Mobile internet is no longer luxury in Africa as it has become a valuable tool of global development, this according to Jose Henriques, Vodacom executive head of internet services.

Henriques was speaking to in Johannesburg last week during the Mobile Web Africa conference whose focus was looking at ways of harnessing the potential of internet and applications on mobile devices.

“It is amazing how such a luxury item has quickly become a valuable tool of global development, shifting from being held to the ears to being held by hand, and becoming an instrument of promoting economic growth,” Henriques said.

“Mobile phones are the advance guard for mobile broadband networks and at the same time they are promoting economic benefits and providing a basic tool of education, for instance helping parents to afford to educate their children.”

Jose Henriques

The conference, organised by All Amber and which was attended by over 150 local and international delegates, heard that Egypt, Nigeria, Morocco, South Africa (fourth position), Sudan, Algeria, Kenya, Tunisia, Uganda and Zimbabwe are the top 10 countries in terms of internet penetration on PC,
while only 3.3% of Africans have access to internet via their mobile phones.

These top 10 countries make up of 85% of all internet users market in Africa, according to recent statistics.

South Africa has over 4.5 million PC internet users and close to 10 million mobile internet users expectation is to have at least 15 million mobile internet users by 2013.

Mobile penetration

Henriques explained that despite the limitations of opportunities of fixed-line internet in Africa and the unstoppable rise of mobile revolution and its socio-economic advantages, countries such as Zambia, Kenya, Rwanda and Nigeria are working hard to push for mobile penetration, especially in rural areas.

The African mobile internet market continues to grow dramatically, staying slightly behind the Middle East (fastest-growing region), with pages viewed having increased by 422% between April 2008 to April 2009, and Google being the number one and Yahoo in third in each of the top 12 countries striving intensively on software development.

The top 12 countries include SA, Nigeria, Egypt, Kenya, Libya, Zambia and Tanzania.

However, Henriques warned that he said the only way companies will succeed to advance the mobile internet cause is to give a decent access experience to the user, get their price right and affordable and provide content adaptation.

“One must ensure that the internet is accessed in any phone with cost-effective rates and the possibility to get any big website into a small screen,” he explained.

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