In South Africa and across the African continent mobile in business has limitless potential to disrupt the way business is done. In much the same way, mobile technology has impacted economic growth and access to services for populations across Africa, enterprise mobility could completely transform how people work.
As an example, the work of Dr Bastawrous and his mobile eye exam, demonstrates the impact mobile technology can have. In his efforts to help treat eye disease and prevent blindness in the poorest regions in Africa, Dr Bastawrous would have to move around with equipment costing in excess of R1.5 million. This equipment would often fail or get damaged, preventing Dr Bastawrous from helping people desperately in need of his help. His frustration at the challenges he faced lead Dr Bastawrous to develop a mobile app which uses the smartphone camera and a 3D print accessory to help detect eye health problems. The mobile solution offered, a more effective, cheaper and more durable alternative to using medical equipment; helping increase the impact of Dr Bastawrous’ work.
Enterprises should be looking for ways to use mobile technology to transform how employees do their jobs. Organisations should be looking at their workforce and establishing how providing real-time information could impact employees, or how removing paper-based processes could introduce efficiencies or help improve productivity.
In the same way there is limitless potential for mobile in business in South Africa, there are also certain constraints that IT teams have to work within. While the country has seen migration to high-speed networks, the lowering cost of smartphones, along with investment in infrastructure and network upgrades by operators – all helping enable enterprise mobility, delivering connectivity across the workforce can still be challenging. Some of the biggest opportunities for mobile in the enterprise will be in delivering mobile access to large field force teams like Eskom engineers. Here paper-based processes could be replaced by mobile, helping improve productivity, accuracy of information gathered and management of the workforce. Eskom is already using SMS messaging to send updates on job status and assign call outs, but the opportunity could go far beyond this, with fully mobile field force management systems these engineers could access via their smartphones. However, certain geographic areas the workforce may operate in, will not have access to a data connection for mobile apps to work, or it may be that paying to provide for a large workforce to access mobile data would become too costly to implement. So, it is critical that IT teams are embracing a spectrum of technologies to properly embrace the opportunity for enterprise mobility. This means exploring not only what smartphones, mobile apps and a data connection can deliver, but also looking at what mobile services for business can be developed for USSD to serve the whole workforce cost effectively.
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