Age of Apps

Innovative mobile applications have already proved that mobile phone is more than just a tool for voice and text communication finding more space in smart phones. Such apps are for multiple services making it easier for getting things done and well informed, indeed.

From international apps like viber, skype and whatsapp to Nepali load shedding app battigayo, they have been great asset to get installed in mobile. However, it has taken a long time for mobile telecommunication to reach the current stage of development. Yet, it is unpredictable what will have happened 10 years down the lane.

Mobile apps market is booming significantly propped up availability of wireless data connection and growing mobile connectivity around the world. Acquisition of whatsapp by facebook last year at $19 billion is a clear example how apps are gaining momentum in global ICT regime. Tomi Ahonen, mobile expert, said that things would change within next 10 years that could not have happened in the last 100 hundred years. “Development will be more visible in developing countries like Nepal,” he said during his recent visit to Nepal for Ncell App Camp 2014.

Market Scenario

Growing use of apps and new apps hitting market each day has already indicated that things will be different in coming days. Nepali app developer companies have also started showing their presence get recognised in international forum. In December last year, Yellow Nepal, a Nepali app won a Google Business Group (GBG) Award competing with products from more than 40 countries.

In the domestic front, the Ncell App Camp, the biggest of its kind, organised by Ncell has helped to expose the potential of Nepali app developers. A total of 4,57 app ideas were registered for the Ncell App Camp. In the training cum competition event,  150 ideas or team had been shortlisted out of 457,  in four sectors : tourism, education, agriculture and corporate solutions.  And,  24 teams competed with six ideas each in each category in the final. Through the decision of independent panel of jury under set criteria, ICT for Agriculture (IFA) in agriculture, SentiNep in corporate solution, Lipi in education and Ritiriwaz in tourism own cash price of Rs. 250,000 each.

IFA also won an additional cash prize of Rs. 500,000 and a chance to participate in international app competition being a grand winner. ErimTaylanlar, CEO of Ncell, said the event had proved that the country is not only famous for Everest and trekking but also for talent, technology and creativity.“Ncell App Camp is just a beginning and we have more plans to promote local talents,” he assured.

What has attracted young engineers and IT companies to focus on mobile app is definitely the swelling demand and a huge possibility to sell them in the world market. It is estimated that around 15 percent of mobile users in Nepal carry smart phones which include from normal Chinese phones to high end smart phones of world’s leading brands like Samsung and Apple. But compared to the developed nations; definitely, the penetration rate of smart phone in the country is low.

Yet, Nepal Telecommunications Authority (NTA) statistics shows that mobile phone penetration in the country crossed 85 percent and with majority of people using mobile internet, the data penetration rate is over 35 per cent.

Prospects of Mobile Apps

Amid price of smart phone coming down significantly, it is for sure that more people will be carrying such phones loaded with apps in coming days. There has also been estimation that smart phones will be available at $ 10 dollar from 2019 in the country. Be it for basic communication or performing office tasks, smart phones have become a need of an hour to consumers.

Equipped with apps a user can easily find a menu and discount on nearly restaurant, track public bus arriving in the bus station, get informed about power cut hours and select designs of jewelry from mobile without visiting  outlets. These are just few examples of the types of apps already in used in the country. Many IT companies basically relying on business processing outsourcing (BPO) have already involved in mobile app development.

There are also a number of startups in the country dedicated for such app developments. Sushil Pokhrel, Director of  Bidhee, an IT company that has recently launched a mobile app –Gahana Bazaar—for jewelry lovers, said that with mobile being the best gadget to carry, customers want everything thing on it. He further said that the government should make payment gateway easier for doing transaction via mobile.

Persisting Challenges

If there is anything in the world market that is changing so rapidly, undoubtedly it is the ICT sector. Even as the country is in race of adopting each technology hitting market, there is lacking in policy and regularity framework. Furthermore, low literary rate in ICT and purchasing power, higher data charge and limited coverage of connectivity are also there for boosting use of apps among mass consumers.

Experts gathering in the Ncell App Camp suggested Nepali developers to focus in huge international market including little concentrated countries like Pakistan,  Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Vietnam by understanding the need there. With growing size of app demands worldwide, it is expected that over 268 billion app downloads will generate $77 billion worth of revenue by 2017, according to prediction of Gartner Inc and Nepali companies too could take a chunk of it. Even as app ideas of participating teams were great, basically there is weakness in parts like mass users acquisition, promotion and monitisation for sustainability of apps, according to the experts.

Karun Thapa, an IT expert says the major problems for Nepali App developer is the market because they lack research before they think of developing an App. “Of course, an App emerge from an Idea but Idea alone can not work until and unless the developers become able to envisage the demand of possible users.”

Bibhushan  Bista, CEO of Young Innovation, a company providing innovative solutions in the areas of data, technology, product and community innovations, stresses on the need for linking the ideas to the entrepreneurship and market. “We can see huge enthusiasm to develop the App among youths, but we should be careful that their labor should not go in vain because of lack of efforts to explore market and link the ideas with other businesses or entrepreneurship that could complement their hard work ” he said.

For large number of people using social networking site like Facebook, it will also be best for startups to promote and to market their products via social media.