Growth across the global economy remains slow, according to the World Bank, IMF and other financial organizations. But many believe that technology can help us return to prosperity. In the spirit of this, Real Times looked for the technology success stories that are driving growth in the five fastest-growing emerging economies in 2014.
China has over half a billion mobile phone users and is already home to four of the world's largest Internet companies, including e-commerce giant Alibaba. That’s good for China, but the reach of the country goes much further – not only is it manufacturing the majority of the world’s consumer electronics, but Chinese companies are big in mobile software development, too.
Take a look at the latest report from App Annie and you’ll find four Chinese companies – Cheetah Mobile, Sungy Mobile, Baidu, and Tencent – among the top 10 global companies by iOS and Android downloads. Chinese tech firms are a big draw for investment and secured as much as 63 percent of the total IPO money raised in the US in Q2 2014, according to Bloomberg.
With 58.2 million subscribers, Nigeria’s largest telecommunications firm, MTN Nigeria, has made $13 billion investment in infrastructure across the last 13 years. That’s not to say the country doesn’t need more ICT investments. Politicians and the ITU agree more is required particularly in rural areas, but the impact of Nigeria’s growing digital economy is already delivering positive economic progress. The country is home to Africa’s answer to Amazon: Jumia.com. The “biggest online shopping mall in Africa”, Jumia uses couriers to deliver products to consumers who can pay on delivery. This isn’t rocket science but is a big deal in Africa.
In combination with a boom in social media use, Jumia’s success means Nigeria’s online shopping sector grew from N49.9 to N78 billion (c.$472 million) between 2010 and 2012, says Phillips Consulting. There are signs the Nigerian technology infrastructure has become sufficiently mature to repeat business ideas that have proved successful in more developed markets. This could help generate further growth in Nigeria’s GDP.
The Philippines is rapidly becoming the world’s call center, employing over 750,000 at the end of 2012, according to Sitel. The Philippine information technology and business process management (IT-BPM) industry has become one of the country’s most dynamic industries and is now the second-largest contributor to GDP.
The country’s call centers are known for innovative business practices – they already offer omnichannel services such as live video chat. As you’d expect there’s a strong social component; 93.9 percent of Internet users in the Philippines in 2011 used Facebook – the highest penetration in the world, according to comScore. This is driving development of socially-connected alternative lending schemes that may give the entire economy a big future boost.
One of the world’s poorest countries, just 15 percent of Bangladeshis have access to formal financial services. Government investment in ICT and socially focused non-profits like Grameen Telecom and the Gates Foundation are driving creation of innovative digital-based financial services, such as bKash. That service is now used by around 13 million people, enabling the very poor to get financial services, transfer money and pay for goods in shops.
bKash isn’t just about convenience – it creates an infrastructure enabling those locked out of traditional banking services to borrow from sources other than unregulated local money lenders who loan cash at exorbitant rates. Bangladesh is becoming such a key hub for social business using ICT the World Information Technology and Services Alliance (WITSA) bestowed it a “Global ICT Excellence Award” for the social development of the nation using IT.
India has developed a highly-educated and skilled workforce with innovative training and recruitment practices. This has made it a research & development power in its own right. Indian companies now help design everything from aircraft engines to life-saving drugs, and General Electric’s largest R&D center is situated in the country.
This focus on skill development in ICT innovation is translating into fresh opportunity for the independent nation, perhaps best evidenced by its recent successful Mars mission. This relied entirely on home-grown Indian technologies and cost just $74 million (less than the $100m cost of making the movie, Gravity). India’s digital and creative communications and media industries become a new frontier from 2016, when the country’s broadcast and cable industry will become fully digitized.
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