Two years ago, three tech luminaries asked African entrepreneurs for their predictions about what the mobile industry would look like in a decade, in 2020. The three lumuinaries were crowd-sourced reporting platform Ushahidi and Kenyan tech incubator iHub advisory board member Erik Hersman, open SMS-gateway FrontlineSMS founder Ken Banks and mobile and web services strategist Rudy de Waele. The tech trio collected the views and highlighted the predictions of more than 30 African entrepreneurs (see the presentation below).
Some of the predictions are pretty obvious such as continued growth of mobile money and banking, and consolidation of carriers in Africa’s hyper-competitive mobile industry. Some trends are already happening just two years after the predictions, such as the availability of inexpensive Android-based smartphones. Low-cost Android handsets from Chinese manufacturers Huawei and ZTE, Google’s Motorola and Korean mobile phone star Samsung among others are expected to capture 80% the market in China, India and Africa.
Some of the more interesting predictions:
• John Wesonga of Mobile Monday Kenya predicted that cheaper access to the internet will translate “into more people in Africa using the internet to push rather than just pull content”, to create rather than just consume content.
• Marlon Parker, CEO of JamiiX, predicted that broadcast media will be primarily mobile “using location, social graphs, etc. to target content”.
• Steve Mutinda, founder of Shimba Technologies, said that Africa had yet to “fully capitalize on its local content”. He added: “(r)educed data costs on mobile will see mobile web grow exponentially as it will be the initial point of discovery and consumption of online content.”
With African tech entrepreneurs unanimous in forecasting continued rapid growth in the sector – and with just two years’ hindsight, many of the predictions already seem too cautious – the lesson for the news business is clear: ignore mobile at your peril. Africa is likely to skip computer-focused internet and go straight to mobile, which means African news groups need to think about mobile now because that is where their audience already is – whether it’s on the web or simply using SMS. A lot has changed in just the two years since these predictions were made, and in many ways 2012 is already starting to look a lot like the 2020 that these mobile savvy entrepreneurs envisioned.