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Changing Face Of Mobile Technology For Emerging Markets

mobile technology for emerging markets

My grandfather had a phone. It wasn’t mobile, or “smart” in any way, but as a rural dentist in Cambridge, England in the 1930s, it revolutionised the way he worked. Having a phone meant, he could serve a larger population, get advice from consultants, handle emergencies and avoid unnecessary travel. His phone number was “6”. 

An analogous story is playing out in some of the less developed and most rural areas of the world today, as we see the impact of mobile technology for emerging markets.

For many communities, mobile is not a better, shinier replacement for fixed lines, it is an entirely new technology, offering entirely new solutions to problems that are nothing to do with technology. Take Niger, West Africa, for example, where 4 in 10 people have a mobile subscription, compared to a negligible (0.5%) number of fixed phone lines. 

Now it is mobile technology that is enabling access to services, often with only a single phone in the hands of a village leader, providing access to critical services, such as vaccination and health information for a whole community. This is at its most powerful and obvious, where the mobile enables access to service for those who need it most, but more subtle and just as important shifts are happening across the economic spectrum.  

In the US in the 1950s, the motor car revolutionised people’s lives: how they worked, interacted socially, and how they defined themselves. It defined the American psyche and revolutionised the opportunities of those in rural communities. Today, we look back with nostalgia. Cars changed the world, but today, for some, a new car is just –a newer version of something they already had or had access to.  

For many, mobile phones have had nothing like the impact of the automobile. Those of us who grew up with fixed phone or internet lines, see mobile phones as a better, more convenient version of what we had before.  In the UK today, there are more than double the number of mobile phone subscriptions compared to the number of fixed phone lines (118% versus 48%).  There have certainly been massive expansions in areas like social media, – but phones, have not really changed how we live or work to anything like the same extent.  

It is easy, perhaps, to think of the ‘mobile revolution’ as of no great significance. However, there is a an interesting middle ground. For many emerging markets, mobile phones have ability to be every bit as revolutionary as the motor car. 

Thriving economies encourage economic migration, and transient workers and immigrants are those that are least likely to have access to fixed phone or internet lines. For this community, a mobile phone enables them to work, socialise, bank and exist online, in a way that they previously could not. A mobile phone is not just a nice to have, it is an essential part of growing as an individual or running a business. This is highlighted in the emerging economy of Bangladesh, which has a 100% mobile phone subscription rate.

Device Financing In Emerging Markets 

As with the early motor cars, not everyone can afford what they need, but there are solutions that we as an industry can offer to help them. Cars are offered for lease or on hire purchase and mobile phones can be treated the same. Leasing a car is (still) one of the best ways to build up a credit history – both to make it easier to upgrade your car, but also to get a business loan or buy a house. Leasing a phone can provide all the same benefits, both to the individual and to the industry – it can vastly expand the market and give vendors the opportunity and desire to build a loyal customer base. 

A traditional approach to leasing is to assess the risk based on the history of the individual and your ability to track them down and recover your assets if they fail to pay. That may have made sense in the 1950s, with low population mobility, but today that approach will not work, especially not for those with aspiration and ability, who by nature may have travelled for work, or live in rented accommodation without family surety. We need a solution to today’s needs, and technology can come to our aid. 

The ability to remotely disable a phone (or indeed a car) significantly reduces the risk for a company leasing a device. Only those willing and able to pay will want to lease a phone that will not work unless they do so, so the interrogation, bureaucracy and mistrust inherent in a leasing agreement can all be avoided provided the technology is sound. Innovative companies can go further – allowing flexibility to pause payments or even borrow back against money already paid. 

Trustonic believes there is a huge untapped demand for mobile technology, especially in underserved emerging markets. Our solutions can reduce the risk inherit in leasing and hire purchase and protect against other challenges such as supply chain integrity or theft.  

You can find out more about our device financing solutions here.  

Data source: World Bank