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If you have been in tech for a while you have probably heard the terms accessibility (a11y), localization (l10n) and internationalization (i18n) applied in various contexts. Or you might have heard a broader theme - inclusive design.
According to the Microsoft Definition
Inclusive Design is a methodology, born out of digital environments, that enables and draws on the full range of human diversity. Most importantly, this means including and learning from people with a range of perspectives.
But what does that mean for emerging markets?
Inclusion is about more than identity and marginalization. It is about access to resources and providing a consistent and equal experience to everyone regardless of their location, language or economic situation. And these pose new or different challenges when we consider emerging markets.
By definition an emerging market has some characteristics of a developed market, but does not fully meet its standards. Examples include India, China, Nigeria and more.
Many of these are mobile first economies and face challenges including:
- Poor internet connectivity
- Limited data
- Device constraints
- Cost of operation
For a better understanding of the issues, read this Nov 2019 Pew Report on the Mobile Divides in Emerging Countries. Let's look at some stats!
The data limitations and costs of ownership are vastly different in emerging markets (vs. developed countries like the US and UK). That means apps developed and tested using the latter populations in mind are often not practical for use by consumers in the former. Yet, most application developers (who likely don't reside in emerging markets) are often unable to address them in a meaningful way due to lack of awareness of the issues, or prioritization of features and resources.
With emerging markets now a key driver for growth in the mobile ecosystem, this is no longer acceptable. A "mobile first" approach must necessarily be inclusive first too!
The same report shared this interesting data on the most common hardships faced in emerging markets with respect to the accessibility of mobile devices (and apps/experiences)
- Security focuses on the data, and ability to guarantee privacy of information. In many emerging markets mobile payments and m-commerce are critical, making security vital.
- Financial focuses on affordability of devices and data. Mobile (and mobile web) experiences that drain the batter or exhaust the data budgets of consumers are problematic!
- Connectivity is an infrastructure and network access issue. Apps designed with reliable 4G/5G connections are ill equipped to deal with intermittent connectivity and low bandwidth environments. Offline first approaches are key.
- Language is a critical factor, with many emerging markets having diverse regional languages and dialects that require better localization of information on mobile and web. Apps that are designed and tested for English-only or primarily English-speaking audiences fail the inclusivity test.
In this session, we talk to two developer advocates -- Chris Nwamba (Microsoft) and Stephen Fluin (Google) - on their own journeys designing apps for emerging markets. We look at examples of good and bad design, and ask how can we as developers do better in designing, testing, and deploying, experiences that are universally accessible!
If you want to learn more about the MSCreate:Frontend event then check out this post with links to all the talks and speakers. And bookmark it to be notified of links to recordings and resources after the end!
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