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Pioneering alumni show how to harness the power of mobile technology

Our lives have already been transformed by mobile technology, but bigger and better developments are yet to come. That was the message from experts as they shared their insights and experiences from the digital world at a professional networking event for Oxford alumni. From advice about launching an app to the game-changing reality of mobile communications, the alumni speakers focused on how to maximise the opportunities created by technological innovation.

Tamara Sword (St Hilda’s, MSt Women’s Studies) set the context by describing transformative and rapid progress. She spoke of ‘seismic changes’ and referred to mind-boggling statistics to emphasise the ubiquity of mobile phones: there are 1.3 billion smart phones in the world, on average people check their mobile phones 150 times a day (some people even look at them 900 times a day), and 85% of time spent using mobiles is spent using apps.

The co-founder of the app infltr continued by sharing tips gained from promoting the camera app that enables people to apply filters to photographs taken with their camera phones. She explained the importance of improving apps in response to feedback, as well as the need to work with Apple’s developer relations team. Infltr has been named Best New App by Apple in more than 40 countries. Sword also encouraged entrepreneurs to engage with their customers, believe in their products, and to treat journalists like investors.

Lee Epting (Saïd Business School, Executive Education) gave a fascinating account of working in senior positions for technology giants, from firms in Silicon Valley in the 1980s to Nokia in Finland, and, most recently, Samsung. She described the pervasiveness of mobile technology and identified banking as a growth area. Epting, who is now a freelance mobile technology executive, said: ‘Banking presents sizeable opportunities for technology companies as more than half of bank transactions take place online or via mobile. Mobile is continuing to create and accelerate digital disruption.’

Jeff Dodds (Saïd Business School, Executive Education) held up examples of iconic mobile phones as he showed how far the industry has progressed. He also voiced optimism about further advances, and the possibilities associated with faster download times. Dodds, executive vice-president of the Tele2 Group and CEO of telecommunications company Tele2 Netherlands, highlighted the variation in data usage (four gigabytes of data per month per customer in Finland compared to 0.5 in the UK) because of differences in network costs. Dodds said: ‘If you release the handbrake, people will vote with their fingers and will use between two to four gigabytes per month. The power of the operators determines how fast people are unshackled. We are entering the most exciting stage in mobile since the 1970s.’

An academic perspective was also provided by the chair of the event, Andrew Stephen, L'Oréal Professor of Marketing at Oxford’s Saïd Business School. He noted that mobile broadband subscriptions have now surpassed households with internet. Professor Stephen said: ‘We all realise that mobile is changing everything.’ Based on research from 54 mobile advertising campaigns, he also showed how mobile adverts work best for utilitarian products requiring a high degree of involvement, such as life insurance, and gym membership. Describing this as counter-intuitive, Professor Stephen said mobile adverts work best if they jog the memory about something already recognised as important, rather than if they are promoting a fun or hedonistic purchase.