A special thanks to all of the commentors from the last couple days who gave of their opinions to help Nokia think differently about innovating in Africa. It was these comments that I channeled, where I served as a messenger to tell the Nokia executives who flew in from all over the continent and Europe for this meeting in Nairobi.
Points made in the talk
[Note: most of these points came directly from the readers on my last post.]
First, stop treating the Middle East and Africa as a single region. If you’re serious about Africa, treat it as its own region.
Second, stop colluding with the operators and start colluding with your customers.
The mobile space is more nuanced now, it’s difficult to create a handset that will change your fate, instead it’s a mixture of software, apps, web platforms and data costs (as well as handsets) that decide your future.
Engage developers, third party programmers and businesses is where innovation comes from, not a large, slow company.
Standardize your UI and OS, strengthen your APIs. Get out of the way and let software developers innovate on a platform.
Make it easy for developers to make money, even in Africa. Figure out a way that people get paid and can bill via your server-side offerings like Ovi.
Take some of the big money that’s being thrown at high-profile “global social change competitions”, which generally attract Western organizations, and do more smaller-scale work at the grassroots level.
A large percentage of users can’t afford the data plan to get on your own websites and the Ovi store. Zero rate them. There’s no reason you shouldn’t be eating Facebook’s, Twitter’s and Google’s lunch in this, as Nokia has deeper penetration with mobile operators than almost anyone else on the continent.
Consider a specialized site for Africa, loading fast on low bandwidth.
You were too slow on the dual SIM card movement, that if anything showed you had lost your innovative practices in the emerging markets like Africa.
Today it’s driving the cheapest candybar phone to the lowest possible price. Good, keep that up. While you’re doing so, make the battery last longer and keep thinking of great ways to recharge it (solar or bicycle dyno).
But, look ahead are realize that even here in Africa, people want Smartphones with real web browsers, social networking and entertainment apps. Do it for under $100.
You don’t want to hear it, but I’ll say it anyway. Software isn’t your strong point, hardware is. Consider embracing Android.
How about a multi-touch dual-SIM Android smartphone for under $100â€¦ can you do it?
SD cards = digital storage. In fact, provide these with content already on them, including books, encyclopedias, etc.
Cloud-based services, including heavy application processes, would mean deeper penetration into phones with less RAM, content backup, and a content creation and sharing link that is still untapped.
Be the first to implement 802.21 in your handsets, allowing a seamless handover from WiFi to GSM/GPRS. Lead the charge to fully IP-enabled phones.
Finally, nothing will get better by holding to the status quo and slipping into mediocrity. Now is the time for daring exploits, especially in the places with the most growth potential and where your competition is either light or weak.
Africa is ripe for experimental phones and financing models, what is new coming out of Africa first?