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

Sep 02 2008

A Comparative Analysis of Social Media Usage in BRIC Countries

by at 5:29 pm

In this post, I have used data from Wave 3 of the Power of the People Social Media Tracker by Universal McCann (PDF/ Slideshare) 1 to do a comparative analysis of social media usage in BRIC countries (see original spreadsheets and charts).

At the top level, the total number of active internet users 2 in BRIC countries (101.2m) is higher than the number of active internet users in US (100m), even though internet penetration is a low 5.28%.

Even more surprisingly, significantly more users from BRIC countries than US engage with social media tools, both in terms of content consumption (watching online video 90.1m vs 74.2m, reading blogs 88.1m vs 60.3m, downloading podcasts 70.2m vs 29.5m, subscribing to RSS feeds 54.4m vs 18.6m) and content creation (creating blogs 60.2m vs 26.4m, creating social network profiles 68.3m vs 43.0m, uploading photos 71.2m vs 47.1m, uploading videos 57.3m vs 25.3m). Continue Reading »

5 responses so far | Categories: 2008-09 Fellows,BRIC,Gaurav Mishra,Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,