By Kelvin Mbugua
Is going for sms based solutions opposed to using native apps offering half backed “convenient solutions” good for us? How sustainable is it? Should we continue with things the way they are or try our hand in disruptive innovation as the tech community in Kenya. We have had fun with sms and ussd I think that it is time to move on to better things and that is native mobile applications. Sms seems to be supported by the fact that it can be used across the board by each and every mobile phone available in the market today hence making it accessible to the millions of Kenyans who own a phone. However the sms and ussd applications have limited functionalities for instance one can’t share images using this platforms, which is really important when it comes to communication. Another argument is that smart phones are costly, but my question is the difference really worth it? There are smart phones in the market that go for as low as 5000 shillings while buying a new non smartphone will cost 2000 shillings not much of a difference compared to the quality of solutions you offer. However I do recognize that smart phones in this price category may not offer a smooth experience in terms of screen clarity & cpu speeds, but that doesn’t change the fact that users can still send & receive multimedia content.
I would like to look at this from two perspectives the producer who is the the developer and the consumers who are the clients. To the developer developing for ussd and sms is way simpler than developing for the native applications however other logistics are at play for instance you have to get in touch with the service providers, get a code and many other obligations you have to meet, while with native applications all you need to do is develope and put it up on the various stores. Another aspect is the cost implications, to the developer it is much cheaper to develop for sms and ussd than it is for native applications, however set up costs when it comes to sms and ussd are higher than when developing for most native applications. Revenue is another factor with sms and ussd there are methods with which one can collect revenue however with this methods one has to share the revenue with the government, service providers and other third parties. As much as there is no revenue collection method yet for native applications apart from the ads it is a potential gold mine that we in the tech community should strive and try to crack it. To the client side a smart phone is better for me as a user in that it has more content and it can accommodate many applications. At the end of the day people will switch to smart phones just as they switched from landlines and i think it is our duty as the tech community to fast track that change.