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We're living through a time of unprecedented change and unpredictability across economic, political and social landscapes. However, the combined forces of mobile technologies, cloud-based applications and innovative ways to deliver services are rewriting the rules of economic development.

This is particularly true in BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries with huge populations and untapped potential. It's also the case throughout the growing urban populations of Africa, Asia and Latin America – these hubs are already finding new ways to compete on a more level field. Plus, their key advantage is being accustomed to creative solutions where cost is always a barrier and infrastructure a real constraint.

The global market is likely to change even more markedly because the saturated Western economies are set to remain static, while population growth by 2050 is predicted to be 34% in Africa and 15% in both Latin America and Asia1 All of which means that no-one has a monopoly on the future.

Ideas before technology

Technology can provide the answers to improving services and ways of working, but it's important to note that most ideas don't rely on using cutting-edge tools and techniques. In East Africa, there are many examples of money transfer services and marketplace information apps that have been developed by people power – the shared goals of entrepreneurs, traders and agricultural producers. While the technology makes these solutions possible, it's the thinking behind the idea that's crucial.

A world of innovation

Across different markets, communications technologies are enabling enterprises and communities to overcome their challenges; to access information, to reduce costs, to streamline supply chains, to redesign processes, and to improve customer service and experience. Here are some ground-breaking projects and initiatives:

Technology will continue to be a catalyst for change in the future by bringing ideas to life and making it possible for innovation to happen in the real-world. For enterprises there's a stark choice, as no-one can expect to remain competitive without embracing communication technologies and understanding how these will influence their markets in the future.

  • mLearning – projects such as text2teach in the Philippines and BridgeIT in Tanzania that provide on-demand delivery of classroom teaching materials and video content entirely over local mobile networks.

  • Location-based services – a wealth of industrial and commercial applications that use M2M technologies to transform and automate processes in field asset management, logistics, secure payments, distribution and navigation. The introduction of usage-based insurance has the potential to disrupt the industry. For example, redefining the way car insurance premiums are calculated and policies sold, and transforming insurers' business propositions by measuring risk with dynamic, location-based data.

  • mHealth – an array of solutions are driving efficiencies and making great strides in the delivery of healthcare services worldwide. These innovations go beyond portable devices and mHealth apps - solutions are focused on people's needs. So they're enabling healthcare professionals to tackle the challenges of an ageing population, the burden of chronic disease and increasingly technically-savvy patients who demand high-quality, personalised care. For the patients and carers, the solutions offer huge potential to improve quality of care, their wellbeing during treatment and ultimately their health outcome.

  • mPayment – the rapid development of mobile payment and loyalty schemes that operate via mobile devices started with ticketed services, such as transport and entertainment. It's now branching into contactless transactions where mobile technology is adding a new layer of authentication to make electronic payments more secure. This technology pinpoints a customer's mobile device and marries location data with the card transaction that is taking place – and this all happens in real-time. Juniper Research estimates that the combined market for all types of mobile payments is expected to reach more than $600 billion globally by the end of this year2

  • Marketplace apps – by providing timely, relevant market and general information, initiatives such as AppLab, Farmer's Friend and Google Trader in countries across Africa and Asia are expanding the horizons of producers and manufacturers.

  • mAdvertising – mobile devices are a key target for advertisers – the market has grown ten-fold since 2008. The trend towards in-app advertising is backed by Gartner figures which forecast that the total number of mobile app downloads (both paid and free) will increase from 17.7 billion in 2011 to over 108 billion in 2015. In the same period, revenue from global mobile advertising will grow by 400%3

Technology can provide the answers to improving services and ways of working, but it's important to note that most ideas don't rely on using cutting-edge tools and techniques. In East Africa, there are many examples of money transfer services and marketplace information apps that have been developed by people power – the shared goals of entrepreneurs, traders and agricultural producers. While the technology makes these solutions possible, it's the thinking behind the idea that's crucial.


Notes

Sources:

1. IBM, The future of the consumer products industry, 2010.
2. Juniper Research, Mobile Payments Markets: Strategies & Forecasts 2008-2013.
3. Gartner, Forecast: Mobile Advertising, Worldwide, 2009-2016

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