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5 BIG Lessons from #MWC14 – that will change Zambia

Now that the #MWC14 dust has settled, it’s time to make sense of all the debates and discussions and evaluate the impact it will have in Zambia in the coming years. Better still, lets bring it close to home and translate what it all means and its impact in the way we live and do business.

1- Telecoms is changing our sociology. Go on admit it! You spend more time with your mobile device than you spend with any other person or electronic in your household. How often have you walked into a restaurant or seen kids in a group, texting away or talking on the phone instead of engaging in social interaction with those they are with? The mobile device has killed social conversation and interaction! This means mobile operators have 24/7 access to your attention. Expect more direct engagement . Further with the increasing number of affordable smartphones, we will see more entertainment going mobile, commerce going online and financial services increasingly significantly in favour of mobility. We will also see Near Field Communication (NFC) stepping in and the death of the plastic card imminent assuming it was ever born or accessible by the average Zambians. This change will come at a cost as all these smart devices require bandwidth to function well and deliver these services. The question as to who pays for the bandwidth upgrade or infrastructural development remains, the operator, the service provider or the consumer? The antennas are up and we are watching this closely.

2- Communication has made Zambia smaller. Some 78% of the Zambian population is covered by the 2G/3G mobile signal. Some 7.5 million Zambians have a “KYC” registered mobile device. Statistically speaking, it means that almost all Zambians over the age of 18 have such a device! This in effect means that you can literally call any adult Zambian on the phone! Given, over 3 million smart devices on the market it means that every other adult Zambian has potential access to the internet. In effect, the average Zambian is more informed than he was 15 years ago. The challenge now lies in providing affordable internet options. This is where the Facebook and their internet.org partners will come in. We will see low cost internet options with Facebook, Wikipedia, WhatsApp and other services coming free. This will make monetization of Apps more and more difficult as the juggernauts Facebook and Google battle it out for the hearts and hard earned Kwachas of the Zambian people.

3- Bursting data infrastructure. Data might be infinite but bandwidth is limited! There is a finite amount of bandwidth that a fibre optic cable, microwave link or satellite can take. Yes we have mobile companies, ISP’s and carriers all putting down fibre optics both metro and inter city/country rings linking Zambia to the sea. But all these cables are restricted by the maximum amount of bandwidth they can take. Given this situation where the smart device usage in Zambia is still grossly underutilized the impact of the bandwidth limitation is yet to be felt. The reality now is that the cost of the device will no longer be the barrier to entry (Mozilla unveiled a USD 25 smart phone) but the cost of the bundle! This needs to be watched closely. The challenge will now lie on how we balance between efficient use of bandwidth and the cost of that bandwidth. Here we can take a leaf from the automotive industry and learn something.

4- A picture is worth a 1000 words. Video will rule the roost. Industry pundits say by the year 2017 two thirds of mobile data will be video. I have no reason to doubt them. Ask any mobile operator to tell you how WhatsApp and OTT’s (Over The Tops) killed MMS (Media Messaging Service). MMS didn’t see the light of day in Zambia, in fact in any African country. The service just got wiped out by better user friendly OTT services such as WhatsApp. Given this change in customer behaviour it does not sit well with the mobile operators. Research has also shown the growing amount of time people spend on mobile screens viewing video content, 60 minutes compared to desktops 10 minutes and of course TV which makes up to 210 minutes. In a more mobile world the small screen will surely dominate the battle for video viewership. Zambia is no different as micro content video grows so will usage. The ever-nagging bandwidth challenge will remain with some 15% of all video’s being abandoned because of buffering. Video is bandwidth hungry and this will put pressure on an infrastructure racing to catch up. Watch video bundling being the next mobile operator marketing tool.

5- Social media savvy nation. From Number One to the rest of the nation the social media revolution has caught on and is here to stay. Information is knowledge and knowledge is power. We have seen mobile money, e-wallet, e-government, Telemedicine, e-commerce and best of all iSchool, all thriving in the Zambian market in one form or another. There is no respectable business or organization that has not engaged in the social revolution. Traditional methods of doing business will come under increasing pressure as the more informed customer demands more. The winners and losers of the next generation will all be determined in the social media arena. Understand this media and you understand today for a better tomorrow.

The future is now, and picking up on these trends and their implications to your business is paramount. Make the changes both mentally and physically when you still have time to, not when you do not have a choice and have to. It is not a matter of will it happen, it is simply a case of when! Are you ready???

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