08 February 2008

Leapfrogging

Going by the phenomenal increase in mobilephone usage in India, where users have doubled in the past 2 years to reach 225 million in number, Netcore CEO Rajesh Jain’s prediction of ‘the future of digital marketing in India being built around mobilephones’ may eventually come true. What may make this possible is the nature of the mobilephone technology.

To begin with, mobilephones do not require their users to be educated or literate. Learning a few simple operations is enough to use a mobilephone. Next, mobilephones do not depend on existing infrastructure such as electricity or wired lines or using the local transport system to travel to a destination. Availability of a mobile network and a ‘charged’ battery is enough.

Furthermore, mobilephones do not limit their users from being rooted to a spot as in basic telephones. On the contrary, mobilephones allow their users the freedom to make and receive calls in the privacy and convenience of their life situations. Very simply, unlike other technologies like computers and the Internet, mobilephones are easy to use.

For emerging economies like India and China, whose progress is stymied by lack of adequate education and infrastructure, this is a great boon. In fact, more than India, the mobilephone technology has really taken over China, which boasts of a user-base of 500 million people – more than double of India’s mobile population and, apparently, equivalent of the whole of Europe’s mobile users.

In India and China, mobilephones seem to have leapfrogged into prominence over better-known technologies such as computers and the Internet. Their widespread use, and growth, seems to have gone so far as to upset a few business predictions and surprise the whole world.

The latest (7 February 2008) edition of The Economist magazine discusses this very phenomenon. Two stories in the magazine are worth reading: The limits of leapfrogging which talks about the absorption and diffusion of new technologies like the mobilephone; and Of internet caf├ęs and power cuts which explains why emerging economies like India and China are better at adopting new technologies than at putting them into widespread use. And, between the two, what this phenomenon may signify in the future.

No comments: