Nov 13 2008

Nokia Research on Mobile Phone Usage at the Bottom of the Pyramid (Part 1)

by at 1:40 pm

In my last post, I wrote about the Nokia Open Studio design competition in slums in Mumbai, Rio De Janeiro and Accra.

Over the weekend, I have been going through research conducted by Nokia’s Jan Chipchase, Younghee Jung, Raphael Grignani and others and here’s a selection of their most interesting research on mobile phone usage at the bottom of the pyramid (more research to follow in another post).

Jan Chipchase on mobile phone usage amongst illiterate users at LIFT 2007 conference

Jan Chipchase and Indru Tulusan on shared mobile phone usage

– 3.3 billion people out of 6.5 billion people in the world have mobile phones. Another 1 billion people will have mobile phones within two years. Most of them will be from emerging Asia and Africa and will have limited literacy. In fact, out of the 774 million illiterate adults in the world, 270 million are in India (UNESCO Institute for Statistics)!

– Three types of literacies are relevant for mobile phone usage — textual literacy, numerical or arithmetic literacy and ‘proximate literacy’, the ability to rely on others who are either literate or at least sufficiently competent in using the device.

– Illiterate users rely on a variety of cues to navigate the world of text and numbers, including inferring meaning from shape, size, texture and scent and delegating tasks to others.

– Textually non-literate users can complete tasks requiring a degree of textual literacy, but these tasks typically take considerably longer to complete. Therefore, they tend to rely on rote learning and revert to the same default choices repeatedly.

– Non-literate mobile phone users typically know how to turn on the phone, receive calls and make local calls, but often struggle with features that require text editing, such as making long distance calls (by using prefixes), creating a contact, saving a text message, and creating a text message.

– Information relayed to non-literate users as part of a phone call is often partially conveyed or remembered because of their inability to write it down. Most users rely on paper based address books maintained by literate family members or acquaintances. Often, when phone calls are made using public phones, the operator maintains the phone book and even dials the number for the non-literate user.

– A non-literate user’s willingness to explore features on a mobile phone through trial and error is often limited because of the high perceived risk of factors such as: changing settings so that things no longer work; past experiences of things going wrong; deleting data that cannot be recovered; becoming lost and not being able to retrace steps; or physically breaking the phone.

– The challenge in designing mobile interfaces for illiterate users is to add context to the text. An icon-driven, voice-enabled or physical-digital hybrid interface may be part of the solution but its design is a non-trivial problem and its use may often be non-intuitive.

– Bringing personal, convenient, synchronous and asynchronous communication within the reach of textually non-literate users will require design innovations at three levels: on the phone; in the communications eco-system; and on the carrier network.

– For many new mobile phone users, the first mobile experience is either on a shared or a public phone. Sharing compromises the personal, convenient and synchronous nature of mobile communication and is driven by cost of ownership, not by preference. Therefore, sharing is a transition state that would eventually lead to full ownership. However, other factors like portable device identity — where a person can access all their personal ‘stuff’ regardless of whose device they are using — may increase shared use over time.

– Shared mobile use practices include — Sente human ATMs, mediated communication, missed calls, shared pre-paid airtime, community address books, and step messaging (delivering a messages via shared mobile phone or kiosk where the message is delivered the last mile on foot).

– Sente is the informal practices of sending and receiving money through public phone kiosks. The sender buys a pre-paid top up card, calls up a phone kiosk operator near the receiver, who uses the credit to top up his own phone and passes the money to the receiver after taking a 10%-30% commission. This is the precursor to formal mobile banking services offered by mobile phone operators.

– Often, feature-rich premium devices are used by very poor users. Such sideways adoption may be driven by the perception of mobile phones as status symbols and the availability of used and remodeled mobile phones. However, phone ownership is not the same as use. If there are cheaper ways to communicate these will be used.

– In an increasingly transitory world, the cellphone is becoming the one fixed piece of our identity, especially for the poorest members of society. Having a call-back number is having a fixed identity point, which, inside of populations that are constantly on the move — displaced by war, floods, drought or faltering economies — can be immensely valuable both as a means of keeping in touch with home communities and as a business tool. The phone-number-as-identity effect is likely to increase as mobile phones become established at providing banking and other core services.

