Thursday, 29 March 2007

Three regions theory of phone use ...

Interesting article on theory that there are three distinct regions in the world each with their own pattern of mobile phone use:

  • North America, internet comes before phone
  • Europe (plus Australia/New Zealand), internet and phone arrive at about the same time
  • Asia, Africa, Latin America, mobile arrives before internet

and as a consequence, North America expects to do everything over the web, Europe does a lot of web based things but the idea of text/sms and so on is more prevalent (or why Europeans text rather than use IM), and the rest, where the phone has become the communcation tool.

And you see it on the streets. Morocco, the Atlas mountains, wires don't reach, but mobiles do. Same for remoter areas of Laos, the phone is how people communicate.

Now some marketing people will get all frothy about this but I don't see hill tribes people outside of Luang Prabang downloading MP3 files just yet, but as in Kenya and a few other things I see them using it to do cash transfers, buy seed online, book to see a doctor next time they come into town and so on ie the phone becomes a communication for real services that are used by real people, but, and there's always a but, services need to be designed with an understanding of these needs - for example take our Lao hill tribesperson - if they are literate, and a lot are, they'll be able to read Lao and a bit of Thai, languages which are not written in a latin script, so just as in Ethiopia, services which rely on textual input need to be modified to use a script they understand and can input. Simply repurposing services provided in the west will only really benefit the urban middle classes, most of who can read and write English ...

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