In 1996, if you were asked, “How do you use your personal computer?” or “How do you use your mobile device?” and could answer:
Odds are extremely high that if you had a PC you would only be using it for software and if you had a mobile device, you would only be using it for making calls. By 2004, many PC owners could claim they were using their system to do all five. By 2012, the same could be said for smart phone users. By 2020 with 3-d printers, you might even be able to print your next house. Some companies are already doing just that, and more.
As we move along, computers and smart devices are becoming more alike, and increasingly capable of doing more. The same applies to software, mobile apps and web sites. Already, there is a lot overlap between apps, software and web sites.
One device can be a Swiss Army Knife of features and functions. That is technological convergence.
We are now in the midst of the convergence of payment methods and systems. The goal of financial convergence is for anyone with legitimate currency to be able to conduct transactions with anyone else and maintain a record of it.
This has been the primary obstacle of the Mobile Market, but one that is being rapidly overcome through the efforts of Visa, MasterCard, Mobile Carriers and other financial institutions.
Contextually, Paypal was first introduced in 1998, making it easy for webmasters to monetize websites – it served as the #1 catalyst to monetizing the web. Since then, the Internet has gone from just a few million to a few billion users – the majority of whom do not have credit cards. But, almost every mobile user does have a mobile carrier.
Forbes Digital Commerce (FDC) is the closest to bringing mobile app monetization up to the same level as Internet Marketing. It enables payments through mobile carriers in over 80 countries in addition to handling Paypal and traditional credit card payments.
Ease of Doing Business is an index maintained by the WorldBank that rates how difficult any business process is on a per country basis. It examines how many documents are involved in exporting or importing a product; how many different taxes a business must pay; to how many days it takes to securing a business license. It covers a lot of things and can be regarded as one of the best products of the WorldBank.
This is the one area that lags behind everything else for a wide range of factors. It goes a long way toward explaining why a little under half of the countries in the world have made it easy to do online transactions. Some areas simply lack infrastructure, others are difficult to reach, some are in the midst of war, political turmoil, afflicted by natural hazards, or subject to rampant corruption. Even so, virtually none of these actually precludes the ability to do business online, or otherwise.
What can be said is that the effort to truly make the Internet a global – ubiquitous service has only been seriously examined and financially backed in the past 5 – 10 years. Again, the Internet as a global phenomenon only started to take off around 2002. Ten or twelve years is not a lot of time when it comes to the logistics of enabling an internet cafe on every street corner… Really, up through 2004, mainstream media was still questioning whether the Internet was still just a passing fad.
Again, I fall short in covering everything in sufficient depth – except the failure is underscored by the almost quaint fact that we are all just beginning to see the potential to where all of this can go. In twenty years, we will still be able to say the same thing – by simple appeal to history. I’ve seen some of the most exciting apps and business functionality over the past two weeks that I’ve seen really since my first introduction to Paypal. Forbes Digital Commerce is itself something that every mobile developer should explore. Their company is two months old, backed by veterans and some of the top names in the financial industry.
On Wednesday, I’ll try to focus on something more tangible and actionable.
Yesterday’s discussion with Nikolai on global mobilization from the perspective of government and major corporations really only scratches the surface. Yet, there’s a lot that can be extracted from just those five basic points that can be useful to developers and others who are on the periphery of the mobile market.
Mobile & Internet Infrastructure — Rolling out 3G, 4G, WiFi, landlines or even satellite into remote locations is not itself a problem. Making it commercially viable for companies to do so is difficult. That is the critical barrier. Going on, per the goal of Internet.org to provide Internet access essentially for free? That’s far more challenging.
Tip: If you live “near” an unconnected or under-developed region, it is worthwhile for you to acquaint yourself with the people and companies likely to be involved in developing it. It will be easier to get to know them on closer to a “first name basis” before the real development putting you ahead of everyone else competing to be part of the jobs, projects and other opportunities.
Supply and Demand — Alongside infrastructure development the drive is to increase demand for mobile/internet services – which is very difficult to do when the devices are priced way outside the people’s purchasing power within a particular area. That’s where the Nokia X line comes in – bringing mobile within the purchasing reach of more people. That initiates new competitive cycles where, over time, a) even more affordable devices become readily available, b) cascading increases in business increase the area’s purchasing power, c) more people acquire secondhand devices.
