An App Lab for the Developing World Comes from Facebook and Ericsson

By Joe Rizzo February 25, 2014

You’ve often heard me talk about how I feel that this is a generation of “I need to be connected all the time” and “I need it now.” This is possible because of LTE speeds and the expansion of higher speed networks. This however, is something that is only seen in developed regions.

There is a great part of the world that still falls under the category of un-developed or emerging regions. The majority of these areas are still using 2G networks and their only connection is a feature phone. Because of this, most of these regions cannot take advantage of the new apps that are being developed.

There is a group of companies that are trying to change this. Facebook, Ericsson, MediaTek, Nokia, Opera, Qualcomm and Samsung are launching an initiative called internet.org. Their goal is to try and connect the whole world with internet access. This will be accomplished through cheaper devices, better business models and better infrastructure.

According to the internet.org press release, some of the efforts will come in the form of less expensive devices and broader mobile networks, improving the efficiency of data handling at the application, network and server levels and experimenting with new business models that incentivize carriers and device manufacturers to offer lower prices.

On Monday morning, Facebook and Ericsson let the world see a small portion of their plans to “connect to the billions of unconnected in the world.” These two companies are creating a development lab designed to allow developers to test their software on the types of networks and phones you’d find in developing countries like Nigeria or Indonesia. The lab will be based in Facebook’s Menlo Park campus.

Generally developers gear their apps to the generation that I mentioned above. As speeds and access increases so do the capabilities of their apps. The goal of the development lab is to get developers to also consider the emerging markets.

The development lab would show developers how their apps would work on networks and devices in an area like Nairobi. This can be achieved without forcing their testers to travel overseas. Ericsson builds a good deal of the world’s mobile networks so it’s in a good position to recreate them in the lab.

Ericsson is also offering up its device and app verification services. These can simulate how an app will perform on the lowliest feature phone or inexpensive Android smartphone. That would make it easy for the developers to modify their apps and test their functionality across the board.

In an interview with GIGAOM, Ericsson CEO Hans Vestberg said “The majority of the world’s mobile subscribers in the world are on 2G networks. Sometimes we forget that being in Sweden or the U.S.”

I am sure that we will be hearing a lot more about the development lab and internet.org in the very near future. 




Edited by Cassandra Tucker

TechZone360 Contributing Writer

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