No responses yet | Categories: 2008-09 Fellows,Brazil,Gaurav Mishra,India,Mobile | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Oct 30 2008

World Map of Flickr Privacy Settings

by at 2:14 am

World Map of Flickr Privacy Settings

TechCrunch and ReadWriteWeb have written about a slide shared by Yahoo!’s Principal Research Scientist Elizabeth Churchill on geographical locations where Flickr users are more likely to post their photos with privacy settings (red) or use the default public setting (green). The sample set was 1 million Flickr users who self-reported their locations, in 2005.

Neither Michael Arrington nor Marshall Kirkpatrick share any details of the methodology behind the map, but a quick Google search led me to the presentation from which this slide seems to be taken: ‘Sharing Preferences and Privacy Cultures‘. The presentation itself is based on a paper by Elizabeth Churchill and Shyong K. Lam titled ‘The Social Web: Global Village or Private Cliques?’ The paper is behind a firewall but the presentation gives some more data about the research —

– More than 90% of users younger than 25 post their photos as public. In the 25 to 40 age group, public photo sharing behavior drops, almost in s straight line, to 80% and goes as low as 70% for users in their late 50s and early 60s.

– Public photo sharing behavior follows a S curve when mapped against the number of contacts: it first decreases between 0 to 10 contacts, then increases with the number of contacts to go beyond 90% for more than 30 odd contacts.

– In the world map itself, there are at least five gradations from green to red. It seems that pure red means that about 70% of the users share their photos publicly whereas green means that about 90% of the users share their photos publicly. Since no information is available for the methodology behind the world map, I can only conclude that users in America, Brazil and Russia have a higher tendency to share their photos publicly than users in India, China or Europe.

The conclusion that Indians are more concerned about online privacy than Brazilians and Americans further complicates my research on attitudes towards online privacy in BRIC countries. Another research by Synovate showed that Brazilians and Americans are more concerned about online privacy than Indians, whereas my own understanding is that both Brazilians and Indians are much less concerned about online privacy than Americans.

No responses yet | Categories: 2008-09 Fellows,Brazil,BRIC,China,Gaurav Mishra,India,Privacy,Russia,Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Oct 26 2008

Universal McCann: Social Networking for Making New Friends, Blogging for Socializing with Friends

by at 2:31 pm

In my earlier post on the recently published Universal McCann study, I had written about how we use different communication channels to stay in touch with our contacts.

Perhaps the most important insight in the Universal McCaan study is that we use the internet for expanding our network of contacts but use the mobile phone to maintain our current network.

Here’s another interesting insight from the Universal McCann report: we use social networks for making new friends and personal blogs for socializing with friends —

Universal McCann Social Media Study

In the previous post, we found that Brazilians and the Indians are amongst the most social online whereas the Americans are amongst the least social. The same trend can be seen here.

While differences in culture partly explain this significant difference in online social behavior, self-selection is also part of the explanation. Given the low penetration of the internet in Brazil and India, social media usage in these countries suffers from a serious early adopter bias.

But, let’s return to the idea that we use social networks for making new friends and personal blogs for socializing with friends. The idea presumes that our social network profile is more public than our personal blog, and I think that it’s indeed the case for most of us. I’m sure that many active social network users who have hundreds of friends on Facebook or Orkut have personal blogs that are rarely updated and read only by a few close friends and family members.

However, many of us have built substantial readerships for our blogs and use them as much for broadcasting as for socializing. For us, the opposite is likely to hold true. We meet new readers through the blog, interact with them via the comment section, e-mail or internet messenger, become friends with them, and then add them as a friend on Facebook or Orkut. I think that Twitter and FriendFeed are more similar to blogs than social networks on the broadcasting/ socializing continuum, in the sense that they are also hybrids, used both for broadcasting and socializing.

What’s the directionality for you? Do you make new social network friends via your blog or do your social network friends become readers for your blog? Do share your experiences in the comments section.

One response so far | Categories: 2008-09 Fellows,Brazil,BRIC,China,Gaurav Mishra,India,Russia,Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Oct 23 2008

Universal McCann Study: Indians Have the Highest Number of Personal Contact Points Across Communication Channels

by at 9:47 pm

BRIC Social Circles

I had earlier used data from the Wave 3 of the Power of the People Social Media Tracker by Universal McCann to do a comparative analysis of social media usage in BRIC countries.

Now Universal McCann has published some more findings from the same study in another report titled When did we start trusting strangers? How the internet turned us all into influencers. The report is a treasure trove of interesting findings on how digital media is changing how we look at relationships and influence and I’m sure that I’ll return to it often in subsequent posts.

