emerging markets

Pew: Mobile and social media users in emerging markets have more diverse social networks

Posted by | Diversity, emerging markets, Mobile, Social | No Comments

The latest study from Pew Research Center takes a look at the impact mobile technology, including the use of smartphones and social media, is having on the diversity of people’s social network in emerging markets. For the purpose of the study, Pew surveyed mobile users in 11 key markets: Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, South Africa, Kenya, India, Vietnam, the Philippines, Tunisia, Jordan and Lebanon. It found that users in these markets had broader social networks than those without smartphones and social media.

In the U.S., we’ve been concerned with social media’s ability to create “filter bubbles” — meaning how we surround ourselves online with people who hold the same opinions as us, which is then reinforced by social media’s engagement-focused algorithms. This leads us to believe, sometimes in error, that what we think is the most correct and most popular view.

According to Pew’s study, emerging markets are experiencing a somewhat different phenomenon.

Instead of isolation, the study found that smartphone users in these markets, and particularly those who also used social media, were more regularly exposed to people with different racial and ethnic backgrounds, different religious preferences, different political parties and different income levels, compared to those without a smartphone.

In Mexico, for example, 57% of smartphone owners regularly interacted with people of other religions, while only 38% of those without a smartphone did. And more than half (54%) interact with people who supported different political parties. They were also 24% more likely to interact with people of different income levels, and 17% more likely to interact with people of different ethnic or racial backgrounds.

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These sorts of trends help up across the nations studied, Pew noted, with a median of 66% saying they interacted with people with different income levels, 51% saying they interacted with a those of different race or ethnicity, 50% saying they interacted with those having different religious views and a median 44% saying they interacted with those who supported a different political party.

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The use of social media and messaging apps was found to be a huge contributor here, as it made people more likely to encounter people different from them, the study also said.

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The report, however, isn’t claiming that smartphones and the related social media use are the cause of this increase in diversity in these people’s lives. There may be other reasons for that. Smartphone owners, in general, may have more resources and money — they own a smartphone, after all — and this alone could help expose them to a more diverse group of people.

That said, smartphones are helping people stay connected to distant family and friends, and build out online networks of people they don’t ever see in person.

More than half the people in most of the surveyed countries said they only see in person half — or fewer — of the people they call or text. Indeed, 93% said they keep in touch with far-flung contacts. And a median of 46% said they see few or none of their Facebook friends regularly.

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All this connecting isn’t seen as being fully positive, however.

An earlier Pew report found that users in these 11 countries believe the internet and social media are making people more divided in their opinions and only sometimes more accepting of different views. Exposure to diversity and acceptance of it are different things.

The new report also gets into how smartphones are used. For example, a median of 82% said they texted, 69% took photos or videos, 61% looked up health information, 47% looked up news and political information and 37% looked up information about government resources.

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It also examined smartphones’ impact on digital divides, noting that people with access to these devices and social media, as well as younger people, those with higher levels of education and men, were gaining more benefits than others.

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The study is based on in-person interviews conducted by D3 Systems, Inc. and the results are based on national samples, notes Pew.

The full report is available here, with deeper dives on activities and data by individual countries.

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Google’s lightweight search app, Google Go, launches to Android users worldwide

Posted by | Android, android apps, Apps, emerging markets, Google, google go, google lens, Mobile, play store, search app, search results, smartphones, web search | No Comments

Google Go, a lightweight version of Google’s search app, is today becoming available to all Android users worldwide. First launched in 2017 after months of beta testing, the app had been designed primarily for use in emerging markets where people are often accessing the internet for the first time on unstable connections by way of low-end Android devices.

Like many of the “Lite” versions of apps built for emerging markets, Google Go takes up less space on phones — now at just over 7MB — and it includes offline features to aid those with slow and intermittent internet connections. The app’s search results are optimized to save up to 40% data, Google also claims.

Beyond web search, Google Go includes other discovery features, as well — like the ability to tap through trending topics, voice search, image and GIF search, an easy way to switch between languages, and the ability to have web pages read aloud, powered by AI.

At Google’s I/O developer conference this spring, the company announced it was also bringing Lens to Google Go.

