Micro Enterprises in Developing Nations Rely Heavily on Mobile Voice, Internet Apps, Including WhatsApp, Facebook

Mobile apps--even those generally considered “consumer apps”--matter for small business in developing countries, and are, as always the reason people and businesses want to use the Internet in the first place.


To be sure, mobile communications and Internet access arguably are among the most-important tools any micro business has access to. But it is the apps that arguably matter most.


Almost all of surveyed micro business entrepreneurs (96 percent) in Ghana said they accessed the mobile internet in some way each day.


For 70 percent of those respondent s, WhatsApp is their primary mobile application for business, while 40 percent identify Facebook as the second most important application for their business,  a Vodafone report suggests.


But education levels seem to matter greatly.


Some 90 percent of  entrepreneurs with a junior high education prefer WhatsApp as their primary mobile internet application. The use of Facebook, email, Viber and Google search is almost absent among micro-entrepreneurs with just junior high education.


In a culture where there is a preference for rich interpersonal communication (face-to-face), micro-entrepreneurs surveyed also appreciate the ability to visually depict their products or services to customers who are not physically present.


Many Ghanaian MSMEs consist of one person, an owner-manager, who usually has limited formal education, limited access to and use of new technologies, market information and formal credit.


Mobiles, especially smartphones providing internet access, offer scope to improve the sustainability of these enterprises.


In Ghana, there are an estimated 121 mobile subscriptions per 100 inhabitants as of December 2015. The mobile internet penetration rates are growing rapidly, having increased by approximately 30 percentage points in Ghana in the three years between January 2013 and December 2015.


About 70 percent of Ghana survey respondents running micro-sized businesses consider mobile phones with Internet access  to be the most important ICT tool for their business. And that value represents monthly spending by a majority of the micro-entrepreneurs of US$10 or less each month on voice, and roughly the same amount for data.


The average monthly expenditure is US$14.4 for voice and US$7.1 for internet. The expenditure with highest frequency is US$6 for both voice (16.3 percent) and internet (17.8 percent). Seven out of 10 microentrepreneurs reportedly spend more than half of their monthly voice expenditure on business activities. Just under five out of 10 spend more than half of their monthly data expenditure on business activities.  

WhatsApp users spend less on mobile data than their peers. They also make and receive fewer voice calls.
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Spectrum Futures, to be held in Singapore, 19-21 October 2016, brings together the whole ecosystem supplying Internet access for everyone across South Asia and Southeast Asia, and features topics and speakers addressing why, how, when and where the most-important developments are happening.
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