I had the opportunity attend the discussion by Tim Berners-Lee and Gordon Brown in Geneva, speak on the “future of the web“, a public lecture hosted by the Université de Genève, April 06, 2011. The two discussants didn’t have anything new to share; they were talking the same language of tapping in to the untapped through mobile phones; nothing new to LIRNEasia (see our Teleuse at the Bottom of the Pyramid studies). The WWW Foundation has realized the reach of the mobile phone to deliver the web to those 80% that have not yet been exposed. What we were more eager to hear was the defense on the claim that the “web is dead, long live the internet“. In defense – “No the web isn’t dead” with the success story pointing to the Wikipedia.
An assumption underlying our work is that ICTs are good, at least that the choice being available is good. We are therefore not inclined to side with Nicholas Carr in the Internet versus debate. But we like evidence and think the debate is a worthwhile one to have. A favorite columnist weighs in: Recently, Internet mavens got some bad news. Jacob Vigdor and Helen Ladd of Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy examined computer use among a half-million 5th through 8th graders in North Carolina.
Telecommunication Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka loves SMS. In the pre-election period it requested operators to accommodate a ‘New Year Greeting’ from the President, who apparently was a candidate. Now it warns the users about a false spam SMS. If you have received it don’t worry. Calls from those numbers do not harm your brain or kill you, assures Director General of the Telecom Regulatory Commission (TRC) Anusha Pelpita.
How best to name the key theme for the next research cycle? We discussed this at length three years back. Rohan’s original idea was ‘Mobile Multiple Play’. We would have agreed, if not for the reason it already meant something else. Then came ‘Mobile++’.
“Press control has really moved to the center of the agenda,” said David Bandurski, an analyst at the China Media Project of the University of Hong Kong. “The Internet is the decisive factor there. It’s the medium that is changing the game in press control, and the party leaders know this.” Today, China censors everything from the traditional print press to domestic and foreign Internet sites; from cellphone text messages to social networking services; from online chat rooms to blogs, films and e-mail. It even censors online games.
We think a lot about network effects: the positive externalities caused by greater connectivity. A telephone network with 100 subscribers offers 99 calling opportunities whereas one with 10 subscribers offers only 9. That is why regulators had to fight so hard to ensure seamless interconnection that would give the subscribers on each network 109 calling opportunities and compel the operators to compete on some other aspect of service. Here below is a discussion of network effects in Face Book, that is among other things, causing us to place advertisements on it. For an individual member, the most powerful network effects may be indirect ones that come from the huge number of unknown other people in the Facebook world.
We now have evidence to support the claim that those at the “Bottom of the Pyramid” (and therefore, the majority of people in the developing world) are likely to enter the world of knowledge and convenience promised by the Internet through the path opened by the rapidly increasing capabilities of mobile networks and user devices. Mobile 2.0 describes the use of mobiles for “more‐than‐voice”. Mobiles are increasingly becoming payment devices which can also send/process/receive voice, text and images; it is envisaged that in the next few years, they will also be fully capable of information‐retrieval and publishing functions, normally associated with the Internet. Mobile 2.
An Italian judge has held three Google executives responsible for the content of a site picked up and made accessible through Google. This is a threat to us all. 20 hrs of video are uploaded on to Google every hour, so if this ruling stands, Google will have to employ increasingly large numbers of people to monitor web content. Or screen out most web content. Most bloggers have the same problem.
Google has announced that it will be rolling out superfast broadband as demonstration projects. “Google, indeed, appears to be playing a chess game,” said David B. Yoffie, a professor at the Harvard Business School. “If they can create an even mildly credible commitment to offer superfast broadband to the home, it could strike fear in the hearts of cable and telcos, stimulating an arms race of investment — just as they did in the auction for spectrum a few years ago.” In a post on its corporate blog, Google said it planned to build and test a high-speed fiber optic broadband network capable of allowing people to surf the Web at a gigabit a second, or about 100 times the speed of many broadband connections.
The censors among us (they do not live only in China) need to pay attention to the consequences of their actions and how it can alienate the next generation. “How am I going to live without Google?” asked Wang Yuanyuan, a 29-year-old businessman, as he left a convenience store in Beijing’s business district. China’s Communist leaders have long tried to balance their desire for a thriving Internet and the economic growth it promotes with their demands for political control. The alarm over Google among Beijing’s younger, better-educated and more Internet savvy citizens — China’s future elite — shows how wobbly that balancing act can be.