APIs are bridging the gap between mobile operators and start-up businesses providing mobile services.

Application Programming Interface (API) is a type of interface that lets software programs to communicate with one another as well as reach a larger audience. API permits you to share news, articles or locations with other social media platforms using your smartphone. API makes it possible for individuals from any part of the world to get information about anything they want. It also makes it easy for you to pay bills using mobile airtime credits.

Couple of years ago, only 500 public APIs were available in the whole world. But today, there are over 14,000 APIs where new ones are arriving on a weekly basis. The sales-force already gets a good percentage of its revenue through APIs, such as eBay and Expedia.

Nowadays, APIs are bridging the gap between mobile operators and start-up businesses providing mobile services. If opened up to potential developers, these gaps can benefit everyone. It could potentially have a positive socio-economical effect on over a billion users of these mobile services emerging today in the market.

Recent research as well as feedback from new businesses and developers of mobile networks clearly show that the most effective local operator APIs are billing , messaging , location and mobile money. This means that there are little or no opportunities for basic consumer operator APIs in developed regions. However, for emerging markets where 2G networks and cash payments are still prevalent, there are more opportunities.

Although the amount is increasing daily, the presence of mobile broadband services in Africa is still low, just like the use of smartphones and debit cards. In this regard, mobile phones and different channels, such as operator billing, mobile messaging, and mobile money, remain crucial for emerging businesses to connect as well as charge their end users for the mobile services.

In emerging markets where mobile operators are the major players of the digital economy, API is a powerful channel for initiating creativity and giving the startup-ecosystem a push. Every time an operator creates a new set of APIs, it builds a powerful cycle for innovation where several startups can combine numerous APIs to develop new services. For example, a startup can offer localized SMS-based content to its users depending on the city and then charge them by debiting their mobile airtime.

Such a service can be offered on three operator APIs at the same time; SMS, location and direct operator billing. New business startups and developers from all over the Africa are already developing mobile services with the use of operator APIs.

In emerging markets, operator APIs can still play an enabling role to initiate the growth of the business startups. This is an opportunity for both operators and startups, which may not last for a long time. Hence, mobile operators should try to open their APIs, harmonize them, and work with one another in order to grab this opportunity. Teams behind operator API programmes may need to enhance their efforts to reach out, support and educate the local startup communities about operator-APIs and engage with them in a broader manner.

Written by Kenneth Hogrefe