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Lens allows users to point their smartphone camera at real-world objects in order to bring up relevant information. In Google Go, the Lens feature will help users who struggle to read. When the camera is pointed at text — like a bus schedule, sign or bank form, for example — Lens can read the text out loud, highlighting the words as they’re spoken. Users can also tap on a particular word to learn its definition or have the text translated.

While Lens was only a 100KB addition, according to Google, the updates to the Go app since launch have increased its size. Initially, it was a 5MB app; now it’s a little more than 7MB.

Previously, Google Go was only available in a few countries on Android Go edition devices. According to data from Sensor Tower, it has been installed approximately 17.5 million times globally, with the largest percentage of users in India (48%). Its next largest markets are Indonesia (16%), Brazil (14%), Nigeria (6%) and South Africa (4%), Sensor Tower says.

In total, it has been made available to 29 countries on Android Go edition devices, including: Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, Gabon, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Mali, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Philippines, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Google says the app now has “millions” of users.

Today, Google says it will be available to all users worldwide on the Play Store.

Google says it decided to launch the app globally, including in markets where bandwidth is not a concern, because it understands that everyone at times can struggle with problems like limited phone storage or spotty connections.

Plus, it’s a lightweight app for reading and translating text. At Google I/O, the company had noted there are more than 800 million adults worldwide who struggle to read — and, of course, not all are located in emerging markets.

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Google Go is one of many lightweight apps Google has built for emerging markets, along with YouTube Go, Files GoGmail Go, Google Maps Go, Gallery Go and Google Assistant Go, for example.

The Google Go app will be available on the Play Store to global users running Android Lollipop or higher.

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Amazon, Western Union debut PayCode to sell goods in emerging markets and let shoppers pay in cash

Posted by | alibaba, Amazon, Asia, developing markets, eCommerce, emerging markets, Finance, Mobile, payments, qr code, TC, western union | No Comments

While Amazon has been methodical (read: a little slow) in launching local versions of its site for various global markets, it has now embarked on a secondary track to snag more business outside the 14 countries where it has built out full operations.

Amazon has partnered with Western Union to set up a service called PayCode, which lets people shop and pay for Amazon items using local currencies that would not have been accepted on the site before, starting with services in 10 countries: Chile, Columbia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Peru, Philippines, Taiwan and Thailand.

Specifically, shoppers in these markets will now be able to go into Western Union outposts and pay for their Amazon purchases in cash, which also means that payment cards or other virtual payment methods will also not be required to buy from Amazon — one of the barriers to expanding the service up to now into more emerging economies, where card and bank account penetration is much lower than in developed markets like the U.S. and Europe.

“Amazon is committed to enabling customers anywhere in the world to shop on Amazon.com, and a big part of that is to allow customers to pay for their cross-border online purchases in a way that is most convenient for them,” said Ben Volk, director, Payment Acceptance and Experience at Amazon, in a statement. “Amazon PayCode leverages the reach of Western Union to make cross-border online shopping a reliable and convenient experience for customers who do not have access to international credit cards, or prefer to pay in cash.”

In terms of what they will be able to buy, people can shop across the breadth of the Amazon marketplace, but Amazon notes that they will only be able to use PayCode if it’s offered as an option at checkout (which will only happen in the markets where PayCode is supported); if the item that is chosen is “export eligible,” and if the item’s value “exceeds the maximum value allowed for use on this payment type” — although Amazon doesn’t appear to specify what that maximum value is. Once you complete the purchase online (or possibly more likely, on mobile), you get a “PayCode” QR code that you will have 48 hours to take to a Western Union to pay for the goods; otherwise your order gets cancelled.

The deal between Amazon and Western Union was initially announced last October, with very little detail and fanfare. The PayCode name then appeared to leak out a month later around what appeared to be a test in India (where it has not launched… yet). Today was the first time that the companies unveiled the first launch countries.

PayCode is a significant advance for Amazon as it seeks to step up to the next level of being a global e-commerce powerhouse to compete against the likes of Alibaba.

The latter company has made a lot of inroads to work in a wider array of markets beyond its home base of China, specifically tapping into a long tail of supply from its home market and demand for those goods abroad. Alibaba is also taking care of business when it comes to making more seamless transactions related to those trades. Just today, its financial services affiliate Ant Financial announced that it would acquire U.K.’s WorldFirst, which provides foreign money transfer for businesses and individuals, for a price that we heard from sources was in the region of $700 million.

