Be it resolved that mobiles have the potential to be the most transformative ICT for developing countries

Posted on June 16, 2009  /  0 Comments

Today (16th June 2009) if you were to google “great mobile debate” you will only see references to one held as part of the Forum Oxford Future Technologies Conference 2008. But if the people who ran and attended the IDRC PANall conference in Penang last week are as netsavvy as I think they are, you are likely to see Great Mobile Debate of Penang supplanting the Oxford debate in google searches.

The proposition won. I was the proponent, so not entirely unbiased, but it did, as evidenced by the cheering and the congratulations that followed. Given this was a topic that fully resonated with LIRNEasia’s 2008-10 research program, it was understandable that we won. The slides that were used are here.

In the opening statement, I showed that the mobile is the only ICT actually reaching the poor and that it is both transforming their lives and they are transforming it. I also showed that there was some “more-than-voice” use even now, but the immense potential was evident if we looked at how different age cohorts were with regard to knowledge, trial and use.

The opponent Rafal Rohozinski’s arguments can be viewed in the following clip: 

Of course, well argued facts do not win debates. What did was vicious rebuttal (video clip  below), including every rhetorical trick in the book. Sadly, all that will remain of this debate in people’s memories a few months down the road is my challenge to my opponent to save his remaining braincells by throwing the evil mobile on the ground and and stamping it to smithereens. Then and only then, I said, I will take his arguments seriously.

It is not for nothing that I was introduced as Rohan “Pit Bull” Samarajiva.

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