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The South African app market: Where are we now? By Toby Bennett

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s fast as you could say ‘mobile revolution’ we found ourselves immersed in a brave new world of smartphones, tablets and mobile apps. There are more than half a million android apps in the world. The i-Store, which officially garnered more than 25 billion downloads in March this year, offers 5.5 million downloads, with more than 170 000 apps specifically tailored for your iOS. If your head isn’t spinning with the variety on offer then I’ll hit you with the fact that around 300 000 of those apps were uploaded in the last three years. Talk about an industry developing overnight. All this has been driven by an ever-increasing level and availability of mobile hardware and stable operating platforms and development tools. Given the proliferation of mobile devices around the world (more than 85 per cent of the planet is using them) you might well ask, has South Africa taken advantage of this new outlet for her talent and industry? The answer, unfortunately, is mixed. South Africa has had some amazing advantages when compared with its peers on the continent. Unfortunately we have a track record of sitting on our laurels. We have managed to drop, or at least fumble, the ball when it comes to issues like youth development, the creation of sustainable alternative energies and the development of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) infrastructure. So one might well ask are we going to miss the boat on the App boom too? It’s not that I’m saying we’re completely useless, it’s more a case of failing to seize opportunities. South Africa should by right, be one of the strongest players on the continent but let’s look at what we have done with our opportunities. At the turn of this century we had one of the best telecommunications infrastructures on the continent but now our line speeds and data costs are falling far behind the rest of Africa. In 2012 our Internet penetration is less than 14 per cent which puts us ahead of the African average of 13.5% but well behind countries like Kenya (25%), Nigeria (29%) or Morocco (49%). We are above average, sure, but here’s my point: when you consider our potential, is good enough all we should be aiming for? Our poor performance when it comes to education and communications infrastructure might be the single biggest stumbling block in this country’s development. Certainly it is a major factor in our lagging behind the rest of the world when it comes to taking advantage of the app market. Here we have a profit-generating industry that anyone should be able to enter, anywhere and at any time, and we are choking ourselves with outdated line speeds and exorbitant costs for bandwidth. Everyone can see how the e-tolling system will be bad for business and commuters. With that in mind would it really surprise anyone to hear that a recent study conducted for the

SA GUIDE TO BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES VOL 10, # 2

Business Software Alliance placed us 18th out of 24 countries in our readiness for cloud computing? The report cited our low levels of Internet penetration and low levels of information and communications technology as a problem, and also went on to say that there needs to be better planning for the expansion of our high-speed networks (we are currently lagging behind India in this department). Above all we are going to need to make the Web quicker and more affordable if we are going to be able to compete internationally. With a relatively limited infrastructure and costs that are still prohibitive for many, the penetration of apps is obviously far behind what it should be, but it’s not all bad news. While we have a way to go in ensuring that our countrymen and women get into the habit of downloading apps, in corporate terms we’re actually not so far behind the curve. As Richard Cheary of Afrozaar Apps puts it, “We definitely do follow countries like the US, South Korea and the EU with regards to general consumer new-media apps, but I believe our corporate and business-tobusiness app paradigm is not that far behind.” Indeed in certain industries like banking, South Africa is a world leader since we are often used to piloting and testing business software and systems. Banks like FNB also have a strong offering when it comes to banking apps and have seen the benefits that being able to offer something extra to their customers can bring. On the whole though, we are still struggling to develop a culture of app use for the average South African. We are all familiar with some of the biggies like Facebook, but there remains an untapped market for apps designed for the local market. You’ve got to ask why more of this sort of app isn’t being created. It cannot be said that South Africa is completely lacking in skill www.saguides.co.za

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SA Guide to Business Opportunities Vol 10.2  

SA Guide to Business Opportunities

SA Guide to Business Opportunities Vol 10.2  

SA Guide to Business Opportunities

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