Scope of Mobile Apps in Developing Countries – A Bright Future
Mobile apps in developing countries are changing lives as we speak. The process however, is still relatively young; for one, third-world nations and iPhones simply do not mix due to high pricing and inflexibility. The ideal Smartphone should be cheap, simple and rugged, as well as sport a battery that’s good to go for at least a week.
This shouldn’t stop app developers from getting their toes wet – for the developing world, Android is the way to go, though the cost factor might still be a tough one to come to terms with.
Why We Really Need Them
What makes an app great for everyday folks in developing nations and furthermore, what kind of opportunities are to be had by mobile app developers? Certain apps can improve living conditions and standards of the underprivileged in a major way.
Think about how we could help autistic kids who could express themselves better through an app. Or an app that motivates the elderly in particular, to eat healthier and exercise regularly.
Apps have great potential in this regard and this is simply the beginning.
Developing Countries: A Potential Goldmine
Back in mid-2012, the number of global mobile subscribers stood at more than 5 billion. Among these, over 70% belonged to low and middle-income communities.
Private companies as well as NGOs have started leveraging mobile phones to boost the quality of life among citizens of developing nations. A 2009 study by the ICRIER revealed a 1.2 GDP increase for each 10% increase in mobile usage.
Opportunities in developing nations are quite endless. The banking and healthcare sectors particularly stand out where mobile apps have delivered benefits to the underprivileged.
China and India are among top developing countries that have new mobile connections spurring up at a rapid pace. This rapid growth can seem surprising at first since the average user has to dish out at least a month’s salary to acquire a decent Smartphone.
Explosive mobile usage in developing countries over the last decade is what prompted UNICEF to strengthen their programs in some 190 countries. One of UNICEF’s programs relies on mobile apps to ensure infants are tested for HIV and provide treatment as needed. Another one collects feedback from communities on access to emergency medication and water sanitation.
Vodaphone launched a mobile banking service, M-PESA, to facilitate users wanting to pay others through SMS. The service is live in Afghanistan and Kenya, and runs under the Roshan and Safaricom umbrella respectively.
In some parts of the developing world, where the doctor to patient ratio is severely disproportionate, mobile phones come in handy when it comes to providing critical life-saving info. A service that brings together clinical experts and app developers, mHealth provides info on general awareness; Text4baby Russia provides personalized health and pregnancy information to mothers according to their delivery date.
Some mHealth services provide essential patient info to doctors. SIMpill, a medication bottle accompanied by a SIM card, is a South African service which monitors HIV treatment – a text message is sent to patients when medication is taken. In addition, it will shoot an SMS reminder every time a dosage is missed or forgotten.
Is it All That Simple?
Mobile app developers will continue to face challenges of implementing such life-changing services in developing countries. The price point, unfortunately, for availing most of these services is not always accessible to the entire local community. Quite frankly, some folks are hesitant to use unconventional forms of healthcare and financial services, or simply don’t understand them very well.
Even with most network operators grounded in this space, there are opportunities for a host of services that leverage mobile transactions. To completely understand this space, we must observe how folks prefer to interact with money in these developing regions. Similarly apps must be designed that are flexible enough to accommodate their cultural preferences.