However, in this post, I want to focus on Universal Mccann’s findings on how we stay in touch with our personal contacts —

The evolution of the web as a social platform and primary communication channel has had a dramatic impact on the scale and nature of our friendship networks. Figure 8 shows the global average number of friends and personal acquaintances we maintain via different forms of communication including face to face, digital and letters.

The amazing truth is that the web has massively expanded the size of our social platforms and virtualised a large proportion of our daily contact. Today, although we still maintain an average of 35 friendships face to face, it is rapidly being equalled by email with an average of 32, social networks with 30 and Instant Messenger with 29.

Interestingly these all rank above SMS or phone calls, which shows that PC based internet is for expanding networks, while mobile is for maintaining current ones.

The nature of friendship is changing from voice to text and written word. This is a significant change in the ability to influence and share opinions as it’s much easier to do in text – communication is more frequent and can include additional information like links, videos and photos.

It’s important that we keep four clarifications in mind as we think about these numbers —

– These are the average number of people the respondents stay in touch with regularly in their personal life through each communication channel. These are not the number of people in their phone- or computer-based contact list, which is likely to be much higher.

– There is likely to be a large overlap between the number of people the respondents stays in touch with using different communications channel. So, the sum of these numbers is the number of total contact points and not the number of contacts itself.

– “Staying in touch” can mean different things in different cultures and these numbers do not capture the frequency of use of these communication channels.

– These numbers are based on responses from active internet users in the 16-54 age group, who aren’t representative of the overall population, especially in the BRIC countries who have very low internet penetrations.

While the worldwide figures are interesting in themselves, the country-wise comparisons are even more illuminating.

At the overall level, the Indians are the most social with 292 contact points, followed by the Brazilians at 260 contact points and the Chinese at 234 contact points. The world average is 194 contact points while Americans are rather asocial at 110 contact points.

Face-to-face, the Indians (42 contacts) and the Brazilians (38 contacts) are very social, the Chinese not so (28 contacts) and the Americans even less so (20 contacts).

On social networks, the Brazilians (52 contacts) and the Indians (43 contacts) are also hyper-social, which probably connects with the Brazilian/ Indian obsession with the rather open social network Orkut. The Americans, who are more mindful of online privacy, prefer the more controlled environment of Facebook and stay in touch with only 17 contacts.

Both the Indians (with 36 contacts) and the Chinese (with 32 contacts) like to stay in touch with SMS, while both the Brazilians and the Chinese (with 49 contacts each) extensively use instant messengers to stay in touch with friends.

The Indians, in fact, are truly channel agnostic and heavily use the phone (45 contacts) and letters (24 contacts) to stay in touch with personal contacts.

Finally, the Chinese have truly embraced personal blogs and use it to stay in touch with as many as 26 contacts, almost the same as the 28 face-to-face contacts.

I have always thought of myself as a introvert, but I regularly (that is, at least once a month) stay in touch with a surprisingly large number of friends — 50+ face to face, 50+ by e-mail, at least 100+ by social networks, less than 5 by instant messenger, 20+ by phone, 20+ by test message, 20+ by personal blog and none by letters, totaling to at least 250-300 contact points.

What about you? What is your preferred communication channel? What is the number of your contact points?

No responses yet | Categories: 2008-09 Fellows,Brazil,BRIC,China,Culture,Gaurav Mishra,India,Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Oct 12 2008

Why is Spam So High in Russia?

by at 3:44 am

Spam in BRIC Countries

Over the last week, reposts of a rather misleading Trend Micro press release on on spam in BRIC countries1 kept showing up in my Google Alert feed for “BRIC + Internet”. The press release and most of the news articles quoting it verbatim focus on the high incidence of spam in BRIC countries. However, even some cursory math showed me that the incidence of spam in BRIC countries is not unusual: BRIC countries account for 28.5% of the world’s internet users and 27.1% of the world’s spam (according to Trend Micro). In fact, two other reports from Sophos2 and Secure Computing3 peg the contribution of BRIC countries to worldwide spam at 19.7% and 18.5% respectively. Continue Reading »

No responses yet | Categories: 2008-09 Fellows,Brazil,BRIC,China,Gaurav Mishra,India,Russia | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Oct 07 2008

Social Technologies and National Contexts

by at 6:20 pm

When you are doing an interdisciplinary study of social technologies across four countries, it is important to focus on the connections between otherwise unrelated factors, and it is useful to develop a framework to look for these connections.

