Johannesburg’s Information and Communications Technology (ICT) experts and industry leaders joined the <a href="http://www.africantechroundup.com/about/" target"_blank">African Tech Round-Up team over breakfast for reflection on Technology and Innovation in Africa for the year 2015 and what to look forward to in 2016.
The event was kicked off with a keynote address by Jo Crawshaw, Head of Growth and Communications, Opera Africa.
With 20 years of existence, Opera had some interesting statistics about internet usage and trends to share with the attendees. This was followed by an introduction to some of their consumer products used to address some of the internet access and browsing challenges that Africa faces. The following are some notes and quotes taken from the event.
Jo Crawshaw, Head of Growth and Communications, Opera Africa presenting Towards The Next Billion Online Trends and Challenges
"We’ve got about 350 million users globally and over a quarter of those are in Africa. So Africa is a really important region for us.”
“For Opera Mini users in Africa, unsurprisingly, Nigeria is by far our largest user base”
“42% of people globally are online. In Africa we know that that’s much lower”
Opera identified 3 main barriers to access to the internet: Infrastructure, affordability and education.
“In Norway every mobile tower is shared by about 400 people, but if you go to Nigeria it’s more like 6000 and that can be a problem…”
“In Nigeria it takes about 3 and a half days to earn enough to buy 500 MB of data; in South Africa about 2 days; in Germany you only need to work for an hour…”
“So it’s not just the cost of the data itself. We like to say that data in South Africa is expensive but if you look at it globally, it’s actually not. It’s about average. BUT the purchasing power of people is very different.”
When the infrastructure is in place and people can afford to be online, there needs to be education on how to get online and how to access relevant information.
How is Opera Addressing These Challenges?
<img src="http://www.iafrikan.com/content/images/2015/12/opera-mini-for-android-phones.png" width="40%" height="40%" style="float:left; padding: 10px 10px 10px 10px; margin-right="10px";"/>
Opera’s mobile phone browser, <a href"http://www.opera.com/mobile/mini" target="_blank">Opera Mini, in combination with their Thor Data Centre servers, compresses the data a user requests before delivering it to the phone. A user can save up to 90% of their data usage and gain a faster browsing experience.
“…In South Africa the average saving is 80 something…”
<img src="http://www.iafrikan.com/content/images/2015/12/opera-max-hero-image-1.png" width="50%" height="50%" style="float:right; padding: 10px 10px 10px 10px; margin-right="10px";"/>
Opera Max, a data savings App, uses the same compression technology as Opera Mini, but rather than only compressing what is requested via your browser, it compresses data across the entire phone. This App can extend your data plan by up to 50% for free. Opera Max is currently only available for Android phones.
“In Africa, Instagram’s current savings is about 67%; Chrome 41% and YouTube about 40. This makes a big difference and really extends your data plan hugely.”
“Beyond it being a compression App, it’s also a Data Management tool…”
As part of addressing the education barrier, Opera has been working with Worldreader, which provides a platform for reading free books via any internet enabled phone.
"We help them by providing distribution across 36 countries in Africa."
"Within 3 months we've reached 5 million new readers. We're set to reach 10 million by the beginning of next year."
On the browser, a Worldreader icon is placed on the Opera Mini Speed-dial for easy access.
Jo’s presentation was followed by a Q&A session which revealed some interesting insights from the crowd. I strongly recommend that you listen to the complete audio via [African Tech Round-Up](https://soundcloud.com/african-tech-round-up/towards-the-next-billion-online-trends-and-challenges-with-jo-crawshaw)'s SoundCloud channel.