Amazon currently operates 15 Amazon websites globally: in the U.S., U.K., Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Spain and Turkey. (It appears also to have a Prime-only site in Singapore.) Up to now, these would have been the only countries where Amazon would offer goods in local currencies.

Adding a new tranche of countries using PayCode will potentially massively expand how many people can shop on Amazon without Amazon going through the steps of setting up full-fledged operations in those countries to serve those consumers and sellers. (Or, this being Amazon, this would be a key way for the company to start testing the waters to figure out which market might do best with a full-fledged store.) Over time, you might imagine that Amazon might extend PayCode to markets where it has sites, too, to give shoppers more flexibility in how they pay for goods for themselves or that they are buying for others.

It’s a big market opportunity. Amazon cites estimates from Forrester Research that say cross-border shopping will represent 20 percent of e-commerce by 2022, accounting for $630 billion.

For Western Union, this is a potentially big partnership, too.

Today, PayCode allows people to use Western Union to act as a physical pay station for their Amazon goods, giving Western Union a small cut on those transactions. But you might imagine how this could evolve over time, where remittances sent from family members abroad via Western Union — a very common use of remittance networks — might immediately get redeemed to cover purchases on Amazon.

Similarly, Western Union is working closer with MPesa, the African mobile wallet service that lets people essentially use their phone top-up account as a payment account, and you could imagine how this too could get incorporated into the PayCode experience to facilitate buying and paying on devices, without having to go into Western Union shops and use actual cash.

“We’re helping to unlock access to Amazon.com for customers who need and want items that can only be found online in many parts of the world,” said Khalid Fellahi, SVP and General Manager of Western Union Digital, in a statement. “This is a great example of two global brands innovating and collaborating to bring customers more convenience and choice. In a world where cross-border buyers and sellers are often located on different continents and in completely different financial ecosystems, our platform is ideally suited to solving the complexity of collecting local currency and converting it into whatever currency merchants need on the other end.”

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Google’s data-friendly app YouTube Go expands to over 130 countries, now supports higher quality videos

Posted by | Android, Apps, emerging markets, Mobile, TC, YouTube, youtube go | No Comments

 YouTube Go, a mobile version of YouTube built for emerging markets with features like offline viewing and nearby sharing, is today expanding to over 130 countries worldwide. This wider rollout will make YouTube Go available to a large number of people who want the ability to watch YouTube videos, even if they don’t have a good connection, or find themselves offline. The list of new… Read More

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Twitter is testing a Twitter Lite Android app, first in the Philippines

Posted by | Android, android apps, Apps, Asia, emerging markets, Philippines, Social, TC, Twitter, twitter lite | No Comments

 Twitter today has nearly four times as many monthly active users outside the U.S. as it does in its home market — 260 million versus 68 million — and this week it quietly launched a new app in an effort to boost those numbers further. The social network is testing a Android app for Twitter Lite, a native app version of a mobile web site Twitter launched earlier this year that… Read More

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Google’s new experiment, Triangle, lets you block individual apps from using mobile data

Posted by | Android, android apps, Apps, data saver, data usage, emerging markets, Google, Mobile, mobile data, TC, triangle | No Comments

 Google recently began testing a new tool for helping people better manage the mobile data used by their smartphones. The new Android app, called Triangle, is currently being tested in the Philippines, and lets you do things like view your data balance, see which apps are accounting for the most data usage and even block individual applications from using your mobile data. Read More

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6.1B Smartphone Users Globally By 2020, Overtaking Basic Fixed Phone Subscriptions

Posted by | Asia, emerging markets, Ericsson, Europe, Mobile, mobile video, research, smartphones, TC, trends | No Comments

Old key chain in the shape of a small Earth globe Today there are 2.6 billion smartphone subscriptions globally, and while growth has been levelling off in developed markets like the U.S. and Europe, it’s not stalling altogether by a long shot. By 2020, globally there will be 6.1 smartphone users led by huge growth in less mature markets. And with 6.1 billion smartphones in circulation, we will see a tipping point of sorts:… Read More

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