Archive for mobile social software
conference paper: exploring first-time internet use via mobiles in a South African women’s collective
Shikoh Gitau, Gary Marsden and I have submitted a paper on first-time mobile internet use to the upcoming (3rd) conference of the International Development Informatics Association, to be held at Berg-en-Dal in Kruger National Park here in South Africa on 28-30 October 2009. The paper is in many ways a continuation of Shikoh’s previous fieldwork with mobile-centric internet users. Indeed, we called this study ‘phase II’. But here, we focus specifically on two questions: what happens when the first and only means of accessing the internet is via one’s mobile? What are the implications for M4D and ICTD?
The conference is at the end of October. So, this is only a pre-publication version and further edits are likely. But we’d welcome any comments or suggestions. Abstract below:
This study reports results of an ethnographic action research study, exploring mobile-centric internet use. Over the course of 13 weeks, eight women, each a member of a livelihoods collective in urban Cape Town, South Africa, received training to make use of the data (internet) features on the phones they already owned. None of the women had previous exposure to PCs or the internet. Activities focused on social networking, entertainment, information search, and, in particular, job searches. Results of the exercise reveal both the promise of, and barriers to, mobile internet use by a potentially large community of first-time, mobile-centric users. Discussion focuses on the importance of self-expression and identity management in the refinement of online and offline presences, and considers these forces relative to issues of gender and socioeconomic status.
Gitau, S., Donner, J. and G. Marsden. (2009, 28-30 October). “i-Internet? Intle” (beautiful): Exploring first time internet use via mobile phones in a South African women’s collective. Paper to be presented at the 3rd Conference of the International Development Informatics Association, Kruger National Park, South Africa.
Yesterday Microsoft announced the launch of OneApp. It was developed by Microsoft’s Unlimited Potential Group. UPG has been doing some great work on Shared PCs, digital literacy, and computers in education. This is one of UPG’s first big efforts in the mobile space.
Microsoft OneApp is a new software application that enables feature phones—commonly found in emerging markets—to access mobile apps like Facebook, Twitter, Windows Live Messenger, and other popular apps and games. Now, people around the world who own feature phones will be able to do more and enjoy a better mobile experience with their existing phones. Microsoft OneApp will be offered initially through partners in emerging markets worldwide.
If you have seen or read any of my research in the past (particularly this newer stuff on mobile-centric internet use), you’ll quickly see why I am excited about OneApp.
Smartphones are fantastic but remain out of reach of most people in the world. Feature phones, on the other hand, are more broadly accessible. OneApp is small (150KB download), and runs on many of the world’s most popular handsets. It makes it much easier and cheaper, due to lower bandwidth requirements, for partners to offer and individuals to access the kinds of applications and web functionality that a lot of people with PCs take for granted. Furthermore, because it is flexible, I think we’ll see developers building locally-relevant applications, with the confidence that they can be used on the phones that so many people already have.
Drug counselling via MXit, a popular mobile chat program in South Africa.
From a longer article outlining Marlon Parker’s project, on mybroadband.co.za
MXIT, the cellphone instant messaging service best known for chatting teenagers, is now being used to help drug users on the Cape Flats kick their habit.
In the service, based in Bridgetown in Athlone, former drug users who counsel tik addicts use the messaging service as a primary method of support.
The article suggests that they are now counselling 6500 members of the community. I saw Marlon present an overview of this fascinating project at a recent UCT workshop on Researching Mobile Media in South Africa. Marlon’s blog is here.