Tip: Waste not, want not. There are several possibilities worthy of exploring. One is that many people with older mobile phones will be looking to get some cash value out of them to help pay for a new device. Sometimes, these are resold. In some cases it could be viable to work with vendors to have apps to have your apps pre-installed on these second hand devices. This seems a bit far fetched, but if your average paid advertising cost per install is $ .50 to $1.00 is frequently greater than local emerging market wages.
Distribution — In the short-term, the rollout of new products like Nokia X resides mostly outside of the “internet business model”. It must be done through “brick-n-mortar” stores, where in some areas the actual “bricks” might not exist. Sequentially, it is less about product time to market than it is about the time to actually build that market starting with the major cities of each developing country. more
Today, we are able to finally sit down with Nikolai Holmov to take a look at global mobilization as it relates to overcoming the Digital Divide. Nikolai is a member of Royal Institute of International Affairs — Chatham House, one of the world’s most prestigious think tanks, and the author of OdessaTalk.com. My reason for getting with Nik is that he is able to offer a better view into how governments and major corporations are looking at these issues and try to boil it down to useful points for mobile developers.
Everything is interconnected — where we are discussing the “Internet of Things” — we are also talking about people and the organizations with which they are associated.
Mark: To preface our discussion, how would you collectively qualify world government interests and concerns about the Digital Divide?
Nikolai: In a few simple words — Power and commerce.
Both the projection of power and commerce (or the lack of it) and also the threats to order, be it sovereign or regional and associated business. Overcoming the digital divide is clearly a means to expand commerce and power. But, maintaining it for some means retaining power even if at the expense of commerce and societal development.
There is also the issue of control when it comes to the Internet is a global question when asking who and how much?
Naturally there is also an increased risk relating to criminality both organised through and carried out on the digital platform from a governmental and corporate view. Arguably a case could be made that complete disregard for copyright and intellectual property rights were a foundational stone in the solidification of eastern European economies initially.
It would be reasonable to anticipate a similar path in other regions as the digital divide is closed.
Mark: What region do you see as being the most difficult to achieve ubiquitous Internet access?
Nikolai: There are obvious cases such as North Korea, where despite the potential to easily provide coverage, there is a desire to do exactly the opposite. However, arguably the longest lasting legacy from the Afghanistan debacle will be G4 coverage across the entire sovereign territory. Thus considering both terrain and domestic infrastructure difficulties there, it would suggest there is no region where ubiquitous Internet access cannot be achieved. Perhaps the better question would be one of ubiquitous access to the Internet once the infrastructure is in place. Which sections of society will be allowed access and which will not?
Mark: Describe what you see as the broad economic benefits to be gained by both developed and developing markets if they were to effectively bridge the Digital Divide. more
Aside from Acts of Nature, big things don’t just happen — they are talked about and planned, months if not years in advance. That is one of the practical lessons that developers can take away from this extended discussion of Nokia X in connection with Opera and Internet.org. The better you and your company are able to work with others, the easier it is for your efforts to achieve “economy of scale”.
Combine this with think tanks and forums for executive level decision making and you come up with ideas — and plans — for what can be called “economies of mega-scale”. That’s in line with the concept of Internet.org. It is also the function of organizations like the Singularity University, established in part by Ray Kurzweil, in collaboration with Google and NASA’s Ames Research Center. Its mission is to “assemble, educate and inspire a cadre of leaders who strive to understand and facilitate the development of exponentially advancing technologies and apply, focus and guide these tools to address humanity’s grand challenges.” With the stated aim of producing “projects that can positively impact a billion people in ten years by leveraging exponentially advancing technologies” (per Wikipedia).
Bridging the Internet/Technology divide has been a goal of the United Nations since at least 1999 where the Internet is concerned. As I referenced Wednesday, the goal of a $100 laptop was represented at the World Economic Forum (WEF) at Davos in 2005 by Nicholas Negroponte and MIT Media Lab in 2005. It is also a hot topic with the WEF this year, too.