An API, or Application Programming Interface, is what allows software programs to “talk” to one another and reach a broader audience. APIs are what allow you to share a news article on LinkedIn or send your location on WhatsApp using your smartphone. APIs are also what allow a farmer in Senegal to check crop prices via SMS (MLouma) or a student in the Philippines to pay for their bus ride using their mobile airtime credit (Bustayo) . Services like these are powered by the APIs of local mobile operators.
In 2006, fewer than 400 public APIs were available globally. Today, there are around 15,000 APIs, with 40 new ones created every week. Salesforce already generates 50 per cent of its revenues via APIs, eBay generates 60 per cent, and Expedia 90 per cent. Welcome to the new API economy.
In emerging markets in particular, APIs are bridges between mobile operators and start-ups that launch mobile services. These bridges, if open to developers and easy to walk over, can benefit both parties, and the whole ecosystem. They may also have a positive socio-economic impact on the potential four billion unique mobile end users of these services in emerging markets.
As activity around operator APIs is ramping up in emerging markets, the GSMA Ecosystem Accelerator programme has just released a report which looks at the landscape of operator APIs in emerging markets, as well as the reasons why both operators and start-ups need to get strongly involved. It extract findings as well as operational lessons from a variety of interviews with ecosystem players as well as five case studies on Globe, Orange, Dialog, Airtel, and MTN.