The changing role of the mobile

Vanderbeeken points to the BBC’s news report that their statistics show the majority of non-UK readers who access their site through a mobile phone are from Africa.

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More interesting to me, in light of some recent thoughts on the role that mobile phones are playing, and will continue to play, in the development – whether economic or infrastructural – of emerging markets. From the Beeb,

UK users account for 65% of Wap traffic; and international usage for 35%. Mobile phone providers in many African countries have only recently begun rolling out Wap-enabled handsets.

And the large take up of BBC news via mobiles in Nigeria contrasts starkly with the relatively small number of users accessing the internet via pcs – hampered by slow and unreliable landlines.
[…]
"Wap is the one platform where African countries continue to appear in the top five in our statistics," said BBC developer Gareth Owen.

Africa is the world’s largest-growing mobile phone market with unreliable landlines encouraging the growth. .

According to the article, for some, this is often the only source of news from the world, given a choice between spending a finite sum on either a TV, a radio or the more versatile cellphone.

This made me think about that other ‘bridge’ across the digital divide, the $100 laptop, in the news again, on a ‘crusade’ to connect children. Apparently, India turned down the OLPC offer, but Thailand has just announced their approval and support.

SciDev has a comprehensive analysis of the different solutions developed for this problem, their respective merits and possible future directions.

Another criticism is that the latest initiatives focus too much on low cost instead of the technology’s appropriateness. "Focusing on price alone is a distraction from the essential goal, which should be technologies that meet the actual needs of people in local communities," says Rochdi.

Several initiatives in the past decade introduced computers to schools and public offices with negligible gains in productivity, meaning "you end up paying much more than you saved on the technology," she adds.

She is also concerned about the little attention paid to local languages.

What if… a mobile phone with access to the internet is provided instead to every child?

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This entry was posted in Business, Design, India/China/Asia. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to The changing role of the mobile

  1. I think a mobile phone with access to the Internet would be much more useful and practical than a cheap laptop. Here in Japan, phones with web browsing capabilities have been around for years, and they’re quite handy. That’s why I don’t really need other devices (Blackberry, Pocket PC, etc.). I can take care of a lot of things with my phone.

  2. niti bhan says:

    Yes, indeed. In fact, its very interesting to note what you share, that even in a developed nation like Japan, with all the infrastructure and technology, you find it more convenient to manage with just the cellphone as the essential tool. Thanks!!

  3. Dave Tait says:

    Mobile phone with access to the internet is an interesting topic, considering Bill Gates advocated the idea and countries like Rwanda have a program called Vision 2020, which could be a better alternative to the $100 laptop. http://www.worldchanging.com/archives/004835.html and http://www.rwandagateway.org/article.php3?id_article=106

  4. niti bhan says:

    David, yes, and I believe that Nokia is also looking into this area. In fact, most mobile phone mfrs must, as its too big an opportunity for them to overlook.

  5. wayan says:

    Let’s also be aware of the relative cost of $100, be it for a laptop or a phone: http://www.olpcnews.com/sales_talk/price/how_relative_is_100.html

  6. niti bhan says:

    “Focusing on price alone is a distraction from the essential goal, which should be technologies that meet the actual needs of people in local communities,” says Rochdi.

  7. Hilmir says:

    I just saw Snakes On A Plane and there is a particular scene of interest, that illustrates the changing role of the mobile.
    In the scene, the lead was on the phone with an expert, who needed to know the types of snakes onboard to prepare the right anti-venoms. Slightly panicked, everyone wished collectively they could take pics & email them to the expert, when they realised verbal descriptions just wasn’t detailed enough.
    Then someone started shouting, “Is there a computer onboard? Does anybody have a computer?”, after which a lady whipped out her Treo and said, “Here, use this. It’s a computer and a camera!”

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