Africa: outwardly mobile

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Mobile data and applications have always had a funny adoption curve. Who are the most connected in our society? A few dyed in the wool early adopters may have had 3G cards in their laptops for years now or spent many a wasted train journey like me trying to connect to the internet from their laptops  via their crappy mobile phones over pitifully slow connection speeds.

It is however, the management class who got their first. They probably didn’t even they were doing it, walking around with their flashing, buzzing, chemically addictive blackberries in their pockets.

Just like the laggards who ended up at the top of the sophistication tree almost by accident in the UK, we may soon see rural farmers in South Africa leapfrogging our very own ‘digital sophisticates’ in using their phones to manage their financial affairs.

If the slow uptake of desktop computers was once seen as a barrier to internet adoption in that continent, perhaps the PC will just be overtaken by the massive ubiquity of mobile. After all, it isn’t just the desktop PC that many of these people haven’t had access to,  but any form of banking at all – making these new services potentially economy and life-changing.

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Finally in the UK with the price plans that have been needed to make the iPhone work, it seems customers will start to understand the genuine concept of un-metered, always-on mobile access. Companies however must design around the relative merits of levels and types of communication.

Facebook may be a great rich, iPhone (or general mobile) experience, but text messages might be just as good for simple transactions.

The promise of on-phone banking is incredibly attractive, especially if phones themselves could play a role in the needs for two (or even three) factor authentication. Providing environments potentially more secure than traditional home computers.

Perhaps one day we will even have services to rival the market leaders in Africa.

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