The majority of the now 2.5+ billion mobile subscribers are located in developing countries. This is a stunning new kind of event for our planet: the dominance of leading edge technology is emerging from marginalized places. That has not happened before, particularly on the enormous scale of the mobiles.
The more advanced mobile phone features of email and web browsing will bring the digital, Internet commons to areas where such access had been limited to precious few wired computers. The fact that in undeveloped areas mobile phones leapfrog over the stringing of wires for telephone landlines is well recognized. But there is a bigger frog getting ready to jump. Once the mobile phones are operational in an area, the eventual arrival there of more featured phones will leapfrog the need for installation of stationary computers. This time the leap will be completely over the digital divide.
Two projects that have caught this vision are worth your time. One is the EPROM work toward representing the new majority in planning mobile phone future development, as I posted about earlier this week. The second is the W3C Workshop on the Mobile Web in Developing Countries to be held in Bangalore, India December 5/6, 2006.
Drop by MobileCrunch here for the splendid round-up by Oliver Starr of the week’s best writing from the emerging mobile phone world.
There are now more mobile phones in use in the developing world than in the more advanced countries. The EPROM program based at MIT and Nairobi University facilitates mobile development to platform the many new and original mobile uses spawned in Africa. This is the program’s overview:
“EPROM, part of the Program for Developmental Entrepreneurship within the MIT Design Laboratory, aims to foster mobile phone-related research and entrepreneurship. Key activities include:
- the development of new applications for mobile phone users worldwide
- academic research using mobile phones
- the creation of a widely applicable mobile phone programming curriculum
Today’s mobile phones are designed to meet Western needs. Subscribers in developing countries, however, now represent the majority of mobile phone users worldwide. We believe the adoption of new technologies and services within this vast, emerging market will drive innovation and help shape the future of the mobile phone.”
Yesterday was my 70th birthday. Ajit Joakar was kind enough to write the post here about the occasion. For the past four days I have been with my siblings on a holiday that included the celebration of two of our birthdays. But in terms of what is significant on the large scale both for me and for the times in which we live is the day after my birthday: September 11.
The terrorists attacked New York City, where I live, the day after my 65th birthday. At the time the planes struck I was in my apartment on East 85th Street, about seven miles from the burning towers. By noon, walkers from downtown Manhattan were streaming up Second Avenue at the corner of the block on which I live. Nine firemen from the 85th Street firehouse less than two blocks west of my building never returned after the guys from the station piled on the engines and sped downtown to help. Within a couple of days pictures of missing neighbors appeared taped to light poles: “Have you seen . . . ?” It was awful.
I think history will show that because it was so awful, 9/11 has begun the end of that kind of awful. I think that is true because of new media. The horrific awful of terrorism toward innocents will collapse into itself in a black whole within the golden swamp. The underlying purpose of this blog is to explain why awful will end and to speed that day.
What am I talking about? During the same five years that the world has absorbed the impact of 9/11, the ubiquitous virtual connectivity of digital media has made six degrees of separation a dynamically functional reality. I do not think terrorism can survive everyone in the world learning from the same page, sharing that experience in the commons, and creatively mixing and mashing their cultures. Most fundamental to this adventure is that the networks are the liberation of the individual: while endless patterns of individual human nodes can arise, the individual human node remains the basic unit of participation in the networks.
The terrorism we have faced so far is a product of a world that had no such connectivity.
Two events that received some news coverage last week give us a look at how behind the times revisionist writing for youngsters will soon be. As described here, in Turkey, some classic Western stories have been published in which the characters have become Moslems. Tom Sawyer and Pinocchio, among others, are doing and saying proper Islamic stuff in the stories. This same week, there is a dust-up among historians in China about the removal of Mao from most of the material in new textbooks, as discussed here.
With nearly 3 billion mobile phones already in the hands of the Earth’s residents—and a dominate percentage of those in the hands of younger people—the day is almost here when materials students are given at school can be independently verified by kids with a few thumb clicks.
If one wants to check what Mark Twain wrote to find out if Tom Sawyer was a Moslem, billions will soon be able to do what I did this morning on my Sidekick 3. I googled “tom sawyer,” clicked on the first link on the list that popped up on my screen, found myself in the etext at the University of Virginia, and with two more clicks I was reading the original. The trajectories of revisionism and openness in cyberspace are colliding and invalid revisionism is being vaporized by ever fuller access. That is a beautiful thing.