Tech News | Become A Ugandan Shilling Billionaire With Smartphone Apps In Africa

Posted July 21, 2012 by Ugandan Diaspora News Team in Business ~ 4,003 views


A Forbes Report: OK, admittedly, become a billionaire in Ugandan Shillings with smartphone apps but that’s still real money: $375,000 in Uganda is serious money in fact: you’d normally have to go into politics to have a hope of beating that.

He’s only 22 and already a billionaire – at least in Uganda where he lives. IT student Abdu Sekalala has made a fortune designing mobile phone Apps. His applications have rivalled some of the world’s most popular platforms in downloads………Wordbook is among the most successful. It earns him 1.25 dollars everytime it’s downloaded. So far that’s over 300,000 times – making him some 375,000 U.S. dollars.

The purpose of retelling this story from Reuters is not just to marvel at the story itself: it’s to make two further points about apps development.

The first is that for us sitting in the first world it is going to be difficult to work out what apps are likely to work in such poor countries. Sure, we have hundreds of thousands of people who know how to develop the code: what we don’t really know is what problems we should be developing code to solve. That’s the local knowledge that we really do not have.

That’s the problem: the other side of this is that those poorer countries are potentially an absolute goldmine for apps developers. For they are not looking just for better ways to hail a cab, book a restaurant or for new games to play. The smartphone is the beginning of the building of the entire infrastructure of the civilisation. That’s a huge, huge opportunity for anyone who can gain the finance to go work at this problem.

I’m certain that most people simply do not understand quite how far behind the poor countries are in the basic nuts and bolts of the parts that we take for granted as the infrastructure that surrounds us. Most of these countries do not have a land line telephone network. Not one that extends beyond a few tens of thousands of Ministries and rich houses in the capital city at least. Banking systems extend to the major towns and no more: the majority of the population is entirely unbanked, working in cash or barter. One can go on: sewage systems are a rarity, even sit down toilets with long drop latrines under them are unusual.

Sure, smartphones don’t solve the lavatory problem: but they are solving the whole communications problem. And many of the electronic systems that we expect are being built on top of those phones. The banking system being one: East Africa has several mobile phone payment and banking systems. But everything needs to be built on this basic platform. For that is the one and only communications system there is and it’s entirely likely that it will be the only one there ever is.

This won’t help those who have concentrated upon Apple’s iOS all that much: those phones are too expensive for widespread penetration in these markets. For smartphones it is Android which is making the inroads: a lot of low end models being knocked together by Chinese handset manufacturers. But below that there’s a lot of work going on on feature phones as well: those banking systems use the SMS network for example, something that even the very cheapest phones can access.

I’m convinced that there’s a serious opportunity here for rich world developers to get involved. We’ve got all the general coding skills, the experience, to be able to knock something together that works and do it quickly. What we need is to build the bridges to the local experts who know which are the problems that need to be solved. For as I say, apps development for phones there is not something that is just a nice addition to an extant infrastructure: it is the building of that infrastructure for the very first time. And the basic building blocks are apps on mobile phone networks.

Just as an example: an app that would provide an eye test, produce a prescription for eyeglasses, would be the basic building block of a spectacles distribution company. Specs themselves these days cost $2 maybe to produce. The larger, much larger, expense is in giving the eye test. The secret to being able to roll out affordable spectacles to those who require them is in reducing that cost of the test, not the manufacture of the glasses. I’m sure readers can think of other apps that could be created. See video link

About the Author

Ugandan Diaspora News Team

Ugandan Diaspora News Online is an independent, non political news portal primarily aimed at serving Ugandans who work and reside outside Uganda. Our aim is to be a one stop shop for everything Ugandan and the celebration of our Ugandan heritage.


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