Global telecommunication firms and handsets manufactures are racing to capture local mobile software application developers to drive up data usage and increase sales.
Vodafone Group Plc, which owns a 40 per cent stake in Safaricom, has become the latest telecom operator to reach out to local developers through a competition that will see the victors hosted on its Apps Store , a hub where users can discover and purchase third-party applications.
The UK mobile firm joins Nokia and Samsung who have adopted a similar strategy to capture applications that are relevant for emerging markets.
These have been identified as the next frontier for growth for global firms faced by sluggish sales in the west.
For developers, the scramble for their applications is set to remove the market challenges they face as start-ups in what could boost their earnings and catapult them to global prominence.
“We recognise that huge app development talent exists in the emerging markets and in fact, only such developers can provide applications suitable for their respective markets,” said Karthik Srinivasan, deputy general manager Applications Store and Developer Programme at Vodafone Group.
“This competition is an effort to showcase the depth of that talent and give those developers a chance to benchmark themselves against regional peers.” Safaricom in partnership with Vodafone on September 4 kicked off an apps competition in seven other regional countries.
The contest received 894 submissions that were trimmed to 215 apps targeting six categories including games/ entertainment, health, education, agriculture, financial inclusion and productivity.
Last Friday, six local application developers were feted and two among them have been lined up for a competition hosted by Vodafone in South Africa that will attract winners from other regions including Tanzania, Lesotho, South Africa, Egypt and Qatar. Winners at the South African event will see their applications hosted in Vodafone’s Apps store.
The two Kenyan winners are Gerald Kibugi who developed a gaming application and won Sh1 million and Gilbert Rono who pocketed Sh500, 000 for an education App dubbed “Eureka”.
The other four applications that were feted were a financial inclusion app Pesa Tracker, best health app Mimba Bora, best agriculture app M-Shamba and best utilities app Nduru.
“I am especially encouraged that most of the entries were in the productivity and utilities category, pointing to the distinct determination by Kenyan developers to find solutions to the everyday problems that Kenyans face,” said Mr Nicholas Mulila Safaricom’s Executive Business Analyst.
In 2011 Kenya’s software developers were thrust to global prominence after local firms Virtual City and Taka Taka Solutions Ltd won global awards.