courage can't see around corners but goes around them anyway. ~Mignon McLaughlin

5 billion mobile phone users want more than you think

Anjali and my phone in Tripuradevi, 2010

image source: Victoria Kirk

camera phone in rural Kumaon 2010

2010 saw an unprecedented rise in mobile phone usage. ITU estimated that the world would see 5 billion mobile phone subscriptions by the year’s end. Concurrently, I spend the first half of the year, and the previous two years before, mining for stats to articulate the mobile opportunity in developing countries for product and service development and, dare I say, branded services. As we know, reliable statistics on the state of mobile ownership and usage in the developing world are notoriously scant for several reasons. The person who buys the subscription is not necessarily the one who uses it. But as I sit here compiling some fieldwork from last year, I came upon this nice round up of the quest for answers published by ITCs for Development.

What really matters is how people use the phone and the role the mobile plays in the community. Whatever is communicated or disseminated via that phone touches the community that uses it, not the individual owner. Does that mean that the most personal channel is, in developing countries, becoming a broadcast channel for information dissemination? Does that mean interrupting your phone usage with commercial messages the way TV commercials interrupt programming is ok? No.

It still remains a personal intimate communication space, simply by virtue of its size. Anything in your pocket is more personal than something on your desk.

That people share phones and phones replace landlines is not news anymore. That people need phones to communicate, stay connected, and ensure the safety and survival of their loved ones, we know. What I wonder is what is the future of communicating with systems and other objects through mobile?

Still thinking aloud here.


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