The mobile phone is changing the world as we know it, and the impact of mobile is different in the developed and developing worlds. The mobile phone is the only computer many people have in the developing world. In the developed world it’s the only medium that you carry with you in a non-interactive physical environment, but in a non-interactive world you suddenly have an interactive medium. This essentially means that in the old world 0.00001% was interactive on our desktops, now 70% of land mass is interactive.
The computing power in a phone in the next five years will be a thousand times more than what it is today because the weakest link is the battery. Currently your phone switches off when you are not using it. However, when battery technology improves, phones will be able to process more even while in the pocket. The more processing power mobile devices have, the more they will interact with our physical environment. They would be constantly processing requests and making decisions for us all day long.
Gartner was forecasting that by the end of 2013 worldwide tablet shipments would grow 53.4%, with shipments reaching 184 million units. While the PC market is significantly larger with unit sales of 303 million, there was an 11.2% decline in sales vs 2012 and this trend will continue in the foreseeable future.
Increased penetration and availability of mobile devices are transforming the face of the continent from an educational perspective, from financial perspective and on how we generally live our lives.
Look at Kenya as an example of how the growth and penetration of mobile has had an impact in African societies with the Elimu project, which takes interactive tablets into the classroom. The project has proven to be successful because the content is local and allows collaboration but more importantly, fights intimidation of technology at an early age. This will empower the Kenyan children to be better contributors to the economy in a world economy driven by technology.
What is also interesting that that the project opted to use tablets with the app installed instead of PC’s because is around $100 per child vs around $300 per child if they were on a PC. This project is leading to increased uptake in tablet sales as the government rolls it out throughout the country and educators around the continent are taking notes and planning similar implementations.
We live in a world today where there are about 2.5 billion people without bank accounts but who have mobile phones. Africa also accounts for 15 of the top 20 countries by mobile money usage. This means that mobile banking and virtual currencies are very important in Africa where 326 million adults or 80% of the continents population are unbanked. As banks, mobile networks and even companies like Google continue to collaborate and/or tailor their products to unique African problems, the mobile device will play a central role to enabling technology that makes banking or transactions easier.
Mobile devices are more affordably and effectively networking people to each other and are a primary means of bringing the world’s knowledge to Africa. More than ever before, the combined promise is bigger than the sum of the parts.
IMAGE: Cellphone shop, Joe Slovo Park / Wikimedia Creative Commons