While we could probably go on forever talking about the astonishing growth of the mobile web, it may officially be time to recognize it as common knowledge. The numbers are all there for the world to see, and in truth they’re probably not even necessary as all you need to do to recognize the amazing effect the mobile revolution has had on our lives is look around a waiting room. The magazines lay dormant while we all sit in semi-circles inches apart from each other staring at small screens emailing and tweeting and interacting with people on the other side of the globe. While the mobile web continues to spread around the planet, it may come as a surprise where that growth is moving faster than anywhere else
We often assume powerhouse nations to be the epicenter of global technological change, but when it comes to the mobile web, several big market nations such as Japan and Germany have actually been relatively slow to adapt. While some of these big European and Asian markets sit on their hands, the community that is actually embracing mobile web more rapidly than anyone is Africa.
Mobile web users in Africa have doubled over the past year and are projected to continue doing so over the next four. More than almost anywhere else on the planet, mobile web traffic in parts of Africa far exceeds desktop or personal PC traffic, sometimes even reaching up to 90 percent of the population preferring mobile. In South Africa alone mobile data is projected to increase 49 fold by 2016, and similar patterns are popping up all over the continent. These numbers are not just significant, they’re downright remarkable.
So why is this all taking place? Well there may not be one simple answer to that, but aside from the factors that are common to us all (convenience, accessibility, efficiency) one of the most influential factors in Africa’s mobile web boom is that the average mobile web user in Africa does not have access to alternative technology. That’s not to say desktops do not exist in these regions, however many African mobile users cannot afford a home computer, or often electricity itself. The mobile devices allow them access to the web without having to pay for electricity (they can charge and access devices from community centers or internet cafes), therefore enabling them to connect with the world in a whole new way.
In truth, Africa is actually experiencing the mobile web in much the same way the rest of the world first experienced the original internet. While most global mobile web users have a back pocket filled with various forms of experience in web technologies, many African users have never been able to access the web at all and now are doing so organically through the mobile platform.
Of course, mobile providers are noticing the growing opportunities for expanding their networks in Africa, and many are launching initiatives to flood the African market with more affordable and easily available devices.
So maybe the rest of us can all learn something from the mobile web users in Africa. This evolution is not just a technological advance, it is a global phenomenon. While we may not realize just how many doors the mobile web opens up, the users of Africa certainly do.
Maybe Louis CK said it best when he claimed that “everything is amazing and nobody’s happy” but we’re doing our best to make a liar out of him.
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