Challenges Facing Mobile-Only Internet Users in the Developing World

Challenges Facing Mobile-Only Internet Users in the Developing World

I came accross a very interesting article by Shikoh Gitau,Gary Marsden, and Jonathan Donner on the Challenges facing mobile-only Internet Users in the Developing World. Abstract from the article:
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“This study reports results of an ethnographic action research study, exploring mobile-centric internet use. Over the course of 13 weeks, eight women, each a member of a livelihoods collective in urban Cape Town, South Africa, received training to make use of the data (internet) features on the phones they already owned. None of the women had previous exposure to PCs or the internet. Activities focused on social networking, entertainment, information search, and, in particular, job searches. Results of the exercise
reveal both the promise of, and barriers to, mobile internet use by a potentially large community of first-time, mobilecentric users. Discussion focuses on the importance of selfexpression and identity management in the refinement of online and offline presences, and considers these forces relative to issues of gender and socioeconomic status.”

This is very interesting as we’ve found similar findings with in our Senior Mobile Sessions at RLabs. The main hurdles in this study for Mobile Internet were:
1. GPRS Settings (With our Seniors they normally find their children or grand children to set up their mobile Internet for them)
2. Security Settings (Due to most of the mobile handsets being handed “down” to our group of users most of the security settings have been seen to by previous owners.)
3. WAP / Menu Confusion (Many of our Seniors find the WAP menus of the various handsets to be confusing as well.)
4. Unfamiliarity with Passwords (Having to remember passwords to access certain services becomes a tedious exercise and the reason for not using certain services)
5. No Mobile Version of Web Site
6. Web-mail: Chicken or the Egg? (Web Mail proved to be a massive problem for our group as well and most preferred signing up for it via a PC. However, once having their GMAIL account setup it was easier for them to use it via their mobile phone.)

With all the challenges, Mobile Web is still growing at a rapid pace with expected users in many developing countries far exceeding PC-based Web users.

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