Skipping a beat

Skipping a beat on the Caltrain ride to San Francisco
Erik and Anu skipping a beat on the Caltrain ride from Palo Alto to San Francisco

Next week Media Evolution The Conference is taking place in Malmö. The Conference will focus on who the media industry’s future audiences are, the technology we communicate with and how we create and consume media. This is the last post in a blog relay to put focus on some of the conference sessions. I’m taking over the baton from Helen Alfvegren who yesterday wrote about social media addiction (among other things). This post will be in English since The Conference has a lot of participants from abroad.

A long time ago, yes I think it must have been at least three years ago (thirteen years in web development), I heard a story about the African villager with a wife in labour. Cash was low but paying a cab driver with mobile “air time” was a way to get to the hospital. Prepaid phone cards created its own market. Money transfer via the internet or the mobile phone was the reality in development countries lacking both computers and solid internet infrastructure. Back home in the western world we were spending our time behind desks, laptops and stationary computers slowing down the need and progress of mobile banking.

Not so long ago, It must have been just over a year ago, I found myself dressed in the desert camouflage Swedish army uniform, doing my first tour in Afghanistan, one of the poorest countries in the world. Same thing there. Scarce infrastructure development, old roads built by the russians in the 1980’s and people torned by over 30 years of constant war. Guess what, the mobile phone network works fine, and you get connection, well not everywhere, but in areas where it seems time freezed somewhere in the 18th century. I saw farmers on donkeys texting away (!).

I was always aware of the road bomb threat, blasts often triggered by mobile phone calls used by the Taliban. Using different parallell radio systems and even satellite phones within the army structure there were always the option to just call your officers with a regular mobile phone if everything else malfunctioned, however not the safest option. The good guys need the phones to work, the bad guys as well. I could go reasoning about how it would be in good interest for everyone to keep communication infrastructure as non proprietary as possible, since the view on who’s a good and a bad guy differs over time, but I won’t. For now.

Just this week a Swedish startup called iZettle released their card payment system for the iPhone. Their app performs the possibility of charging friends or customers only using your iPhone. There’s also a card swipe unit that will connect to the iPhone, but it’s optional. I adore the user interface and experience, and I can’t even think of all the hurdles the people behind iZettle had to jump to get this smart easy-to-use thing off the beta into an actual working payment system for everyone (with an iPhone). Anyone remember when Bill Gates started to talk about the wallet computer, doing all of our transactions and indentification tasks, back in 1993? Well Bill, we’re getting there.

However one thing strikes me about the current iZettle release. Why now? Why not three years ago? (thirteen web years remember). The world is huge (bummer!). Keeping up with large corporations and hungry startups in the east, west and south is not easy being a tiny fly on the wall up north, Sweden that is. Banking and finance are the next big development areas for mobile and web innovations. iZettle has just scratched the surface and my prediction is a rocket boom in number of smartphone apps, new innovative web services and web apps in the next couple of years connected to banking. As a former employee of a business law firm I know how slow some things are when it comes to adopting new technology and/or mindsets within the banking universe. But maybe, like in so many cases nowadays, it will be the consumer market that lead way, startup driven iZettle being a good example.

So, we’re trying to catch up, the countries skipping the beat are in the lead, and they’re already playing to the next one. By listening to mobile entreprenurs in Kenya you will hear it. During Media Evolution The Conference in Malmö next week anyone interested or active within the mobile industry should come loaded with questions to the track called “What we can learn from the current development in Africa” curated by Berlin based internationel consultant Geraldine de Bastion. You will also have the opportunity to listen to Jessica Colaço, manager att Nairobi innovation hub iHub and Barry Coetzee, CEO at multi-channel transactional company iVeri Payment Technologies.

This was the last blog post in the blog relay leading up to The Conference next week. I hope to see you there!

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