Many people have a preconceived notion of a typical early adopter of technology. This person is wealthy, with a lot of disposable income, and a set of priorities and concerns that are in line with that income level. But more and more, businesses are finding that the fastest adopters of technology are in mobile markets, and companies increasingly have to account for the unique needs of the emerging market consumer.
The rise in wealth in emerging markets is overwhelming, and will be a powerful force in shaping the new technology to come. Here are 5 areas in new technology that will be affected by the forces of emerging markets.
Low Cost Mobile Devices
While Apple continues its dominance in the mobile device arena in the developed world, emerging markets are being flooded with low cost options for smart phones. Smart phone manufactures have made big bets that high income consumers will continue to demand ever-increasing power in their mobile devices. But manufacturers for emerging markets have seized upon the idea that low cost, underpowered alternatives will become the norm. Cheap Android based software, and low powered chips like the Intel Atom has made emerging markets a key battleground for device manufacturers like Samsung, Nokia and LG, who all offer a range of targeted products.
Unlike many developed nations, who built their internet infrastructure upon the legacy of the existing telephone systems, emerging markets typically don’t share this constraint. The mobile infrastructure upon which the voice an internet capability in the these areas is built is often the first of its kind. This “blue sky” opportunity has created a great deal of competition amongst mobile providers to land infrastructure contracts in emerging markets. Companies like Bharti, Telefonica, and America Movil have created mobile networks that rival, and sometimes outperform those of developed nations.
With mobile use exploding in emerging markets, it’s unsurprising that the mobile phone has become the primary lifeline for many consumers in the area, and making payments on mobile devices has become the norm. Consumer adoption of mobile payment systems in emerging markets has far outpaced the uptake of equivalent systems in Europe and North America. A huge proportion of consumers in emerging markets have far better access to mobile devices than to banking, and so mobile payments has risen to prominence to fill that gap.
Further to payments, technology has been used in emerging markets to empower all forms of financial services. One notable example of this is in micro-finance. Platforms like Kiva have allowed users in developed nations to make donations over the web to feed into a micro-finance system in developing nations. In addition to connecting different nations for investment, technology has been used within developing countries to provide tracking and accounting for micro-loans. Financial services will take a more incremental approach in developing countries, and technology will empower individuals and small organizations to provide these services in areas that banks can’t reach.
Healthcare costs are rising in developed nations and emerging markets alike. But in emerging markets greater concerns exist around availability of qualified professionals, and distribution of much needed medical supplies. These concerns will drive a number of innovations in technology, and there are already product offerings that aim to address these pressing concerns.
Much of the focus in healthcare technology for emerging markets is for low cost, easy to operate diagnostic devices. These devices will make patient triage and diagnosis far more efficient, ensuring that the already strained resources of the area are used for maximum impact. In the future, technologies that allow qualified professionals to connect with remote patients will again become a huge factor in helping improve patient outcomes in resource deprived areas.