“Providing free ad-supported mobile internet access for the next billion” – Nathan Eagle at #qznextbillion

I’m spending the day at Quartz’s event “The Next Billion”. Here are my notes from the talk by Nathan Eagle, looking at ad-financed internet connectivity.

“Providing free mobile internet access for the next billion” – Nathan Eagle

Nathan Eagle is Founder & CEO of Jana. Tens of million of people use their app – and their aim is to make the internet free to emerging markets, subsidising connectivity through advertising.

Big companies, Nathan explained, know that their future growth is not coming from places like the UK – the consumers they need to reach are in emerging markets. But in some of these places around 10% of people’s income is going to mobile operators on data costs.

If you are making minimum wage in India you have to work 17 hours to pay for 500MB of data.

The cost of handsets have come down dramatically, but the cost of data has not. Data consumption is expected to go up 6x by 2020 – but for sure data costs at not going to come down 6x.

The cost of data in Germany and India is about the same – partly because the cost of rolling out a 4G network is the name and India and Germany. But the economic power of the consumer is very difference.

This has massive design implications for businesses trying to reach this audience – big fat pages cost the end user a lot of money and degrade the UX.

Nathan Eagle said that a quarter of a billion people are walking around with Android phones that they have never connected to the internet – not through ignorance, but through affordability.

There will be an estimated 5 billion Android users by 2020, and the amount of advertising spend will reach $330bn in emerging markets. It’s money currently going into the pockets of the people who own billboards or TV stations, but he hopes that capital will get redirected away using apps like Jana.

“It’s ironic I run the second biggest advertising network in India, and I hate advertising” said Nathan.

He pointed out that when you install WhatsApp you get a nice message saying there would be no advertising, but then you get asked for a whole slew of permissions, and that data may not be being used to serve you banner ads in WhatsApp, but it is certainly being used to serve you ads elsewhere on the internet.

He’s not looking at government solutions to internet connectivity any time soon. He is concerned about a colonialist of paternalistic attitude trying to protect people connecting in the emerging market from advertising. The benefit of connectivity, he said, far outweighs any potential downside of exposing these people to global brands.

Read all of my posts about Quartz’s “The Next Billion”:
What makes video go viral in emerging markets?” – Cat Jones
Providing free ad-supported mobile internet access for the next billion” – Nathan Eagle
Inspiring computer hardware for young people in the developing world” – Yonatan Raz-Fridman

Your next ride – Uber in emerging markets” – Jambu Palaniappan
The VPN effect and the web’s missing billion” – Jason Mander