By Larking Huang, Country Manager of Huawei Device South Africa

The world of telecommunications is an ever-growing, ever-developing one. It is because of this that the world of work and business is changing: because of technology that enables us to be always online and always available, we are expected to be always online and always available. This has been true of established markets for a number of years at this point – and it’s becoming increasingly true of emerging markets like the African continent.

However, Africa still has the world’s lowest internet penetration rate at 15.6%, according to Internet World Stats. But this percentage is growing all the time, with the internet in Africa now growing even faster than mobile telephony. Between 2000 and 2008, internet subscriptions have grown by 1030.2%, versus the world’s average of 290.6%.

The reason for this is, of course, the increasing availability of devices like smartphones. Many of those in emerging markets who cannot afford or do not have space for a computer have circumvented the need for such a device by making use of technology like smartphones. But while smartphones are becoming more available, the cost is, in some cases, prohibitive. It is not just the cost of the device itself that makes owning a smartphone a luxury for some users in emerging markets – issues like a lack of infrastructure can make charging a smartphone, a device that tends to need a lot of charging, move from the realm of ‘chore’ into the realm of genuine concern.

Smartphones can no longer be seen as a luxury product, if emerging markets are to fulfil their true potential. They are, for one, changing the way we communicate – not only are we expected to be continually available to potential clients who live and work all over the world, we are expected to be able to share vast amounts of information with them and, in turn, have the capacity for them to share vast amounts of data with us.

Let’s take a look at South Africa as a specific example of the current increase in smartphone usage. According to GfK, one of the world’s leading research companies, only 11% of South Africans own a computer. Only 17% of South Africans use the internet, meaning that only approximately 8.5 million people out of a population of 50 million use the internet on a regular basis. This is due to the fact that landline connections are often not readily available.

Most South Africans browse the internet by means of their cellphones. As such, there is an increasing need for GPRS enabled smartphones, which represent 65% of the South African market.

This is where the development and sale of devices such as the Huawei Ascend G510, for example, are changing the face of the emerging market. The G510 is less expensive, has key smartphone functionality and an extended battery life, making it the ideal solution to both cost and infrastructure concerns.

The fact that emerging smartphone technology is changing the way the world does business cannot be denied, and the increasing availability of smartphones that offer a better value proposition means that people from all economic backgrounds are being given the chance to get their share of the spotlight on the global stage. We at Huawei are delighted that our devices are helping to make this a possibility.