Mobile Apps Could Save the World

Global App EconomyThe World Bank recently put out a report on mobile usage that intended to “analyze the growth and evolution of applications for mobile phones, focusing on their use in agriculture, health and financial services, as well as their impact on employment and government.” It turns out that the emergence of mobile apps is helping advance many of those fields, especially in developing countries. I didn’t read the entire 244 page report, but here’s a summary of some of the findings from Smart Planet:

In the United States alone, the mobile app industry provided an estimated 466,000 jobs in 2011 with annual growth rates of up to 45 percent from 2010 to 2011. Mobile money applications have also proved to be net generators of jobs. For example, Safaricom’s M-PESA system supports 23,000 jobs for agents in Kenya alone. Airtel Kenya, the second-biggest mobile operator, plans to recruit some 25,000 agents for its mobile money service, Airtel Money.

The report observes that the global mobile industry is today a major source of employment opportunities, through direct jobs, indirect jobs, and jobs on the demand side.

Mobile phones and apps aren’t just providing new job opportunities, they’re giving people in rural, under-developed regions access to resources that were beyond reach a decade ago.

In developing countries, citizens are increasingly using mobile phones to create new livelihoods and enhance their lifestyles, while governments are using them to improve service delivery and citizen feedback mechanisms.  As the report puts it: “in some developing countries, more people have access to a mobile phone than to a bank account, electricity, or even clean water.” Mobile communications “offer major opportunities to advance human and economic development – from providing basic access to health information to making cash payments, spurring job creation, and stimulating citizen involvement in democratic processes,” says World Bank Vice President for Sustainable Development Rachel Kyte.

The World Bank report cites examples, such India’s state of Kerala’s mGovernment program, which has deployed more than 20 applications and facilitated more than three million interactions between the government and citizens since its launch in December 2010.

While a cell phone clearly won’t solve the problem of unsafe drinking water, enabling these communities to connect to regional and global resources (such as local governments or online funding organizations), coupled with the potential income-generating ability that apps and connectivity present will hopefully help them achieve their larger goals in the near future. Experts are beginning to see this trend.

“The simple cell phone has probably done more to reduce poverty globally and promote economic growth around the planet than all of the efforts of the World Bank,” comments University of Michigan economist Mark Perry.

Part of what’s driving that improving economy and job creation is the need for local app developers (and testers). While existing apps can be localized to a developing country, these countries also need their own apps created by people who fully understand the needs of the end user.

In the developing world, “new mobile applications that are designed locally and rooted in the realities of the developing world will be much better suited to addressing development challenges than applications transplanted from elsewhere. In particular, locally developed applications can address developing-country concerns such as digital literacy and affordability.”

Read more at Smart Planet >>>

In this setting, testing is even more crucial than ever before. While it may be devastating for a retailer’s app to go offline (and it is in its own right), that issue pales in comparison to a rural community losing contact with local authorities or access to a medical diagnosis app. Increased need for testing around the world, like the increasing need for developers, will contribute to job creation, innovation and success and propel the positive infulence mobile apps are having on global well-being.

Keep it up testers – you’re making the world a better place, one app at a time.

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