There is no denying that in the modern world we are spoilt when it comes to technology. Many of us will even admit it is something we can’t live without.
However, has technology changed the way we live completely for the better, or is there a downside to having almost everything readily available? What is more - is it changing the way we live, think about and see the world?
Smartphones, combined with applications and data services, allow us to stay connected with our friends, family and community throughout the day. It is therefore no surprise to see social and messenger apps consistently ranked among the most popular in South Africa.
Of course, our phones are far from what they used to be. We can now do far more than just make a phone call. We can check our emails, order our shopping, take photographs, listen to music, watch videos. The list is endless.
But smartphones are also capable of so much more to help change the world: they give more opportunities to the disadvantaged, create businesses and markets where there were none, and allow individuals new ways in which to shape their days.
Consider these two examples.
First, Uber exemplifies the burgeoning on-demand app economy, which made hailing a ride with a smartphone app go mainstream. Tap a button to call a car, type in where you want to go, and pay with your credit card.
If the company has its way, Uber could eventually become the way we get everything - from our packages to our groceries.
Second, Dynamus Technologies recognises the good that could, or should, come out of innovation, which is the reason it created CrashDetech, a mobile application which provides real-time emergency response for when you need it most.
The app, launched in 2016, can automatically detect a serious vehicle crash and pinpoint the location. The app will dispatch an ambulance and provide paramedics with lifesaving information. It also provides a number of road safety, security and legal benefits.
It’s not always about a radical new idea, but rather about finding a solution to real-world problems. South Africa faces numerous social and economic challenges, with a heavily underserved market requiring solutions aligned to its unique needs.
At the same time, the market is seeing an increase in smartphone penetration and data access. This ecosystem opens up exciting opportunities for new app entrants, especially for those focused on developing solutions aligned to niche market needs.
Technology, business and investment can be used as powerful forces for good. If anyone is thinking of developing an app, it should be one that will help make South Africa a better place.
Jaco Gerrits is chief executive of life-saving app CrashDetech.