Looking ahead, the most promising of the big data leapfrogging opportunities for Africa lie within the telecom industry. Mobile phones are now widespread, as are SMS based services such as mobile payments and money transfer. Next, observers expect rapid adoption of affordable smart phones capable of handling more sophisticated applications, such as social networking. It all adds up to a massive amount of data in the hands of the mobile carriers about what people are doing with their phones and where they are.
As the mobile market continues to develop, the carriers will be in a strong position to offer their customers new applications and services. They’ll not only own the relationship with the customer, but they’ll see data patterns in customer behavior that helps them anticipate customer’s needs. Marketers have long dreamed of being able to address not just market segments but individual customers. Big data could finally turn this dream into a reality.