What is a Mobile Economy? Let's Look to Africa

In May, the research firm Generator Research published a report in which they projected that the worldwide market for mobile payments will grow to 633.4 billion by 2014; the report was picked up by Gigaom and a number of mobile-savvy blogs, getting enough dissemination to make most entrepreneurs drool over the possibilities for growth and implementation. While entrepreneurs may be drooling over this, the question remains, what does a mobile economy really mean for most of us? Later last month, I happened upon an interview with Ethan Zuckerman, a senior researcher at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society. In the interview, Ethan suggests that if we want to know what a mobile economy might look like, we should probably look to Africa for a clue. Without an established and easily accessible banking infrastructure, much of Africa has leapfrogged the former infrastructure and, consequently, embraced mobile payments.

Throughout the interview, Zuckerman offers up gems of insights about mobile markets and economies and what's in it for us. He's also careful to point out barriers to entry and other factors which may continue to discourage use; most notably, mobile payment carrier charges which can account for as much as 50% of the original payment.

You can listen to the full interview here.