Nov 13 2008

Nokia Research on Mobile Phone Usage at the Bottom of the Pyramid (Part 2)

by at 1:42 pm

In my previous post on Nokia’s research on mobile phone use at the bottom of the pyramid, I talked about the practice of sharing mobile phones and the challenges in designing a user interface for illiterate mobile phone users.

In this post, I’ll talk about the informal service infrastructure that supports mobile phone use at the bottom of the pyramid.

Here, Jan Chipchase documents informal repair cultures in the developing world and asks —

What can we learn from informal repair cultures? Aside from the benefits, what are the risks for consumers and for companies whose products are repaired, refurbished and resold? Given the benefit to (bottom of the pyramid) consumers are there elements of the repair ecosystem that can be exported to other cultures? Can the same skills be applied to other parts of the value chain? And, given the range of resources and skills available what would it take to turn cultures of repair into cultures of innovation?

Here, Jan Chipchase and Duncan Burns explore street hacks for mobile phones (an update of the informal repair culture presentation) —

Here, Stuart Henshall (not from Nokia) shares his experience in buying a ‘China phone’ at Mumbai’s Manish Market.

The cost of a repaired/ refurbished phone in the gray/ black market is often less than a third of the original handset. The informal repair culture is often convenient, efficient, fast and cheap, especially for poor customers who often don’t have warranty. Together, they reduces both the initial cost of acquisition and the total cost of ownership and increase the lifetime of products, making them accessible to bottom of the pyramid customers. Not only that, these vendors often offer value add services like unlocking phones, installing pirated software, and uploading songs, extending the use cases of these low cost phones.

Here, Jan Chipchase and Indri Tulusan talk about street battery charging services in Uganda that enable residents without regular access to mains power to keep their mobile phone’s charged. It’s another example of how electricity is the bottleneck for mobile use in emerging Asia and Africa.

Finally, Jan Chipchase, Indri Tulusan and Lokesh Bitra deep dive into the practice of community address books maintained by phone kiosk owner to record the phone numbers used by their customers, a study that links back to their research on shared phone use.

In another post, I’ll talk about how all this fits into Homegrown (slides), Nokia’s umbrella project that includes Nokia Remade (phones made from recycled material), Zero Waste, People First, Everyone Connected, and, perhaps, even the Five Dollar Comparison (slides).

In yet another post, I’ll write about the importance of Nokia Life Tools, Nokia’s collaboration with Reuters Market Light and Idea Cellular to bring critical information to rural phone users in India (see Ken Banks, Ashish Sinha and Kiruba Shankar).

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

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: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,