Before I continue with this post, I want to remind folks of the situation that was initially laid out in my initial post for COM6630. In short – Old media vs. new media, traditional communication tools vs. emerging technology, and lengthy period of time for information dissemination and consumption vs. immediate dissemination and consumption.
Access to mobile devices continues to grow throughout the global landscape – even in developing and emerging markets. A number of reasons are contributing to this growth, specifically in the developing world. Principally, cellular and wireless network infrastructure is easier (relative term in the developing world) than deploying extensive land-line or wired service throughout countries that may lack sufficient road or rail access to aid in construction of expensive and time consuming infrastructure projects. Wireless or cellular network deployment, however, offers faster deployment rates in the developing world when compared to wired / land-land development. Construction costs are lower and initial device purchase costs tend to be significant cheaper. Instead of digging up hundreds, if not thousands, of miles of earth, running the necessary phone cabling, or fiber optic cable, companies can now raise a cell tower in remote areas connect it to a source of power, and BINGO – wireless access is now available. The damage to the local environment is lower than the destruction caused by deploying land-line and wired service. Even in North America and Europe, purchasing a mobile phone with unlimited voice/messaging/data service is more affordable than purchasing a home phone device and monthly service with long-distance calling.
This expansive growth in mobile device deployment and growth of wireless/cellular service in developing and emerging markets has allowed for high levels of penetration rates in these same markets.
Amazingly, individuals are able to connect remotely with others throughout their country and even on the global stage. One-on-one engagement through any number of newly accessible social media environments is aiding in the growth of small businesses, female-owned businesses, and cross-border dialogue that otherwise may not have been available, much less been accessible, without the expansive development of mobile devices and cellular/wireless network structures. This small advancement may sound simple and basic to those in the developed world, but this advancement is a liberating and enjoyable experience for those in the developing world considering that it can serve as a catalyst to raise families out of poverty. These simple devices help accomplish the most basic tasks of engaging in local and global trade for those previously having zero access to marketplaces.
The expansion of mobile devices and their social use is not only limited to the growth of independent/small businesses, but also serve as a tool to build awareness of social crises. One example of such social crisis is the Arab Spring movement. How would the world viewed Arab Spring events if individual citizen’s failed to share images, videos, or developed underground media systems that utilized Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube? Here again is a liberating opportunity – the opportunity to share with the world the challenges that a community is facing – be it high levels of violence and loss of civilian lives, the uprising against an authoritarian government, the development and spread of community driven public policy changes, or even the simple expression of fear and a call to help from those who are paying attention.
Contrast the utilization rates of social media and mobile devices in spreading reports from individual citizens before, during, and after events associated with Arab Spring with the large-scale genocide in Darfur, Sudan. The information presented during the crisis in Sudan in the early 2000s was largely presented by commercial media and Sudanese ran media organizations. There was very limited presentation from individuals living and fearing for their life through the social media tools of the day (Facebook principally, but even MySpace) due to a lack of stable mobile application platforms and mobile device accessibility/availability for those living the crisis. The power of social media and the immediate transmission of information has served to protect citizens during crises and hold government leaders accountable for the actions of themselves and those working under their administrations.
By this point any individual can see the growing utilization of mobile devices in the developing and emerging markets as an apparatus that strengthens regional and even global marketplaces, minimize loss of life during regional crises, or to hold government leaders accountable.
Now, let us take a moment and recognize a growing trend in the developed world: multiple compact devices, phone and tablets.
Featured are three individuals who utilize multiple devices, specifically smartphones, to provide a clear line of distinction between personal and work. All three of the folks featured use a separate device for work email, phone calls, texts, social media than they do their personal social media accounts or texts, phone calls, or e-mails.
While a majority of end-users in the developing world are using mobile devices for low-bandwidth, SMS-based communications to connect with individuals and groups elsewhere, to build relationships, or to highlight public atrocities, in the developed world individuals are using multiple devices to provide a clear line of separation between personal and work-related elements. In the developed world, cellphones are a staple of daily life. From the moment an individual wakes up to the time he falls asleep, his mobile phone – smart phone in most cases – is the lifeline that connects him to the rest of society. Even in the privacy of his own domicile, the smartphone provides the connection to immediately accessible news, immediately accessible information regarding meetings for work, immediately accessible content about projects, immediately accessible resources from social media that may help or slow down productivity, immediately available cues to trends within his industry of interest.
While the emphasis of this blog has been placed on the growth of mobile devices and the power of even 2G mobile devices in the developing world, you should be able to see how the purpose of the devices differs between the developed and developing world. Penetration rates continue to increase as devices become cheaper and technological advances aid in signal reception across the globe. Ultimately, the end user will determine how best to utilize the available technology resources. If that means forgoing the use of a desktop computer for a lighter tablet device to sell their goods, then that is what will occur. Individuals, not multi-national conglomerates, will decide how best to utilize the devices which they have access to. Through the lens of social media exploitation, individuals are becoming more comfortable sharing information through various tools. This can help in sharing current events and political situations that mainstream, or big name, media outlets would not be able to cover due to a lack of available resources – one example is CNN’s utilization of iReporters.
Ultimately, social media and the desire to connect with others will, and is, developing a population of global citizens that are eager to see the world and share their world. The lens cap has been removed and the photos available for viewing are from all corners of the world. There are cries for help and there are cries for attention, but ultimately it is the individual poster and viewer that will provide credibility to those sharing content via mobile devices and social media.