|Issue:||Latin America 2007|
|Topic:||Mobiles and ICT in Latin America|
|Title:||Chief Technology Officer|
Bohdan Zabawskyj is the CTO of Redknee. He is responsible for formulating the framework of Redkneeís strategic efforts and the evolution of the companyís application development framework for next-generation mobile networks. Prior to Redknee, Mr Zabawskyj worked at Telus Mobility (Clearnet), Bell Mobility and Bell Canada as Director for Research and Development. Bohdan Zabawskyj has a BASc (Honours) degree from the University of Toronto, an MEng degree from McGill University, and has an MBA (IT option) degree from Athabasca University.
At the beginning of 2007, there were 308 million mobile subscribers in Latin America but only 96 million fixed-lines; most individuals now have access to mobile data and voice services. Deregulation, competitive markets and investment are opening up new possibilities and spurring the growth of a framework of modern and scalable networks for these devices. This will stimulate the use of communications devices for commercial transactions, supply chain management and money exchanges, thereby accelerating socio-economic development and developing local markets.
Governments have long recognised that increasing their communications infrastructure is essential for emerging economies that wish to evolve into robust and active contenders in the global economy. To this end, pro-competitive deregulation and investment are opening up new possibilities and spurring the growth of a framework of modern and scalable networks in regions with otherwise underdeveloped infrastructure. Individuals and businesses, small and large, are rapidly adopting the use of communications devices for commercial transactions, supply chain management and money exchanges through secure and readily accessible methods. This growth in Information and Communications Technology, ICT, is encouraging unprecedented innovation in emerging markets. In the Caribbean and Latin America, ICTs are helping countries accelerate their socio-economic development by enhancing connectivity and providing new educational and free market opportunities. The evolution of ICT provides opportunities to positively affect regional social and industrial development through innovation and entrepreneurship. Latin American markets With ICT capital investment in Latin America growing at approximately ten per cent every year, the mobile market is poised for ever-greater levels of activity. The wireless industry in Latin America has experienced explosive growth over the past few years, with a 37 per cent growth in subscribers in 2005 alone. Mobile phones have overtaken fixed lines in service in every Latin American country except Cuba. At the beginning of 2007, there were 308 million mobile subscribers in Latin America but only 96 million fixed lines. Paraguay leads the trend, with ten mobile phones for every fixed line in service. Today, mobile penetration in the region has surpassed the 50 per cent milestone, despite considerable variations from country to country. Apart from a few small Caribbean islands where mobile penetration is over 100 per cent, the highest rates are found in Chile, Jamaica and Argentina. These statistics show that in most emerging communities, both rural and urban, most individuals have access to mobile devices and to wireless data and voice services. This exciting phenomenon sets the stage for unprecedented investments to augment and evolve wireless infrastructure. The enhanced infrastructure will permit new and innovative applications and services geared to the demographic and socio-economic characteristics of each region. There is growing awareness that investing in ICT infrastructure in emerging economies potentially holds more promise for improving regional socio-economic conditions than even the provision of traditional infrastructure, such as the construction of roadways. Global competitiveness With the introduction of ICT infrastructure, Latin American markets will no longer lag behind the rest of the world but will instead boast communication portfolios and solutions that will be noteworthy from a global perspective. In order for a communications provider to thrive in this growing market, they must be able to proactively use their networks to address existing gaps in education, health services and commerce. The rapidly expanding geographic reach of mobile networks – coupled with the ever-decreasing costs of handsets and network-access rates – provides an environment where people in emerging economies can interact, collaborate and exchange moneys. To address the reality of multinational corporations and a mobile workforce, communications providers are introducing new mobile micro-banking offerings for workers, family members and entrepreneurs. Strategic alliances between public and private sectors, as well as the support of national and international organizations, work to enhance the inherent ability of ICTs to empower and improve societies within a region. The information and communications industry will be embarking on a transformation characterized by ubiquitous broadband access, mobility and low power multimedia and computational capabilities. In this context, Latin American communications providers are upgrading existing infrastructure to roll out new value-based services quickly and provide users with real-time personalized services in conjunction with flexible billing options. With a range of advanced, demographically tailored, value-added services provided via third-party service and content providers, as well as funds and payment capabilities in place, the richness of the subscriber experience can only increase. The overwhelming number and variety of services will create the need to tailor each userís experience based on demographics (e.g. relative market appeal), preferences (e.g. preferred content, language), and context (e.g. location, terminal type). The value that is created via wireless infrastructure that enables the proactive and dynamic delivery of relevant services can contribute to long-term economic development from a national, community and individual perspective. Mobile information and money The value extracted offers both macro-economic and individual benefits. For example, the use of mobile communication messaging and data technologies reduces the ongoing operating costs of business compared to traditional, more expensive means, such as letter, fax and various transportation methods. The timely – ideally, real-time – and universal availability of information creates a more competitive environment via the provision of innovative marketing and financial services. Mobile enabled financial services, including micro-banking capabilities – the ability to deposit, withdraw and use funds for digital and physical goods via a mobile device – can provide rural, migrant and travelling mobile users with the same financial services found in urban environments. In aggregate, this will facilitate and support an entrepreneurial environment in both rural and urban settings – in turn driving the growth and evolution of Latin American economies. A population that has access to a communication framework capable of disseminating information seamlessly and easily, in all of its disparate and dynamic forms, is essential to building a well-informed, connected society. For example, mobile ICT infrastructure can play a leading role in the provision and improvement of educational programmes across geographic and demographic boundaries as well as empowering individuals to access news sources, health alerts and civil announcements. Regulation and investment: a balance The magnitude of the impact made possible by mobile ICT infrastructure in Latin American economies and societies is immense, but it needs a suitable regulatory and investment framework to function. In parallel, network operators must deploy appropriate infrastructure that will enable subscriber-centric and demographically relevant services. By meeting these criteria, the deployment of mobile ICT infrastructure will equip Latin American markets with innovative and value-based media and communication applications, in addition to ubiquitous and cost-effective micro-banking services. However, Latin American governments must establish the policies, regulations and national strategies required so that fair financing and investments can be obtained. Moreover, communication providers must deliver a relevant, customizable individual-centric suite of services to become regional leaders and to effectively impact the societies and individuals they serve. A landmark decade Mobile telephony is one of the most dynamic industries in Latin America. The regionís wireless telecommunications markets are entering an important stage in their development by bringing the next generation of wireless services. The willingness with which regional carriers are adopting ever-more innovative rating and billing, and content delivery services is a strong indication that we will soon observe a closer parity between Latin American telecommunications markets and those of Western Europe or North America. As the promising trend toward deregulation gains momentum, more and more Latin American nations will gain a liberalized environment in which ICT is encouraged to thrive.