1 February 2009

New report: Mobile phones as media platforms in the global south

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The Promise of Ubiquity
African peasants paint their mobile phone number over their front doors. Indian slum dwellers buy SIM cards to use on friends’ handsets. Chinese students spend three months’ allowance on a phone they can use to surf the web. Once almost the exclusive domain of rich countries, the mobile revolution has swept through the developing world. An estimated 3.8 billion people, or half the world’s population, own a mobile, and most of the growth is taking place in the global South. This has deep implications for the media, but the change has been so rapid that it has completely overtaken most media outlets – they are struggling to digest its impact.

The Promise of Ubiquity report was commissioned by Internews Europe in order to help the media to understand the exciting potential, the incredible challenges and the perils of refusing to change. What kind of information services can be carried on the mobile now and in the next five years? Is the mobile viable as an information channel even when many new users may be illiterate? There may be few right answers, but author John West provides a roadmap on how to navigate through the brave new world of mobile telephony. West suggests a checklist of useful questions and of some best practices which have emerged so far.

Through interviews with leaders in the field – software engineers and designers, journalists, and businessmen – the book examines current and future trends, from the dominance of SMS texting to mobile Web, and suggests approaches on how media outlets can negotiate with network operators as well as decide what services to offer.

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