UNICEF chief innovator Erica Kochi provided the afternoon keynote at ARM TechCon. Erica says she was in one of the most remote and poorest areas of Senegal last year and noticed that although the area had no electricity or running water, the people there still had cell phones. She was intrigued by that fact, wanting to know how people used them and how they charged them, and this curiosity led her to co-found the Innovation Center at UNICEF. Kochi’s team in the Innovation Center brings technology and design practice to UNICEF’s response teams.
Erica says there are four key areas for technology growth and social impact in the ARM community. One is identity: she says that one in three children in remote regions of Africa has no official identity and that will make it hard for them to vote or purchase or transfer real estate. So getting technology into these areas helps people set up an identity. In financial services, the mobile operators, banks, and financial institutions can collaborate to help improve commerce and financial services in these areas. Transportation and logistics is another area: in emerging markets, if you’re a farmer and you can’t afford to get your goods to market because of a lack of transportation, you’re only going to produce what your village can consume. So improved technology and collaboration enables them to expand their markets. The fourth area is wearables: Erica says there is great opportunity for IoT-based wearables to help in the treatment of diseases.
Erica says that in the next 30 years or so, most of the new population growth around the world will be coming from emerging markets. Adolescents and young people will be the big users of technology, and there are 225 million young people in China alone. Sub-Saharan Africa will account for 28% of young people around the world (it’s currently 19%). By the end of this century, 40% of people will be from Africa, and Africa is already the fastest growing mobile region. Roughly 2/3 currently don’t have mobile subscriptions, so building the infrastructure there is critical.
Erica says that the three primary ways in which the ARM community can help with technology are in the areas of cost, data, and power. In Sub-Saharan Africa, people spend a disproportionate amount of their money on mobile communication, so they need inexpensive phones. 89% of people in many parts of Africa are still using 2G data, so even as the cost of hardware drops, the way we bill data is limiting to people of these regions. And in the area of power, much can be done by technology experts. Much of Sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia don’t have electricity, so new ways to power and recharge communications devices need to be developed.
Finally, Erica says there are several key takeaways for the designers and engineers of the ARM ecosystem. They are: Get to know your next customers; don’t only repurpose existing technologies; power and cost are more important than sophistication; and build platforms for development.