We talk quite a bit about trends in mobile technology and mobile application development in the United States and on a global scale. One extremely dynamic and fascinating emerging marketing that our blog hasn’t yet touched on is that of developing nations and third world countries. According to a global study from World Bank and infoDev, approximately three quarters of the world’s population now has access to a mobile feature phone while about 29% own a smartphone. Let’s take a look at the three major mobile trends that are truly revolutionizing the societies of developing countries and providing immense benefits for the individuals that call them home.
Mobile Technology and Healthcare
The biggest impact we are seeing from mobile technology in developing nations is in the healthcare sector, now commonly referred to as mHealth. Nadim Mahmu, the co-founder and chief research officer of Medic Mobile, a nonprofit organization that seeks to utilize innovative mobile health tools to help communities in developing countries, wrote a very moving article about mHealth last year on CNN.com. In this article, he tells the story of his personal experience working at a hospital in Bangledesh and what inspired him to start Medic Mobile. He points out the enormous potential that mobile technology has to change healthcare in developing countries not only for patient care, but medical research and community organization as well.
“This direction [in mHealth] opened the gateway to establishing emergency triage systems, sending medication adherence reminders, enabling home-based antenatal care,
tracking community immunization and dispatching mass announcements detailing satellite clinic schedules and locations.” Another important advancement is the ability to track down counterfeit drugs, keeping millions safe from dangerous side effects and helping healthcare and law enforcement agencies to keep closer tabs on the pharmaceutical market. Of course mobile tech also opens the doors to major leaps in data collection and analysis, providing better insight into patients and disease trends in critical areas.
MCommerce, Mobile Payments and Banking
The increasing availability and reliability of mobile payment technology has exaggerated benefits in developing countries. A study published by the Reserve Bank of Australia pointed out the surprising fact that the adoption of mobile payments, mcommerce and mobile banking systems has occurred well ahead of adoption in more advanced economies. This phenomenon is easily explained: societies with advanced economies give citizens nearly endless options and access to financial institutions and methods of payment. Because of this availability, individuals have become conditioned to rely on these traditional banking systems and are either wary of emerging mobile banking technology or are simply comfortable in their current habits. In developing economies, the story is much different. Many of these countries have disjointed, untrustworthy or nonexistent financial systems, so mobile technology provides drastic benefits to those who need a secure means for money transfer, income and savings capabilities. While these technologies are basically developing out of necessity, the success of mobile financial options in these countries is providing a viable model for how cashless monetary systems can really benefit citizens who do not have access to affordable or reliable financial options.
Technology Jobs and Education
The United States and other world-leading countries have seen an astounding boom in tech industry jobs, revenue and education. As the wave of mobile technology continues to propagate to developing countries, the positive impact is undoubtedly supporting these economies through the emergence of new jobs and opportunities for higher education. Hackerspaces and mobile learning and research labs have made much of this progress possible, giving interested individuals access to free hardware and the ability to collaborate with other developers in their community. While the model for technology companies and institutions is still unpolished, government, non-profit and global partnership groups like infoDev are getting involved to help develop sound business models and help foster skill development.
According to Valerie D’Costa, program manager of infoDev, “Most businesses based around mobile app technology are at an early stage of development, but may hold enormous employment and economic potential, similar to that of the software industry in the 1980s and 1990s. Supporting the networking and incubation of entrepreneurs is essential to ensure that such potential is tapped.”