies bid an unprecedented $11 billion for spectrum designated for 3G high-speed data. With more than 580 million subscribers, India is the world’s second largest wireless market. More than 20 million new wireless accounts were created in March.
Cheap calling plans, competition from as many as 12 providers in some cities and an aggressive push by phone companies into rural India have driven down prices to as low as USD 0.6 cents a minute.
Mobile data usage remains low in India and as these networks are unveiled, data usage is expected to spike as more consumers turn to these services. Shailesh Rao, Managing Director, Google India reflects on what these changes mean for India:
Another phenomenon of great interest is the rapidly reducing price of devices which are becoming cheaper and cheaper. This will transform the experience and power in the hands of the average Indian consumer. In the next 18-24 months, we will see a dramatic change in the way the average Indian consumer uses his device, the services he avails on it, the kind of devices they have and the kind of usage of data in the country. This is something that we at Google are quite excited about.
As these cheaper devices get into the hands of users in India, we can only hope they find their way over to the islands. The focus is on India especially where it concerns the development of these low-cost devices.