If I described to you a country, that in recent years, has taken huge leaps forward in their adoption of mobile technology, and are doing things with mobile that most countries haven’t begun to, what country comes to mind?
You might think of China. And considering the large number of conversations and stories out there on the country’s growing economy, like Washington Posts’ analysis I shared on the Freshly Peeled, that would be a logical connection. But that’s not the country I’m talking about.
My guess is that an African country wouldn’t be the first country that pops into your head. But it’s true. African countries are adopting the mobile web at a blistering pace and are using it in ways that other countries haven’t.
Much of their emerging habits comes out of utility. Quite frankly, they don’t have any other option. In general, most Africans don’t have access to the internet through a desktop computer or laptop. In fact, there isn’t any infrastructure to support the type of internet many of us utilize at home and work. This has pushed Africa to evolve and adapt finding different ways to get the information they need.
In their monthly Monthly State of the Web report, Opera shows the growth of mobile browsing in some African nations up 365 percent compared to just one year ago. Other studies show similar growth trends. According to a study by On Device Research, many African countries are leading the way when it comes to accessing the internet via a mobile device.
Africa’s lack of standard infrastructure has pushed them to the head of the pack, where as other nations like the United States that and the UK that have been much slower to tap into the mobile web because of the large investments that have been made on legacy systems.
Dan Burrus, author of Flash Foresight, says that emerging nations “have the advantage of necessity.” He also describes the problem facing many established entities this way, “…it works to well to throw it away, but not well enough to move forward, and it’d growing more dilapidated and more handicap with every passing day. It is an anchor, holding us back as we strive to drag our way into the twenty-first century.
Dan calls this “the curse of what works,” and it’s not just something global nations are struggling with, but something that brands are facing as well as they battle between the legacy got them where they are today, and the pressure to be constantly reinventing the brand in order to stay relevant to consumers.
It’s can be a real challenge for established brands to see opportunities on the horizon. They can get so caught up in dealing with the issues of today (part of a legacy system), that they fail to see what’s next in their industry. A few easy examples come to mind: Kodak, EMI, Borders. You get the idea.
This is a topic that I plan to discuss in more depth with Dan in the coming weeks as a part of the Post2Post Tour, so I will leave it at that for now.
Photo credit: IICD