MTN’s annual Business App of the Year awards takes place on the 27th of August and the aim is to promote apps that can transform the way people live and conduct business. The event will also be used to encourage further creation of apps.
Nomalanga Nkosi, Executive for MTN within the company’s Enterprise Marketing division, said that MTN became involved two years ago in order to change the way business apps function.
“This is the second year that we have had the awards, and I think that we’ll be a long-term investor. We believe that they create an opportunity for technology to be used as a change-agent for social development – whether to solve a social problem or just to add value to life or make businesses run better. So this is the glue between your hardware and software, and this is true ICT. It’s important for MTN and we think it’s an opportunity to create apps that transform lives,” she said in an interview with IT News Africa.
In many app design competitions, winners often receive a monetary prize but no further assistance. This is something that MTN would like to see change with the Business App of the Year awards.
“We have a few apps of our own, as MTN Business, that we launched over a year ago. This was a true partnership model with the previous winners. We have revenue sharing, we have a large base of customers and they have the technology and the Intellectual Property. So we have a joint-venture where we create the platform for the products, and the creators get a straight revenue share back. So they have access to a market, and the winner gets to go to the Mobile World Congress in Spain where they can show off South African talent,” Nkosi explained.
Nkosi added that on a worldwide scale, African apps need to be promoted to a bigger audience. “We have to fly the African flag where it matters, and MTN is in twenty-four African countries. So the next stage would be to then replicate that and make sure that Africa is put on the map – we can do things for ourselves, we can we contribute – and that becomes an industry.”
Acknowledging that the App awards is only in its second year, Nkosi explained that MTN is well aware of the fact that apps will be technology’s driver of the future.
“It’s early days, but we understand the bigger picture that technology is going to change lives. Apps is one of the mediums that can be used. So the winners have access to a market that we create and spend some time on Research and Development to test their apps. We also create the capacity for them to launch their apps to a bigger market.”
Since MTN is the main sponsor of a competition that recognises excellent apps, Nkosi revealed to IT News Africa that they are planning to create app labs - not only for students, but for the public as well.
“Development labs were discussed in a previous meeting and the view was that MTN needs to re-equip the labs and open these up for people at random to develop apps. The need for the labs came from the university students that we have worked with in the past. While we currently have a lab that is only open to students, it doesn’t always have to be like that. We can actually open a lab to the public. It was something that was tabled, and luckily it will only cost a couple hundred thousand rand to equip, and it will be made available to the public. There is actually no reason why we can’t do that, and we have the space – so it’s a consideration.”
As to why MTN decided to get involved with the App of the Year awards, MTN identified a need because developers did not know how to promote their apps or draft sufficient business plans around their product.
“We understood the need for a facility to position our brand around the middleware, and not just mobile or fixed line. We released that most of the developers had good ideas, but they didn’t have the money and didn’t know how to set up a business – they just want to sell something and make money. So we thought about what we can do to develop them and create a platform to do business together.”
Charlie Fripp – Consumer Technology Editor