Out of the 140 million Nigerians who use mobile phones, only an approximately 12.7 million use data connected phones, meaning that over 90 per cent of Nigerians still use feature phones, said Robert Bole, Director of Innovation, Broadcasting Board of Directors, Voice of America.

Bole stated this while speaking on mobile opportunities for Africa at the inaugural edition of the Nigerian Apps Summit held in Lagos recently.

He said that, “A mobile opportunity that not only exists for Africa but the rest of the world is how services will connect from low bandwidth populations to high bandwidth services. In Nigeria, there are approximately 12.7 million data connected phones out of total subscription of140 million. This implies that more than 90 per cent of Nigerians are still on feature phones,” he said.

“But we have to acknowledge the fact that feature phones that are still coming into the market today are not the phones of yesterday. They run java scripts that allow for users to interface with social media, browse basic web pages and get active content feeds. And there are companies starting to focus on that market,” he added.

He explained that, “Successes like 2go, Whatsapp and even Nigeria’s own Paga are very promising starts. I think the real opportunities are not just building services for this feature phones but also extending high bandwidth services to these phones. The sophistication of technology platforms like Twitter is enabling new opportunities to extend high customer interaction to non-data customers.

“Even though 3G and 4G networks are advancing quickly across African landscape, there will still be millions and millions left out of this progress. There is a divide today and it would only become more apparent, so when you start to grow new companies start to develop features that will enable majority of the audience to own them and participate.”

On owning data and privacy, Bole said: “If you look at the news over the past several weeks, you will know that issues of privacy and security have been in the news. This past August, South Africa adopted its protection of personal information bill which puts in place strict new regulations and oversight on usage of personal information. These laws are modeled after similar Europeans laws and regulations that put a premium on personal privacy. But the reality is that much of our future economic growth will be based on companies knowing more about their target customers.


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