MTN to Launch Maiden App Challenge

MTN Ghana is set to launch a Mobile Apps Challenge for local applications developers to come up with relevant applications which would be marketed on the MTN platform.

The competition, TXTGhana has learnt, is dubbed “MTN Apps Challenge” and is designed to harness local talents in application development, build strong affinity with the developer community and provide opportunity for developers to market their content via MTN platforms to deliver innovative services in Ghana.

“It is also to help support the country’s national development through the creation of locally relevant and user–friendly ICT solutions to individuals and the business community,” MTN said.

TXTGhana can confirm that the “MTN Apps Challenge” would be launched on Tuesday, August 13, 2013 and would travel across all ten regions of Ghana. One winner would be selected from each region and be given a prize of GHC10,000. The ten winners would also have each of their Apps advertised and marketed by MTN exclusively on the MTN platform and be paid for its use.

This would be the first time a telco in Ghana is being proactive in offering App Developers any opportunity of a ready market for their Apps on a telco’s platform. App Developers usually struggle to sell their ideas to telcos and they end up settling for revenue share arrangements that largely benefits telcos.

On the SMS-based Apps platforms, for instance, telcos take between 55% – 70% of the revenue while the App Developers and the Content Providers are left with between 45% – 30% of the revenue to share.

This is contrary to what happens in the developed markets, where giants like Apple, Google and Yahoo keep revenue share arrangement of about 70% to 30% in favour of App Developers. Apple, for instance, paid about US$10billion to App Developers last year alone.

In some cases, the industry giants have actually acquired the App Development Startups and paid the developers huge sums to keep developing new Apps. And they generally invest a greater chunk of their R&D (research and development) budget into App Developers.

Some Ghanaian App Developers believe it is time for the tables to turn in favour of App Developers and content providers in Ghana because SMS and voice revenues are fast dwindling for telcos in Ghana and they need the App Developers to drive data consumption and revenue thereof.

They maintained that the MTN App Challenge is laudable to the extent that it removes the bottlenecks the App Developers face in trying to sell their ideas to telcos.

But they insisted “it is not enough for telcos to organize App Competitions like this and give App Developers peanuts as winning prizes and payment for the use of the Apps – it is time for them [telcos] to open up their APIs to enable App Developers and content providers to automatically bill people for using the Apps/content.”

The App Developers however think ahead of opening the APIs, there is need to develop commercially viable Apps and drive increased usage before discussing payment.

They also believe it is time for the telcos to invest up to 70% of their R&D budget into startups, and possibly acquire or adopt the startups and maintain the developers as partners in tech solution development, to develop Apps with local content.

“This will trigger an innovation revolution in the app development space,” one said.

Telcos have however argued that they invested heavily into fibre optics and other broadband infrastructure so they could not immediately open up their APIs and allow App Developers/Content Providers to bill people and take a greater chunk of the revenue.