Affordable smartphones, together with the falling mobile data tariffs, are set to drive an Internet adoption wave across Africa.
That’s according to Craige Fleischer, the Regional Director for Southern Africa at Research In Motion (RIM), the makers of the BlackBerry device.
Fleischer says the next phase in the development of the continent’s mobile market is mobile Internet.
RIM has witnessed huge growth in the usage of data services among its African customers- small businesses and large private and public sector companies, he says.
According to an Informa Telecoms and Media report, there will be about 265 million data subscribers in Africa by 2015, up from the current 12 million subscribers.
Smartphones such as the BlackBerry smartphone will play a vital role in boosting data access in South Africa and other parts of Africa by bringing affordable online data plans.
“Smartphones are becoming more affordable,” says Fleischer.
Mobile online services in Africa
Fleischer says BlackBerry’s DataSmart Technology is the right tool for offering online services in Africa.
“This is opening up new possibilities for consumers and organisations by giving them access to instant messaging, mobile banking, email, media content and many other powerful applications online applications for the first time,” says Fleischer.
Mobile Internet can have a huge impact on productivity and efficiency in Africa, where Internet penetration still remains low.
“Affordable smartphones, such as the BlackBerry Curve 8520 smartphone, coupled with the competitive data packages in emerging markets are key to supporting the development of the SME and informal sectors in Africa,” says Fleischer.
Mobile Banking in Africa
“Mobile banking is another example of a mobile app that is becoming increasingly popular and which could transform African economies by providing viable basic financial services to millions of unbanked populations in urban and rural communities in Africa,” says Fleischer.
Regarding the the future of data applications, BlackBerry believes that cloud applications will power the mobile social Internet.
“We’re extending RIM’s lead in the enterprise market with new small to medium sized business solutions on premise and in the cloud, including a new BlackBerry Enterprise Server architecture, which has been designed for the cloud,” says Fleischer.
“This technology will help to truly mobilise business processes by giving end-users access to exactly the same data and apps wherever they are and whichever access device they are using,”
Fleischer says RIM is working closely with African mobile network operators and distributors to provide smartphones with relevant mobile applications.
RIM is rolling out a set of mobile apps and value-added services that will address Africa’s growing hunger for online services, he says.
“Africa remains a strategic market for RIM and it is our goal to give African customers access to our latest devices and as many of our apps and value-added services as we can.
“The affordability and the ease of use of the BlackBerry solution positions us strongly to drive the smartphone and mobile apps market across the continent,” concludes Fleischer.