Brief substantive summary of the workshop and presentation of the main issues that were raised during the discussions
The workshop „Content4D: Diversifying the Global Content and Apps Market” aimed at identifying innovative approaches and policies that foster the development of content and applications in emerging and developing countries for their use in these countries.
The importance of local content and trends
The moderator Andrew Wyckoff, Director of the Science, Technology, and Industry Directorate at the OECD, opened the workshop stressing the importance of the topic. Since economies move towards knowledge based economies, information that is converted to local content and applications becomes crucial. A joint OECD-ISOC-UNESCO report published in 2011 reveals that the production of local content is growing and that its composition is changing in that it is no longer only dominated by large developed economies.
ICTs and content production as tools to fight poverty
The ICT minister of Colombia, Diego Molano Vega, stressed that one of the main goals of the Colombian government is the reduction of poverty. The national digital agenda “Vive Digital” aims at reaching this goal through the development of the whole Internet ecosystem consisting of ICT infrastructure, services, applications and users. While the deployment of infrastructure has mainly been achieved, the real value of the Internet economy derives from developments on the demand side, i.e. from the development of applications and services. However, one of the main challenges today, according to the Minister, is the lack of applications that serve the needs of the poor. During the next four years, Colombia will focus on the development of applications with a social impact for the base of the pyramid. Local innovation systems will be needed since developers in existing innovation ecosystems of developed countries will not create applications for the poor and do not understand their needs which, in turn, is an opportunity for emerging and developing countries. Key factors to successfully create these ecosystems include the development of talent, the promotion of entrepreneurship, and providing the right financial mechanisms.
Besides content production, other factors such as enough app developers and payment platforms for the poor are needed
Helani Galpaya, CEO of LIRNEasia, reported about the experience in Asia regarding the development of applications. She stressed that many additional factors are needed to get an application ecosystem to work. These include raising the number of apps developers, efficient cooperation with internet service providers (ISPs) and an efficient distribution system including selling platforms that are not based on credits cards since the poor do not have access to these. In India, there is a lack of software developers with good user interface design skills for the creation of applications for the bottom of the pyramid and app developers spent a lot of time on the optimization of the app for weaker mobile connectivity than in other parts of the world. In Sri Lanka, distribution channels for apps are a problem and companies such as Apps Daily sell the apps through physical stores. In Myanmar, one of the new operators has created competitions for developers and takes the role of an incubator but one of the main challenges in the country are payment mechanisms since people do not dispose of credit card or bank accounts.
The voice of two entrepreneurs: Indi Samarajiva and Daniel Cárdenas
Two entrepreneurs, Indi Samarajiva from Asia and Daniel Cárdenas from Latin America, reported about their real-world experience in developing contents and apps in emerging countries. Indi Samarajiva is a developer of the city guide Yamu that has several distribution channels including an app that is becoming increasingly popular. According to Indi, an important feature for successful apps in developing countries is offline availability and one of the main challenges are payment mechanisms since in-app payments are not possible at the moment. Microsoft is currently entering the market and supporting entrepreneurs but more competition among platforms and apps stores might be beneficial for app developers in emerging countries. Daniel Cárdenas has developed two apps. The first app enables citizens to report about natural disasters and emergencies and bundles all the information which is then sent to UNGRD and integrated into their systems. The second app is targeted at offering the products of Colombian farmers to citizens at a lower price than in supermarkets. Both apps were supported by a programme of the Colombian ICT ministry supporting app developers. One challenge he and his team had was the creation of user interfaces. They would welcome more support in this area.
Educational content as an additional important content area in emerging countries
Boniface Witaba, e-learning tutor, presented the FIRE programme which promotes the development of local content in Africa. Fire grants are allocated for seed funding as well as for up-scaling activities. Boniface Witaba is one of the winners of the programme through his programme which develops educational content for schools. The Kenyan government provided laptops for schools but there was no content available. The Witaba foundation provides free educational content to schools through a web portal. Currently 250 pupils benefit from the programme but the aim is to scale it up to reach 50 000 pupils.
Finally, work on the infrastructure side has to be done and the openness of the Internet to be kept in order to promote the development of content and applications
Konstantinos Komaitis, Policy Advisor at the Internet Society, highlighted that work has also to be done on the infrastructure side to promote local content. In order to spur the dissemination of content, the Internet Society has worked on establishing Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) allowing to route traffic locally and to reduce the costs of interconnection. Another important issue to be solved in Africa is the constant provision of electricity. Finally, the openness of the Internet is crucial for the further development of the app ecosystem, i.e. that there are no permissions needed to create and distribute applications. As a consequence, it is important to avoid an over-regulation of the Internet.
Conclusions drawn from the workshop and possible follow up actions
• Stimulating the demand side and the development of applications is key to fully benefit from the Internet economy
• There is a need to develop applications especially for the base of the pyramid
• Success factors for the development of local content and applications include:
o basic literacy,
o the development of an ICT skilled labour force and talent as well as the development of media, information and digital literacy skills,
o the promotion of entrepreneurship and increasing the number of apps developers,
o app distribution platforms that do not rely on credit cards and bank accounts,
o the provision of effective financial mechanisms, and the
o availability of electricity, good connectivity and spectrum
• More competition between different app platforms could benefit app developers in emerging countries
• An open Internet is key for the further development of local content and applications and policy makers should refrain from over-regulating the Internet