Provocative post title, no? I came across this article today which looks at the reasons for low penetration of PC’s in developing countries. From the article Introducing Computing to the Emerging Market: Mobile Devices by Suvarna Singh and Bibhu Choudhary,
We are not trying to suggest that price is not a factor influencing PC
penetration in developing countries. However, the success of many
expensive international brands in emerging markets calls for a
different angle of analysis.
The other day I was doing my weekly
grocery shopping at a local shop in the suburbs of the small Indian
city Hyderabad. My grocer, who had never been to high school, pulled
out his brand new Motorola MPX 200 running Windows Mobile 2003 and
called up his boss to find out the selling price of potatoes. My
curiosity rose and I spoke to him about his business in length. When I
suggested a point of sale terminal for his shop, he seemed intimidated;
"Computers look good with you sir. I am better off with my cash
In light of the above experience, when we analyzed the telecom sales and service data from the developing nations, the findings were interesting. The Average Revenue Per Unit (ARPU) of mobile phones in India is $2,384 per year. The expenses incurred on the cellular phone services over a period of 2 years by the average subscriber are enough to procure an entry-level home PC. Gartner projects a Combined Annual Growth Rate of over 47% for the mobile connections in India through 2009 (Forecast: Cellular Services – India 2000-2009, Gartner 26 April 2005).
There is something about the form factor of a cellular phone that suggests simplicity. Be it the weight of the phone, the size of the screen or the small number of keys, these devices help people overcome their technophobia. That the whole thing fits into a pocket gives a sense of control to a hesitant first-timer. On the other hand, a cubic foot of CPU having multiple connection sockets, a foot long keyboard with nearly a 100 keys and a large monitor makes computing look like rocket science. No amount of "user friendliness" in the UI makes the entry barrier to computing low enough to enable the grocer in India to make the first mouse click and surf the Web is search of a better market for his potatoes.
Something to think about.