Here’s the framework we have been using for our research on social media in BRIC countries —

The Connection Between Social Technologies and National Contexts

The outer circle is the national context, which comprises of the five interconnected Cs of computing devices, connectivity, culture, content and capabilities. The inner circle is the social media ecosystem itself. Our research, which looks at the connections between the two, has three layers —

Layer 1: The role of the national context in social media adoption
Layer 2: The dynamics of the social media ecosystem
Layer 3: The role of social media in changing the social context

Finally, the national contexts we are looking at are the four BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) and United States (as a reference point). Continue Reading »

One response so far | Categories: 2008-09 Fellows,Announcements,Gaurav Mishra,Theory | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Oct 04 2008

Breakout Years in Adoption of Communications Technologies in BRIC Countries

by at 11:53 pm

Here’s a brilliant TED presentation by Hans Rosling on how to look differently at development indicators across countries and continents, using Gapminder‘s trend visualization tool Trendalyzer —

I spent an hour playing around with Gapmindmer and discovered some interesting trends related to the diffusion of communications technologies in BRIC countries.

In all these charts comparing Brazil, Russia, India, China and United States, the X axis represents the income per person (in fixed PPP$) on a logarithmic scale while the Y axis changes. By pressing the ‘play’ button, you can see how the variable changes for these five countries over years. Continue Reading »

3 responses so far | Categories: 2008-09 Fellows,Access,Brazil,BRIC,China,Gaurav Mishra,India,Mobile,Russia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sep 10 2008

Civic and Consumer Culture – Will technology in the BRICs set a new standard?

by at 1:04 pm

This summer, I had the opportunity to travel to India – I was returning after 3.5 years, and while the primary purpose of my trip was to study the US – India bilateral relationship, I couldn’t help but notice the transformation that had taken place in such a short period of time. It’s often easy to get lost in numbers – in policy circles in Washington DC especially, analysts are always citing 8% this, and 12% that. I am certainly not exempt from this practice. You can ask my classmates – I think I casually mention India and China’s break neck growth rates in many class discussions to argue for increased attention to be paid to Asia, instead of solely focusing on the Middle East. But that’s another debate for another time.

The 9% average GDP growth per annum actually has a face – in New Delhi, I saw it most clearly in the form of cellular phones, blackberries, digital television, and internet cafes. From the rickshaw driver with a Nokia N82 who charged me 20 rupees for a ride of 5 km (at the time, equivalent to $.40), to the chief physician at Ludhiana’s first IVT Clinic, who sometimes met with and diagnosed patients, and prescribed medications over his Nokia N96, the mobile revolution that Gaurav written about, is rapidly underway in India. I think I would be remiss if I didn’t mention at least once the pronounced influence Bollywood has on the mobile industry; I don’t think I made it a block without hearing the latest ballads of Lata Mangeshkar, or the compositions of A.R. Rahman used as ring tones. (And yes, the ring tones are equally as obnoxious in public settings in India as they are here in the states.)

Continue Reading »

No responses yet | Categories: 2008-09 Fellows | Tags: , , , , ,

Sep 05 2008

Will We Ever See the Emergence of a Diverse, Culturally Differentiated Social Web?

by at 4:31 pm

At the Intercultural Communications & Technology blog, where I cross-posted my analysis of social media usage in BRIC countries using Geert Hofstede Cultural Dimensions1, Margarita Rayzberg and Matthew Marco have joined the conversation with some astute observations on whether a diverse, culturally differentiated social web is possible.

I love astute comments, even when I don’t agree with them, perhaps especially when I don’t agree with them. Continue Reading »

One response so far | Categories: 2008-09 Fellows,BRIC,China,Culture,Gaurav Mishra,India,Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sep 05 2008

Growth in Penetration of Social Media Usage in BRIC Countries

by at 10:31 am

This post is in response to Ben’s comment on my earlier post on social media usage in BRIC countries

Something happened in 2008 specifically that led to a large increase in worldwide participation. What was it? Look at the percentages of increase from 2007 to 2008 compared to 2006 and before. Was it a maturation of blogging software?

I think different social media usage behaviors are at different maturation levels in different countries. Continue Reading »

No responses yet | Categories: 2008-09 Fellows,BRIC,Gaurav Mishra,Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

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