2010: A year of mobile
If 2009 can be considered the year of the undersea fibre-optic cable, then 2010 can surely be dubbed “year of the mobile device”. Texting, m-Money, m-Health, the local creation of apps, and expansion by telecoms garnered a large share of attention. The coming year will undoubtedly see many of the same trends, and then some. For example, according to the ITU, mobile phone penetration in Africa stands somewhere around 40%, with Internet penetration around 10%. Expect to see greater connectivity in rural areas and an increase in mobile broadband service as time goes on.
In general, goals for 2011 should remain the same as 2010. Many nations continue to work toward long-term benchmarks with end dates in 2015 or 2020. Others simply progress toward planned undersea broadband connections. In fact, as of this week one year ago, Uganda looked at general infrastructure development, Nigeria was excited about Glo-1, Rwanda eyed WiFi and 2020 goals, Liberia dreamed of the ACE project, and Kenya hoped for cheaper handsets. The same headlines remain true as we turn the page to 2011.
One caveat: Africa should make an extra effort to develop at a different pace than Europe or North America. Developers and the creative class need to keep in mind the common user, and not just the needs of the upper class. For example, Opera’s State of the Mobile Web report (published in May 2010) lists Nokia as the most popular phone in Africa, followed by Sony Ericsson, Samsung, and LG. Apple is nowhere to be found.