Software for mobile devices and for social networking is an area with great potential for software developers in developing countries.
According to the Information Economy Report 2012 of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), this year the focus will be on the role of software in developing countries. Software is an industry characterised by relatively low capital barriers for entry and its relevance is likely to remain high in the future.
In many developing and transition economies, the public sector represents a key part of domestic software demand. Its procurement of software products and services is often linked to tenders for large-scale e-government projects. Beyond being an important creator of domestic demand, the public sector can also play a catalytic role in spurring innovation through public procurement related to e-government, e-health and e-learning.
The expanding use of mobile phones is creating new domestic demand for mobile applications and services geared towards improving access to domestic news and entertainment, government services, market information services and mobile money transfers.
According to ITU, there were 6 billion mobile cellular subscriptions in the world in 2011. Subscriptions per 100 people reached 86 globally and 84 in developing countries. The number of users of mobile data services is significant and growing. Mobile data use is also becoming significant in other developing countries.
The demand for mobile software and applications is driven by two factors - the expansion of mobile broadband networks and the emergence of smart phones and tablet devices. In 2011, the global sales of smart phones exceeded those of PCs for the first time. Today, although penetration is still relatively low, smart phones are rapidly being taken up in developing countries.
The mobile applications industry, a recent development, is estimated to have generated worldwide revenue of US$15 billion to $20 billion in 2011.
As of April 2012, more than a million apps had been created, including 600,000 apps for Apple, 400,000 apps for Android, and about 70,000 apps for the new Windows phone and many more are in the pipeline.
It is clear that this segment of the software industry is currently expanding at high speed. It predicts that the market will grow to about $38 billion by 2014. Within the mobile apps market, mobile enterprise applications are expected to be the next growth driver as employees become more mobile.
This trend is particularly relevant for developing and transition economies, especially hyper text markup language 5 (HTML5) that is able to support different features, that is platform-independent, and more robust in regions with limited mobile coverage and low connectivity.
Apart from mobile device, social networking is another key driver for software industry growth. More than four out of five Web suffers, representing about 1.2 billion users around the world, use social networking sites. Social networks are increasingly used around the world. In addition, local social networking sites are also gaining in popularity in countries such as China and the Russian federation.
Social networking creates opportunities for developing linked applications, including games, music, and social causes. More than 2.5 million websites have been linked to Facebook and its users install some 20 million apps every day. It is estimated that the new Facebook app economy has created between 183,000 and 236,000 jobs for programmers in the US alone with an employment value of between $12 billion and $16 billion.
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