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Unlocking the value in used smartphones The global market for trading used smartphones is worth around US$17bn. A staggering 120mn smartphones will be traded globally this year, each one being worth around US$140 on average. HE GLOBAL MARKET for trading used smartphones is worth around US$17bn. A staggering 120mn smartphones will be traded globally this year, each one being worth around US$140 on average. This growth shows no sign of slowing down. Deloitte estimates annual YoY growth to be 50 per cent and forecasts that the market will grow four times faster than the market for new devices. 170mn new smartphones are purchased each year in the US alone. More than 100 million phones are discarded and just 20 per cent of these are recycled responsibly. That means 104mn phones are not being properly disposed of – and are either sitting in drawers or being cast into landfill. The used device market has actively looked to resolve this issue and provide a sustainable solution to a growing problem. Mobile operators, retailers and device manufacturers work with partners like HYLA to collect millions of devices each year. Each of these stakeholders has leveraged device Buyback and trade-in programmes as a common part of the customer device upgrade process. The reuse of these devices has helped divert tens of millions of pounds of e-waste away from landfills and helped avoid hundreds of millions of gallons of ground water pollution. While these environmental benefits are highly significant, so too are the economic motivations. When you consider that many of the leading smartphones can still command values in excess of US$200 after 18 months’ use, it’s no surprise that so many stakeholders are working to extend their usefulness. Extracting the latent value locked in used smartphones not only offers lucrative financial rewards to everyone in the value chain, it can also lower barriers to broadband adoption in emerging markets, including Africa.
Driving digital inclusion in Africa The current global used smartphone market comprises OEMs, telecoms operators, digital service providers, retailers and insurers are all looking to ways to extract the high financial value residing in used devices. Facebook is one of these stakeholders as it looks to collect and redistribute high quality used smartphones through its Facebook Smart Restart programme. 24 Communications Africa Issue 2 2017
120mn smartphones are expected to be Supported by Christian HYLA Mobile is traded globally this year. Aid Kenya and the Kenyan currently managing (Photo: Scanrail1) Ministry of Health, these this programme. It health workers will use the was set up as part of smartphones to register Facebook’s broader pregnant women, receive Internet.org automated antenatal (FreeBasics) initiative, care visit reminders, which aims to bring report danger signs, Internet connectivity to and track deliveries. the world’s four billion They will also register unconnected. Smart newborn children and Restart allows consumers receive immunisation to sell or donate their old reminders to ensure smartphones to be reused that children are and cost effectively rereceiving necessary distributed across Africa, and lifesaving and other under-connected vaccinations. All areas of the world. the data collected Facebook is keen that by these local most subscribers looking to health workers internet.org to become will then be connected for the first time integrated receive the best possible directly into experience. This is being Ministry of threatened by so called low cost H e a l t h smartphones being introduced reporting that struggle to handle rapidly tools. changing climatic conditions. T h e Used iconic smartphones such as global used the iPhone and the Samsung Galaxy smartphone provide more reliable and functional market is solutions. growing Facebook is actively putting these aggressively purely types of refurbished used devices into because all its stakeholders benefit from its the hands of doctors and health workers to address medical emergencies in parts of success. What started as a sustainability Africa. It is also equipping victims of food crises crusade by the mobile industry, as a and natural disasters with used smartphones responsible means of recycling and so they can connect to resources, information responsibly disposing of old devices, has turned into a multi-billion dollar global and their families. industry. The socio-economic benefits to Facebook and Medic Mobile powering mHealth remote parts of Africa, thanks to the likes of Facebook and Medic Mobile, as well as other initiatives in Africa Facebook and Medic Mobile have teamed up to partners in the ecosystem, are perhaps the provide life-changing mhealth services to most startling, certainly the most liferemote African communities. They are changing. What perhaps is most exciting achieving this by equipping frontline health however, is that the potential for used workers with used smartphones, pre-loaded smartphones is only starting to be realised and with the Medic Mobile app. These devices have the benefits felt by these African communities. all been collected through the Facebook Smart The wider possibilities, tied to better digital Restart programme and then donated to more inclusion, are endless. ✆ than 100 community health workers using Medic Mobile in Isiolo County, Kenya. Biju Nair, CEO, HYLA Mobile