So you want to develop a mobile app?

admin | Monday, January 24th, 2011

I recently participated in a presentation by Jim Kaubisch, Senior Faculty, Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology where he presented to a group of aspiring software entrepreneurs at MEST on the topic, ‘Developing mobile applications’.

It’s no secret these days that Africa has become the fastest growing mobile market in the world today, with mobile penetration in the region ranging from 30% to 100% according to market research conducted by the ‘African Telecom News’ for the last quarter of 2010. The report further projected 100% penetration by the year 2012.

Image Credit: African Telecom News

Building on this premise, these days it has also become commonplace for developers and technology enthusiasts to develop mobile applications or simply ‘mobile apps’  in order to take advantage of this rather phenomenal growth in the mobile market here in Africa.

During this presentation, I took away a couple of things, which I wanted to share  with our readers:

What really is a ‘mobile app’?

Mobile apps are software applications designed to run on handheld computers, personal digital assistants (PDAs), enterprise digital assistants (EDAs), smartphones and cellphones using different programming languages. These applications are usually pre-installed by the mobile device manufacturer or can be downloaded by users  from mobile application vendors.

Mobility ≠ wireless: Instead, mobility usually refers to some combination of the following:

  1. Device mobility: This is when the device moves with the person.
  2. Service mobility: The person has access to their service across other networks.
  3. User mobility: The person moves from device to device, network to network but maintains their service connection.

So the obvious question is in which of the three categories would your app fit? There are two (2) critical questions to ask yourself to help you determine whether your app is a mobile app or not:

1. “Does your app’s value benefit from Mobility?” What this means is this: It has value in a fixed environment, but more with mobility. Does your app have / offer ‘anytime access to its users?’ for example:

  • I want to access information / e-mail anywhere I might be.
  • I might want to check for the status of my bank account.
  • I might also need to make some payment for services or products.

2. Does the Value of your app depend on Mobility? (i.e. your app, really only makes sense in a mobile environment). For example,

  • Location Sensitivity – Does the answer to a question change depending on your location? E.g. where’s the nearest gas station?
  • Time Passer – I find myself in a queue and want to do something fun to pass away the time, e.g. a simple game.

If your answer to both questions is NO, then I’m sorry your app probably is not a mobile app, even if it runs on mobile device. 🙂

I hope this offers you some initial questions you want to ask yourself if you are considering developing a mobile app. Let’s continue this in the next episode of my ‘Mobile Series’.

Post by: Amma Baffoe


  • evans

    Considering that Africa’s Population growth will surpass that of China by 2020, this provides an unrivaled consumer market base and a potentially explosive demand for mobile technology. Developers are inn for a good run if you ask me. As usual, Ghana wants to be at the forefront.

    • Amma Baffoe

      Thanks Evans for your comment, and I agree Ghanaian developers could be in for a good run if we take advantage of the proliferation of mobile devices (esp. mobile phones)on the continent.

    • Our population is skyrocketing but if it is not coupled with an equal or higher economic growth, making a living selling mobile apps solely to an Africa consumer base will never become reality.

  • Great piece and undeniably; very interesting read on the mobile apps development in Ghana. I still believe, Ghana is larking behind when it comes to innovative ideas for the mobile apps. What could be the driving force which will help raise awareness for this?

    Mobile app developers needs to involve the Telco’s when such initiatives are commencing due to the fact that; at the end of the day; end-users/developers of the apps would need the service of the Telco’s to make things work.

    Once again, nice write up 😉

    • Amma Baffoe

      Thanks MacJordan, you’re right about the gap between telcos and developers, at least here in Ghana…it was very helpful last year to have had Vodafone Ghana present to interact with BarCamp Accra attendees at MEST on their expectations from the developer community in Ghana. I’m looking forward to a exciting year with tons of innovative apps 🙂

  • Anku Tornam Frank

    Nice piece but most of our developers are limiting their applications to the smart phones and we all know in ghana, most can not afford that. please try and come down to everyone’s level.

    • Anku, I am a developer and sell apps on the Apple App Store and the Android market. The thing is developers will always target smartphones whether in Ghana or outside. The reason is that smartphones and smartphone OS makers like Apple, Nokia and Google have made available development kits and SDKs for developing apps on their phones and they have created the best avenues to sell apps developers create. And truth is in Ghana only a few people understand the concept of buying an app to use on a phone. Sorry but if you want to use a real app, get a smartphone.

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