February 25, 2015

The Mobile ‘Revolution’ and the Developing World

In the run up to Mobile World Congress, we’re publishing a special series of blogs on mobile – and we’d love to hear your thoughts on our Facebook or Twitter pages.

As the name suggests, it’s Mobile World Congress so we’ve taken a closer look at mobile uptake globally. The Guardian predicted that by the end of 2014, there would be more than 635 million mobile subscriptions in sub-Saharan Africa, and that within the next 5 years, internet usage would increase 20-fold. One interesting point made by Simon Birkenhead, was that developing economies were more likely to embrace mobile marketing than in the US and UK, skipping the desktop advertising revolution and going straight to mobile.

These are impressive expectations, and Forrester forecasts that in APAC online retail sales are expected to reach $1.3 trillion by 2019, due in part to smartphone penetration powering online sales. More are using mobile and more are online.

The stats support this; eMarketer predicts that by 2018 internet users will total 3.6 billion, growth that ‘will largely come from individuals in emerging markets who are going online for the first time via internet-connected feature phones and low-end smartphones’. Globally, mobile video traffic exceeded 50% of total mobile data traffic for the first time in 2012, and grew to 55% by the end of 2014.



But what do these statistics mean?

On a practical level the high level of mobile uptake has allowed people worldwide to keep in touch.

Mobile allows you to take pictures, watch video and stay connected. But mobile devices have also been credited with a crucial role in the social, economic and cultural development of nations. The 2011 Arab Springs for example, were accelerated and facilitated with social media. Mobile video footage of riots was sent to broadcasters whose journalists couldn’t access certain areas and was viewed worldwide. Tweets sent via text (as internet access was blocked) encouraged this further, with a study showing that mentions of revolution exploded from 2,300 to more than 230,000 per day before activity took place, showing that these tweets encouraged the action. Without the capabilities of mobile devices, it’s hard to imagine how these events would have unfolded.

Banking has also been revolutionised in developing economies, as in Uganda mobile banking has allowed users to store money on their mobile rather than carry cash. It’s an alternative to expensive banks which in rural areas aren’t readily available. Bank transfers can be completed via mobile, and with the rising convenience of 3G and 4G technology it’s likely to increase further. This chart by the Wall Street Journal from 2013 shows how sub-Saharan Africa is leaps and bounds ahead of the rest of the world in the take up of this technology.

There’s also a thirst for content in these regions. Ebooks are hugely popular on mobile phones, due to their low cost compared to books which has helped to boost literacy levels. It’s hard to find video consumption statistics in these regions, but globally they are strong. Nearly ¾ of the world’s mobile data traffic will be video by 2019 and mobile video will increase 13-fold between 2014 and 2019.

It’s clear why areas like sub-Saharan Africa, and BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) countries are being looked at closely as their mobile uptake has increased in such a short space of time. These are areas with a lot of potential – for advertisers, for publishers and for technology. Mobile has transformed whole regions, and there’s almost no doubt that these emerging economies will be keen to replicate the way mobiles are used worldwide.

It’s important to keep these regions in mind as we continue to innovate and create mobile technology solutions. It will be really interesting to see how this ‘mobile revolution’ continues to play out, and it’s something we’re going to keep a close eye on. Watch this space.

Find us in Barcelona at the Mobile World Congress from the 2nd – 5th March in theApp Planet, Hall 8.1, stand 8.1E67 and say hello!

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