Sunday, May 9, 2021

Cheaper mobile devices needed for Africa to innovate

The pace of introducing innovation to emerging markets such as Africa is to a large extent slowed by the hefty price if doing so. 

At the launch of Microsoft Windows 10 operating system in Gaborone on Wednesday, Director in the Microsoft Windows Business Division-Sub Saharan and Indian Ocean Islands, Rotimi Olumide said it’s surprising that the difference in prices of devices between advanced and emerging markets is so profound. He said devices are about 50 to 60 percent more expensive in Africa than they are in countries such as America. According to Olumide, Africa is where the discount in prices is really needed. Ease of access to technologically wired devices is an important factor to a dominating technological force such as Microsoft. This is because accessibility to mobile devices presents a golden opportunity for Microsoft to leverage by availing the windows operating system to ordinary citizens and business. 

Realizing the intricate challenge of increasing the footprint of the Windows operating system to a region where smart and quality mobile devices are not so affordable for many people, Microsoft made a specific investment in making its Windows operating system available to manufacturers in Shenzhen China, a city renowned for mobile device production.       

In an interview with Sunday Standard, Olumide revealed that the original device manufacturing framework didn’t exist in the windows ecosystem two or three years ago. 

“Most devices we use are built in Shenzhen China. We needed to venture into that ecosystem to make windows available to manufacturers because people deserve a windows device at a more reasonable price than what they might be getting,” he said. 

The remaining challenge for Microsoft is to think about how to get quality devices that are on par with others already in the market into the region, the difference being availing them at an affordable price. In that regard, Olumide said key partners like mobile device manufactures are needed to make a success out of the effort. 

“We need to bring the ecosystem together, that’s how the devices can be brought into the region,” he said. As some of the potential partners, Olumide mentioned local device distributors with a relationship can be established to ensure that devices are availed to local markets.

“This can be made possible by creating a value proportion from the connection between manufacturers and local distributors,” he said.

Olumide decried that there isn’t a wide spread adoption of the enterprise mobility framework within the business community. He added that Africans in general are still grappling with how to make use of the opportunities at their disposal. Enterprise mobility refers to the use of applications, devices and data in the workplace.

He advised businesses to seriously consider the use of mobile devices in the workplace; for example, by adopting the ‘bring your own device policy’ where employees use their own devices to carry out work functions which in this case creates mobility of work. Olumide acknowledged that businesses may be hesitant to invest in the enterprise mobility framework, which is one of the solutions offered by Microsoft, because they might want to save on operational costs. However, he said to make money businesses must be willing to spend money.  Regarding the windows 10 operating system, Microsoft General Manager in East and Southern Africa, Sebuh Haileleul revealed that 75 million people have so far transitioned to it since its launch on 28 July 2015 in Kenya. He explained that the windows insider program, which requested feedback from customers on how a product could be enhanced, contributed to the development of windows 10. He further said the best features of Windows 7, 8 and 8.1 operating systems were pulled to design the Windows 10 operating system. 

“People have the opportunity to test the newly launched operating system without a charge to ensure that it is compatible to their needs before making the transition. This will also help Microsoft to address customer needs on a continuous basis,” he said.


Read this week's paper