Internet access in developing markets globally can boost local business

12:56, August 16, 2010      

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Vodafone of the UK is seeking to bring the benefits of the Internet to more people in developing markets, bridging the digital divide for millions more worldwide.

The drive should help to boost local economies by encouraging entrepreneurs to set up locally inspired business services.

Vodafone is doing this through the launch of a customised version of the Opera Mini browser designed to run on low-cost handsets on 2G networks.

It says the move aims to enable as many people as possible to experience the Internet for the first time, and to enjoy the social advantages it can bring through the spread of email and commerce-based applications.

The initiative is initially being rolled out in South Africa, India, Turkey, Tanzania and Egypt with other markets expected to follow in the near future.

Vodafone has worked alongside Opera Software to develop an enhanced version of Opera Mini 5 that is able to give a good Internet experience on lower-to-mid-tier handsets connected to second-generation (2G) networks.

Because the Opera Mini 5 browser can compress data by up to 90 per cent, it requires less processing power on the handset and uses less network capacity, resulting in a richer Internet experience in more challenging conditions.

The Opera Mini 5 browser has been embedded in a range of 20 devices as well as being downloadable to more than 250 GPRS-supported handsets in Vodafone's customer base.

The move is backed by a string of affordable data tariffs designed to give worry-free browsing, with the aim of making a day's data usage as affordable as possible.

Vodafone says it is creating an on-screen browsing experience that is designed to help someone who may have little experience of the Internet. The on-screen experience will feature step-by-step, simple instructions in various languages, with a strong emphasis on the use of intuitive icons to help those with lower levels of literacy.

A range of Vodafone applications is also in development, most of them designed to deliver the most social benefits to users such as email, finding a job, buying and selling services and products, learning foreign languages, as well as getting access to global applications.

"With this product, we can transform even basic handsets into very capable Internet browsing devices, enabling millions of people to enjoy the social and economic aspects of the Internet that many already take for granted," said Jonathan Bill, Vodafone Internet Services' head of emerging markets.

"By significantly enhancing the customer's Internet experience, this initiative will help to boost local economies by encouraging entrepreneurs to create a range of locally inspired business models and services," he added.

Lars Boilesen, chief executive officer of Opera Software, said: "Opera is all about bringing the best Internet experience to anyone, anywhere. The Internet is the great leveller, and working with Vodafone gives us the opportunity to help bridge the digital divide for millions more worldwide."

Mobile technology is ideally suited to bringing Internet connectivity to developing markets because it is easier to roll out than fixed technology in areas that are hard to reach.

The move is the latest of a string of initiatives launched by Vodafone in order to encourage the wider use of digital communications in developing markets to boost productivity and encourage economic growth.

In February 2010, Vodafone announced the launch of the world's cheapest voice and text handset: the Vodafone 150 that retails at under 15 US dollars. The handset, along with the 20-dollar Vodafone 250 handset, will be available in the first instance in India, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Turkey, Mozambique, Qatar, South Africa and Tanzania.

At the same time Vodafone has developed a range of solar-powered and wind-technology-driven base stations designed to bring networks into rural areas that may not have their own power supplies.

Vodafone actively supports the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals aimed at meeting the needs of the world's poorest communities.

With this in mind, these initiatives are helping to bridge the digital divide with the world's developing markets and are designed to bring societal and economic benefits to large communities of people.

Source: British Embassy in China


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