Mobile Communications

Adrian Schofield (South Africa) - Take Your Tablet: Is it Good for Your Health?

I do research and I love expressing my opinion, so how can I resist commenting on the recent research by IDG Connect on “The Emergence of Tablets”? Up front, I must confess that I have one and it’s Android. You will have to decide if that colors my opinion.

Tablets have been appearing in the hands of business people and the IT crew at an unprecedented rate. It is impossible to attend a meeting, a seminar or a conference without them being flourished by almost every delegate. The really smart presenters use one to drive their “slides” and provide their script. We look over each other’s shoulders, to see if the tablet has a cover that doubles as a stand, or if it includes an external keyboard. Is it an iPad or not? Does it matter?

In her post, Kathryn Cave highlights some of the differences between the results of the survey in Africa compared to other parts of the world. With our well-established talent for seeing ourselves as “different”, should we be concerned at these particular variations from the average?

Yes, we have a lower percentage of ownership – they’re expensive when you earn an African salary! Yes, we own a higher percentage of Android tablets – they’re more readily available in Africa (and cheaper than iPads). But, if we’ve got one, boy, are we going to use it! How else are we going to justify the dollars we (or our employers) spent on acquiring it? Are we going to admit that we are surfing the Internet during a boring meeting? No – we are taking notes and dealing with email!

More seriously, our appreciation for “Mobility: easy to download content and access it on the move” is just one step ahead of our continental adoption of mobile phones. Africans have been denied access to fixed line communications and mobile devices bring freedom and opportunity to communities long starved of these essentials. We are more likely to get a “signal” than a DSL connection, even in our urban areas. Carrying a tablet is easier and less obvious than lugging a laptop and you can survive for longer without needing to be within reach of a power outlet.

It’s not quite that easy, though. Tablets are next to useless without a good 3G or Wi-Fi connection, so they will take quite a while to be adopted outside of the business centers – and although the cost of mobile data connection is coming down, it remains comparatively expensive across Africa. Even so, I agree that there will continue to be a high rate of take-up for the foreseeable future, especially as we are beginning to manufacture African tablets.

That growth will bring its own challenges. The load on the networks will increase, security and privacy will need to be addressed and top quality “apps” for local users must be developed. The good news is that Africans are ingenious, with enormous capacity for innovation and adaptation.  Just like our peers in business and IT across the world, we are bringing consumer technology into business processes. We might also be following the sports results, playing one of Zynga’s games or taking photos of our kids…

By Adrian Schofield, Joburg Centre for Software Engineering


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Adrian Schofield

Adrian Schofield has spent more than half his life working in and for the South African ICT industry at national, regional and global levels. For the last 10 years, he has conducted applied research for the Joburg Centre for Software Engineering and is currently serving as a Board member of the Institute of Information Technology Professionals South Africa (IITPSA), the Africa ICT Alliance (AfICTA)... See More

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