30 Oct 2013

Monetising digital switchover in emerging markets

Andrew Pons, Director of Marketing, Exset

Many people will know about the Digital Divide, the gap between those who have the ability, or economic wherewithal, to take advantage of the information age via appropriate technology and those that don’t. Many often limit the definition to those who can and can’t access the Internet.

While this can be a valid indicator, in some ways it’s easy for people to dismiss that issue as for many Internet access still hovers between luxury and utility. In reality in the developed world we’re now reliant upon the Internet for many things: within a very short space of time we’ve built access to that information into our daily lives.

As markets continue to move at a rapid pace through technology cycles, the issue deepens: it is not access to the Internet per se that is the issue necessarily, but that key information that it contains.

Looking in a little more depth there are other issues. What becomes apparent is that owning a computer – or having access to one – doesn’t necessarily equate to accessing the Internet. In high-income countries, according to a major ITU report entitled Measuring the Information Society 2011, the discrepancy between computer ownership and Internet usage is negligible: both figures hover around 90 per cent for 15 to 74 year-olds. This is the case in Iceland, Norway and Sweden for example. Indeed in some countries – Japan being a case in point – more people access the Internet than own computers. But if we look at Senegal then the figures are not only lower but the discrepancy appears: 34 per cent used a computer in 2010 but only 13 per cent accessed the Internet. Similar situations exist throughout the developing world. – the reports states that in Sub Saharan Africa less than 16 per cent of homes have internet access.

Before we lose ourselves in a world of statistics, there’s another key factor that the ITU report highlights. It says, “Data on Internet use by level of education show that Internet usage is much higher among people with higher levels of education. A higher educational level generally also implies higher income and greater computer literacy, both of which are important factors that drive Internet use.”

At the same time, what’s interesting to note is that according to a report from Dataxis Intelligence, television penetration across one of the key developing regions of the world – Africa – is set to reach 50 per cent by 2015, or 123 million television households. A report from Digital TV adds that by 2017 there will be 50m TV household in Sub-Saharan Africa. Television – specifically digital broadcast technologies – is able to fill a very important role where the Internet doesn’t (and may never) reach.

As the ITU clearly states in a 2010 article about switching to digital, “Broadcasting is one of the most economic and influential media for delivering content such as news, education and entertainment. Broadcasting also contributes to narrowing the Digital Divide. Now broadcasting is on the verge of a revolution that is expected to affect not only broadcasting itself but also other media. The transition from analogue to digital broadcasting will create great opportunities for the provision of information and communication technology (ICT) applications and multimedia services, including higher quality video and interactivity.”

So what are the challenges facing operators and governments wanting to roll out digital television services in developing markets? Monetisation – or cost, depending on the viewpoint - alongside the skillsets required to pull together what can be complex technological solutions are very real hurdles. Let us be clear: we are talking about both about pay-TV here, be that DTT, DTH or cable and monetising the switchover to digital systems. The question arises that if you are not set up to supply service to the higher income sections of society then how can you monetise your business? As Rapid TV News said earlier this year, “Premium DTH services such as the top DStv packages are currently affordable for just a fraction of African homes, mostly in South Africa…”

The switch to digital TV provides both a very real challenge for developing nations as well as a very real opportunity and this is where Exset – and its Digital Monetisation System (DMS) - comes in. Can the switch to digital television help to overcome the Digital Divide?

Exset is a broadcast technology and solutions company founded in 2011. It focuses on emerging markets where localisation, social and economic factors require a fresh approach. Exset understands that pay-TV needs a new monetisation model for emerging markets in order to succeed. That’s why it created Digital Monetization System (DMS) - a unique business and technology model that makes pay-TV self-financing without depending exclusively on subscriber fees for revenue. DMS bridges the gap between technology supply and value-add service creation, facilitating digital television platforms that can be monetised where previously virtually impossible. This allows populations to benefit from new information and entertainment services while operators and governments, when partnering with Exset, monetise digital switchover and assist in bringing about social transformation.

DMS allows operators to publish a series of images and text services (alongside the TV content) in the form of pages that can be used to bring in new revenue to operators through new advertising apps. The TV portal that DMS facilitates allows operators to offer these new services to its customers through a series of apps: a magazine app allowing viewers to read magazines; shopping apps allowing instant purchase of goods to be done via mobile phone text service; public service apps updated and informed by government departments to keep the population up to date with information bulletins on public services being offered. Exset delivers a new business model via revenue generating technology with the experience and understanding of working within these markets.

Exset are an associate sponsor of AfricaCast 2013. Come and meet them at by registering for your ticket to AfricaCom Here

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