Friday, July 24, 2009

Expecting the unexpected: technology in emerging markets

Vital Wave Consulting’s CEO, Brooke Partridge discussed the market dynamics across the developing world and how they shape the unprecedented innovation and impact of technology use in these emerging markets at a PARC Forum event on July 23rd in Palo Alto.

Mobile, particularly mobile services (mServices) were a lively topic of discussion. mServices includes things like:

  • mobile money (i.e., immigrants and migrant workers sending money back to their families)
  • mhealth (i.e., using SMS messages to remind people with TB to take their medicine or people with diabetes to do a glucose test)
  • mAdvocacy (i.e., Greenpeace Argentina has used SMS messages to ask people to call their legislators to lobby for policy action, to immediately alert people about urgent environmental issues)

There are literally hundreds of mServices projects being pilot tested across the globe, but even some of the most visible (i.e., M-PESA in Kenya) have not achieved scale. Some of the obstacles are regulatory (particularly with regards to cross-border transmissions), financial (solidifying the business case) and some are in the nature of the projects themselves. Many of the projects were set up just as that – projects – and were not structured to become viable, scalable businesses. Management teams, business models and the service itself often all need to be transformed in order to bring solutions to scale and that is not trivial undertaking. Time is also required and many of these are very new initiatives.

Would be interesting to return to the PARC Forum in July of 2010 and repeat this conversation – hopefully there will be many examples of successfully scaled mServices at that time.

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