The CEO and founder of APUS, renowned technology company, Tao Li, believes that tech companies in emerging markets need to confront the issue of the digital divide. ‘‘Some companies are already beginning to do so in innovative ways. They are already combining technology and innovative business approaches to diminish the gap, ensuring everyone in the world is able to access information, knowledge, services and entertainment to help improve their lives. According to the UN’s The State of Broadband 2017 report, by the end of 2017, 52 per cent of the world's population (3.9 billion) had no access to the internet. No internet products or services, no internet users or no internet investment funds, the "complete internet-less phenomenon" are some prevailing setbacks in many emerging countries and regions. For instance, only 21.8 per cent of people in Africa were internet users at the end of 2017.
Clearly, there is a digital divide which not only leaves undeveloped regions unable to share the digital dividend brought by the internet, but also accentuates the imbalance of the global distribution of resources and increases the gap between the rich and the poor. Information sharing is essential to our life. Connections are the essence of the future world and making a difference in the world through technology or business model innovation is the dream of every entrepreneur.
APUS is one of the companies around the world that is leveraging technology to help people gain access to information and diminish the digital divide. APUS products are created for fresh Smartphone users who largely come from the emerging market. It provides the simpler operation system, long battery duration and all in one solution for users to manipulate their Smartphone devices. Also, the renowned tech-innovative company is working on making a tailored browser and cameras to catering for Nigeria market needs. The emergence of the digital divide lies first in the differences in technology and equipment. Here is a simple example: for those who can only access a 2G network or their mobile phones have limited memory.
Despite web services experience being very limited, Li believes that technology initiators need to minimize the price of devices enabling users access to the internet. ‘‘As someone who has been involved in the internet industry since 1998, not only have I witnessed the historic turning points and speed at which technology helped to change China and the rest of the world, but also have seen the unbalanced development of global internet technology. For the 3 billion people in emerging countries who do not yet have access to the internet, mobile devices will be their first gateway to internet. That means smart phones will not only reshape their work and lifestyle, but also become providers of services including social, information, entertainment, shopping, healthcare and finance’’.
In other words, the Smartphone is far more than a tool, but a connector that links people to the world, from online to offline. In the developed world we have been slowly experiencing the shift away from desktops and onto mobile for more than a decade. In countries with less legacy infrastructure to replace this shift has been much more rapid. One example is Indonesia: the number of internet users in 2017 reached 132.7 million, an increase of 51 per cent from the previous year's 881 million, of which 69 per cent come from mobile devices. Meanwhile, the opportunity to create services which are native to mobile is much greater. Today, the first batch of mobile services, such as online shopping, banking, travel and e-commerce, have been launched in these emerging markets. There are also food distribution companies like Swiggy and Zomato, and movie ticketing platform BookMyShow emerging in India.
We have witnessed many ways that mobile technology has empowered people in developing countries with SMS technology. The mobile industry has a huge responsibility to ensure that as the next 3 billion migrate to smart devices, we can help to further empower communities and lives. This often means coming together to deliver the infrastructure and services that people need.