By Bill McDermott and Jim Hagemann Snabe, who are the co-CEOs of SAP AG, a business software maker. The opinions expressed are their own.
Over the next few days at the World Economic Forum in Davos, as business and political leaders debate what do to improve the world, they should champion and enable further growth of mobile technology as a vehicle that removes barriers, promotes inclusiveness and opens opportunities for those who would otherwise not participate in the digital economy.
Mobile phone applications and software help businesses across all sectors of society find solutions to their problems. Today we heard of an agreement at Davos that will result in solar-powered cell phone towers in India. That’s progress in exactly the right direction. And we need even more of it. We need to create more mobile software applications, have more innovation in mobile technology and more support from political leaders across the globe.
There are 4.6 billion mobile telephones on the planet, and even the poor buy them. Why? Mobile phones have become the cornerstone of global economic development. As an example, let’s consider how mobile technology made a dramatic difference in a remote corner of South Africa, where there are no shopping malls, no paved roads and rural communities depend on small “spaza” shops — informal convenience stores, which are often run out of homes.
A mobile phone software pilot project now lets shop owners replenish stock by using an application on their cell phones to communicate with an intermediary person who gathers all the spaza requests, orders supplies in bulk, and makes sure they are delivered to the shops. This project is a real game-changer, as any spaza shop owner will tell you.