By Kinita Shenoy
The product of a collaboration between Etisalat and hSenid mobile, the country’s first mobile application store was unveiled at the Galle Face Hotel yesterday.
Named the “AppZone”, this commercialisation of a ‘breakthrough mobile application eco-system’ was created with the intention of creating a platform through which Etisalat users can both download and develop applications.
Up until 2008, mobile applications were exclusively created by service providers or professional programmers.
Dumindra Ratnayake, CEO of Etisalat, said that since June of this year, the AppZone portal was launched through a series of local conferences, workshops and competitions to encourage local programmers, especially at universities and institutions, to develop their own unique applications. He also expressed his view that it was important that service providers offer their customers more value added services. The key incentive for budding developers however, was that Etisalat offers a 70% share of all future revenue raked in by their application. A move, that Ratnayake explained was meant to “substantiate the entrepreneurial angle of the project”.
The popularity of the conferences resulted in the commercial availability of over 50 locally developed mobile applications at the online store, most of which cater to a Sri Lankan consumer. They include applications for island-wide railway and bus schedules, and even horoscopes. Also present was one of the young developers, Haniz, a recent APIIT graduate. He went on to describe the four applications he created himself, including one that provides the user with information of cinema feature shows and timings. The young technophile mentioned his gratitude to Etisalat for the opportunity to tap into their 3 million subscriber base, and for creating such a user-friendly platform for young entrepreneurs to launch their ideas.
This was extended upon by the Operations Manager of APIIT, Dinuka Kahandage, who said this enabled “millionaires being formed with small concepts”, while Professor Gihan Wikramanayake from the University of Colombo went on to stress further that it was a rare opportunity for entrepreneurs that required neither technical expertise or start-up capital.
The hSenid Mobile CEO, Dinesh Saparamadu, stressed that this store would usher in the “next generation of mobile entrepreneurship”. The key benefit, as he saw it was that it was a global platform that helped developers reach an international market. Another point that was mentioned was the ease with which aspiring developers could create applications. As Dr. Malitha Wijesundara of the Sri Lanka Institute of Information Technology put it, the painstaking technicalities were already taken care of, which gave developers the flexibility to extend upon their ideas.
Another breakthrough concept channelled through AppZone is its accessibility. The applications can be downloaded by any mobile phone model, which considerably enlarges the customer base, which Dr. Kapila Ponnamperuma of the University of Kelaniya explained “opened up a large marketplace for the developer’s ideas, especially the students.”
The success of the previous contests spurred on Etisalat and hSenid to now open up the competition to the general techno-savvy public also, for which more details are available at the App Forum (www.appzone.lk).