LIVE FROM GSMA MOBILE 360 SERIES – AFRICA, KIGALI: The head of Google Africa’s Android Platform Partnerships argued providing local content and specific apps to address the needs of users with limited data access is key to boosting uptake and engagement on the continent.
Mahir Sahin (pictured, right) said barriers including language or accessibility issues restrict usage of services.
To increase access in developing markets Google adapted several of its existing apps to work offline and minimise data usage. Sahin added it was important to engage with local and international developers to “create awareness there’s a different profile of users” and tailor applications and services accordingly.
Karanvir Singh, CEO of motorcycle taxi-hailing app Yego Moto (pictured, second from right), said when his company was preparing to launch in Rwanda it “became clear” smartphone penetration was lower than he expected. It subsequently developed its taxi ordering app to work on feature phones, with bulk of technical processing done by driver handsets.
He added data pricing remained a huge issue hampering smartphone adoption in Africa when compared with other developing markets: “You can give away smartphones for free, but when the data price is ten times what it is in India, it’s crazy.”
Singh said of those who used data services, most purchased small bundles with users unlikely to download apps due to concerns about background data use consuming their already limited allowance.
Huawei chief transformation office director Fernando Gordo (pictured, second from left) pointed to the potential of cloud infrastructure to drive down prices, with supportive regulation and education of consumers key to driving adoption.
Aurelien Duval-Delort, CEO of Orange-backed start-up infrastructure provider Bizao (pictured, centre), added operators must actively seek partnerships with startups in their markets to stay ahead. Operators should target engagement with 100 startups within a year, he said.