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We love our mobiles. More and more, these devices — phones, phablets, tablets — are becoming central to our workaday lives.

A survey by World Wide Worx and GeoPoll of sub-Saharan Africa’s five largest economies, 40% of these African consumers access the internet on their mobiles. This follows the world trend, where mobile is growing incrementally. Internet Retailer Magazine reports some 60% of global mobile consumers use their mobile device as their primary or exclusive internet source.

Innovations on older technologyMobile web

Africa is a big consumer of mobile phones, and the market is growing rapidly. It is also maturing quickly, with more and more smartphones and tablets coming into the market. In South Africa for example, there are about 24 million feature-phones and basic cellphones; and there are already about 13.2 million smartphones and 1.8 million tablets. So there is big growth for innovation and development of iOS and Android apps, but it doesn’t mean that that’s where all the innovation is focused now.

In fact, it’s important to innovate for the old tech as well. For example, we’ve created a workforce engagement tool for mining companies that is based on unstructured supplementary service data (USSD) and SMS functions, because even the most basic phones would use these functions. The tool can also utilise mobi and app functions for newer-generation phones – it’s a true multichannel approach that ensures that humans are able connect no matter what they have in their hand.

A merging of digital and real retail experiences

On the opposite end of the scale, we will start seeing businesses use mobile tech to manage real-life interaction and experiences. App activity generates data, and this can be used by a number of enterprises to manage a user’s journey. Of course, the real magic happens not in data collection, because pretty much anyone can do that, but in the analysis that reveals who the individual generating it is. So even the biggest companies in the world can interact with customers on a personal and intimate level, like a small business would, because they have intimate knowledge of who their customer is.

The increasing role of user experience (UX) design

As digital and mobile tech expands the possibilities for businesses, the role of user experience design will grow in importance. Technology itself is quite complicated, but it is used by all kinds of people, who want it to be as simple and as helpful as possible. I think that businesses are increasingly aware of the importance of intelligent UX design and are increasingly asking for it from digital agencies. There is a basic understanding out there of UX design, but it is usually only within the constraints of single solutions. For us there is a focus on building meaningful, integrated experiences across multiple channels, devices and touch-points.

About Tim Bishop

Tim Bishop is a director at Deloitte Digital who identifies himself as a mobile, tech & strat geek and a fast British car freak.

Follow him on Twitter: @TimBishopSA