Half-billion more to connect to the Internet

BRAD HOWARTH
Last updated 16:44 04/12/2012

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Developing nations will bring another half-billion internet users to the world by 2015, delivering the next wave of opportunity for Australian online businesses.

That is the view of Julian Persaud, managing director for Google south-east Asia, who at Google's ''Connecting the Next Billion'' seminar in Singapore on Monday, said this growth in the global connected population would result in significant changes in regional economies.

"Particularly for small businesses, the web becomes a real enabler," Persaud said. "There will be a wave of opportunity for businesses across Asia and across all emerging markets."

As massive Asian populations moved online, English would cease to dominate the web, while most new users would experience the internet only through mobile devices.

Google's vice-president of product and engineering for emerging markets, Nelson Mattos, said companies from the developed world could lend others the expertise needed to succeed in emerging markets.

"My advice ... for these multinationals to be successful in these places, is not to assume that whatever worked in the developed world is going to work here," Mattos said. "Come to these parts of the world looking at these countries from their perspective."

Sydney-based company Paloma Mobile has developed mobile, cloud-based media services that use minimal bandwidth. Co-founder Steve Langkamp said millions of new smartphone users in emerging markets represented an exciting opportunity.

"Earlier this year we decided that we would first target the Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand," Langkamp said. "We are in ... discussions with mobile operators serving these countries and expect to announce and launch our first partnership there early in 2013."

In the financial services sector, Rubik Financial has also found opportunities in south-east Asia, including creating a secure payment service for cocoa and copra growers in East New Britain for BSP Mobile Banking, while software developer HealthKit has sold its platform for patients and practitioners into markets including Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Africa.

As for Google, Mattos said his company wanted to accelerate the growth of internet usage in the developing world, as only 14 per cent of people were currently using the internet. "Even though we are seeing growth, it is not at the speed that it should be," Mattos said. "It does not reflect the potential.''

Mattos said there were barriers to people in emerging markets coming online, such as the cost of data access, network congestion and a lack of relevant content.

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This had forced Google to rethink how it delivered services, including building more data exchanges and data centres in emerging markets to reduce costs.

Google was also working with carriers such as Globe Telecom in the Philippines to create free mobile data services for users to access Google+ and Gmail, and incorporating SMS messaging.

Brad Howarth attended the Google event as a guest of the company.

- Fairfax Media

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