Developing software for Mobile Phone Users in Ghana, a gainful opportunity
Ghana’s telecommunication market is one of the most vibrant and advanced in Africa. The country currently boasts of six telecommunication companies namely MTN, Tigo, Vodafone, Airtel, Expresso and Glo. All of these companies have a good international reputation in the services they provide. Stiff competition amongst the companies has brought about quality service and affordability for Ghanaian mobile phone users.
In the year 2011, the National Communications Authority (NCA) reported that Ghana’s mobile phone penetration had reached a record high 80.5 per cent which means over 19 million people make use of mobile telephony and its related services such as data (internet) connections. Due to quality and affordable mobile broadband services which are being offered by nearly all telecommunication companies, the use of high-end mobile devices such as Android devices and Blackberry has also seen a remarkable increase.
Software development for mobile devices is almost non-existent in Ghana even though the market is ripe for the plucking, especially so when Android and others have made it possible to market and sell products seamlessly online. The success of WhatsApp is clear demonstration that indeed Ghana has embraced technology not only as a means of communicating but also as a buttress for socio-economic growth.
We have seen how mobile phone technology has increased economic activities especially in the rural areas of Ghana. As the report by NCA indicates, there are more mobile phone users than PC users therefore it is equally economically viable to develop useful software for mobile phones. In doing so, software developers should not focus more on entertainment and social software but rather dedicate resources to research the needs of corporate and governmental organizations.
However, there are some challenges worthy of note.
First of all the issue of illiteracy and non-exposure to high-end mobile phone usage remains critical to developing software for mobile phones especially for our rural dwellers.
The second is the high influx of inferior or what we now call “Chinese Phones” in the country. This is a challenge because a remarkable number of people use such devices and also, it is almost impossible to develop software for such devices because of the diverse and sometimes unknown operating systems they run.
The most viable means of selling mobile phone software, for me, is online. This raises the third issue of limited payment methods for software developers. There are limited options when it comes to receiving payments online, which is very worrisome as it is an inconvenience to both customers and developers to transact business online.
The fourth is the issue of the high number of low-end mobile phones which do not support the modern ways of utilizing third-party software.
Also, data services remain relatively expensive in the country and this may be a problem in developing software for mobile users.
Notwithstanding the above issues, developing software for mobile phones remains a very gainful opportunity for software entrepreneurs and developers. In a country with over 19 million mobile users, targeting even 1 per cent (190,000) is a viable and promising way to start a successful business in software development.