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February 1, 2013

A Wish for 2013: More Inclusivity, More Mobile

Posted by Sandeep Dadlani (View Profile | View All Posts) at 9:37 AM


Having made it through 2012 after all, what can we look forward to in 2013? 

Well, mostly more of the same, but with some differences. The mobility story is no longer new, but it is expected to turn a significant chapter sometime early next year, when the number of tablets and smartphones in use will exceed that of personal, laptop and notebook computers. That will also lead to the mobile becoming the primary Internet access device in more countries, to join the likes of India, which achieved this milestone in the middle of 2012. Indeed, a leading ICT industry analyst and intelligence provider puts these changes in perspective when it says that the industry is currently undergoing a shift, which will take it to a "3rd platform" built on mobile, Cloud, social, big data and allied technologies, that will provide the next impetus for growth and innovation.

This platform will likely accelerate the creation of new products and solutions, and drive their consumption in developing markets. Products will be smarter, embedded with intelligence, with the ability to create and receive data, as well as act upon it; solutions will turn more engaging, and many will use gamification as a tool of transformation. And both will set the stage for bigger disruptions, leading to a model of what we call New Commerce in which mobility enables unprecedented connectivity, tides over resource limitations, spawns new channels, and eliminates unnecessary intermediaries between providers and consumers. 

What's more, these disruptions will be driven by consumer need and demand, which means that enterprises will have to rethink their strategy - from product push to consumer pull. We already have many such successful examples of mobility-led new commerce in the US where entire industries continue to be reshaped.  For example, the local transportation industry is being transformed by shared ownership clubs for cars (Zipcar), on demand transportation services (Uber) and ride sharing services (SideCar).  These upstarts still face challenges in fine tuning their business models and addressing the concerns of regulators.  But these businesses have clearly staked leadership positions and have disrupted the transportation services provided by taxi cabs, rental car companies and other local service providers.

Arguably, the emerging economies will be the bigger beneficiaries of mobility-led disruption.  With mobile penetration trumping virtually every other metric - like Internet usage, literacy, or access to banking, sanitation or conventional telephony, to name a few - it is clear that the future of these regions rests on the mobile platform. The success of mobile payment and remittance as an alternative to conventional banking in Africa and South Asia that removes the traditional middleman and fees is a case in point. The South Indian state of Kerala provides a great story of disintermediation as well. For some years now, its fishermen have been contracting the best rate for the day's catch via mobile, before hitting the shore. 

Mobility can also compensate for shortage of resources such as weak social infrastructure. A survey of 1,200 youngsters belonging mostly to rural low-income families in Ghana, Morocco, India, and Uganda, builds a strong case for mobile learning as a medium of education. In some ways, the mobile has managed to erase some of the socio-cultural differences in these highly unequal societies. 

So, let's raise a toast - to new commerce in the new year.

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