The other day I read the following small, beautiful story by Michael Noer who is writing for Forbes. He called his experience ”The Stable Boy and the iPad” and it truly made me think again about a post I wrote some time back; Appfrica.
”I was staying at a working dairy farm 60 kilometers north of Bogotá, Colombia. I was fiddling around with my iPad when one of the kids that worked in the stables came up to me and started staring at it. He couldn’t have been more than 6 years old, and I’d bet dollars to donuts that he had never used a computer or even a cellular telephone before. Curious, I handed him the device and a very small miracle happened. He started using it. I mean, really using it. Almost instantly, he was sliding around, opening and closing applications, playing a pinball game I had downloaded. All without a single word of instruction from me. Think about this. Steve Jobs has designed a powerful computer that an illiterate 6-year-old can use without instruction. If that isn’t magical, I don’t know what is.”
It is not the age of the young boy that makes the small story interesting, but rather that the boy has never been using alike electronic devices and then just grasps the iPad and make it happen!
This make my head spin: where would Africa be today if Apple had entered the ICT4D arena, lets say a decade ago???
Andriod is already there as Lars Ivar Igesund commented on the Appfrica post. I have now looked more into this and I can only agree with Lars that Android has traction in Africa, but I don’t see that the Android platform has a significant impact on the masses in Africa. It is exactly amongst the masses that I imagine Apple would have had an impact and made the positive spiral spin… Noer’s example above is a good soft indicator of how Apple’s products are put to play immediately and everywhere!! To quote Jobs on this: “People, everywhere, want simple-to-use technologies that just work, regardless of who they are.”
I am not in doubt; if Apple had put focus on the developing world they would have made magic – some way or the other. Here is why (again with Jobs’ words): “Our job is to figure out what users are going to want before they do. People don’t know what they want until you show it to them. That’s why I never rely on market research. Our task is to read things that are not yet on the page.” This quote is fully aligned with one of my favorite two liners (with Vang’s words): “Poverty is not the problem, it is how we treat poverty that is the center of the problem.”
But it is not all milk and honey; the thing is Apple’s line of products, as they are designed today, hardly fits into the African market, as they are:
- power hungry
- computer reliant (iTunes)
- a closed platform (which does not foster local innovation)
Now Jobs is not around any longer (RIP), it could be that Apple CEO; Tim Cook will look towards a market (1 billion people!) that is expanding like a forest fire day by day and should be profitable if the right BoP strategy is applied. I am in no way suggesting that Apple should follow a non-profit strategy, but ‘simply’ build a profitable business by shaping some products that addresses the above 4 bullet points (yes, even the fourth bullet point is now being loosened-up with the Apple and Adobe/Flash flirting that is going on).
As an interesting outro: It is well known that NOKIA is very interested in the African continent – and you might even argue that this is their last chance to survive as a mobile phone/platform producer? NOKIA will host a Developer Roundtable primo February in Nairobi, which I am quite sure other producers have done several times before, but to add vitality to the session, NOKIA CEO, Mr. Stephen Elop will participate in Kenya… I like this kind of commitment!!