Category Archives: digital divide

Mobile Communication

Welcome back to a new installment! This week our focus was placed on mobile communication, strategic communication, and mobile technologies. The articles we read and the TED talks we watched discussed different points of view of the effect of mobile technology on communication.

I, for one, have slowly become more and more connected to my smartphone and I know I am not alone in this statement. In his TED Talk “The Anthropology of Mobile Phones,” Jan Chipchase discusses the research he is conducting on human behavior. Traveling around the world, he asks people the question “what do you carry?” The three most common answers he receives are: keys, money, and a mobile phone (if the person owns one). Why these three things, you ask? Because these items equal survival. Keys = shelter; money = sustenance; and mobile phones = a recovery tool. Individuals are able to use a mobile phone most anywhere and at any time to communicate information or needs, hence the reason it is one of the most commonly carried items.

I have to agree that I rarely leave my house without my keys, money (debit/credit card), or my iPhone. I even decided a few years ago to forgo having a land line to rely solely on my mobile phone. By cutting out the land line, I would save money plus the added bonus of never missing a call (although, this can be a drawback). A mobile phone allows me to stay connected wherever I go without the worry of having to find a phone. I can receive phone calls and text messages, I can check my email, check in with my social networking sites, take pictures, play games, and surf the mobile web. All of this I am able to do with a device that is smaller than my hand and weighs less than 5 ounces! Looking back thirteen years ago to my first mobile phone, I would have never have dreamed that all of these features would be a possibility.

Because so many people are purchasing smartphones or tablets, the need for these devices to provide information and entertainment is even more apparent today. The mobile devices are not going away anytime soon, so businesses are developing mobile web and/or mobile applications to promote their services or to disseminate information. Almost every news media outlet either has a downloadable app or a social media account that can be used to communicate with its audience. Users are able to get real-time updates via their smartphones instead of waiting until they are in front of a computer or television. When a major news event occurs, I can receive updates from my CNN or WSFA apps or if inclement weather is on its way (like tonight), I receive alerts from my Weather Channel app. I can pull my phone out of my pocket and from there I can go directly to the story or video to find out more information.

Some businesses and companies are even including promotional material in their apps that allow consumers to benefit from downloading and using their apps. The article “If You Love Something, Let it Go Mobile: Mobile Marketing and Mobile Social Media 4×4” discusses different forms of mobile social media, a type of mobile marketing that allows the creation and exchange of user-generated content (2012). Companies are able to develop applications that are able to conduct market research, communicate with users, offer sales and promotions, and develop relationships and loyalty programs with their users. Four points that were made in the article as advice to companies about mobile social media are to integrate (into the lives of users), individualize (take into account a user’s preferences), involve (by engaging in conversation), and initiate (allowing user-generated content). One of the major players that integrates all of these features is the application, Foursquare. The app allows users to “check-in” to different places, where they can receive points or badges or even become a “Mayor” of that location after so many check-ins. By checking in to places, users can receive special promotions or offers, which include discounts and freebies offered by that business.

After reading this article, I started to think about other apps that offered similar functions and I thought of an app that was introduced to me several months ago called Shopkick. After downloading the app, users create a log in with their Facebook or Google+ accounts immediately making the app social. Once the user logs in, they can start earning “kicks” (kicks = points) by visiting certain stores or performing certain tasks. Users open the app when they reach a particular store listed on the app and earn kicks by just walking through the door. The app then allows users to perform a “scavenger hunt” for kicks by scanning certain items. After users build up a certain amount of kicks they can be redeemed for gift cards or other items. One of the features of the app are “Editor’s books,” which promotes products that are available at particular stores bringing the company to the user. Through the app, users get rewards, discounts or gift cards and businesses receive increased foot traffic from the app drawing users into their stores. One downside is that businesses are tracking your spending and shopping habits.

What about individuals living in Developing Countries? We tend to take for granted all of these options we are afforded, most of which is limited in Developing Countries. So the question posed is, “how do we bridge this digital divide?” In the article “The Mobile Web to Bridge the Digital Divide?,” author Stéphane Boyera discusses different directions that can be taken to help people in rural and under-privileged communities improve their life and support community development by providing individuals access to mobile technologies. He believes that by providing access to mobile technologies via SMS, voice, or web it would allow individuals greater access to information. This would help connect these individuals to the world outside of their community.

The world is definitely going mobile, but the discussion in the field of communications is whether business should go “mobile only” or “mobile first” or an additional way posed by Henry Blodget in “‘Mobile First’ is a Bad Strategy” is “mobile too.” For many countries, smartphone purchases have skyrocketed past desktop and laptop computer sales. However, we still live in a multi-screen world where people are accessing information multiple ways. We are definitely headed in a more mobile direction, but we haven’t completely let go of our desktop world.

Sources:
Blodget, H. (2012, December 22). AND THE SURVEY SAYS… “Mobile First” Is A Dumb Strategy. Business Insider. Retrieved April 6, 2014, from http://www.businessinsider.com/survey-mobile-first-bad-strategy-2012-12

Boyera, S. (2006). The mobile web to bridge the digital divide?. W3. Retrieved April 2, 2014, from http://www.w3.org/2006/12/digital_divide/IST-africa-final.pdf

Chipchase, J. (2007). The anthropology of mobile phones. TED. Retrieved April 2, 2014, from http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0CC4QtwIwAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ted.com%2Ftalks%2Fjan_chipchase_on_our_mobile_phones&ei=D_RBU4T7KO_NsQSD6IGgBA&usg=AFQjCNGNnAd6mC3G1ZSX4DTU-JklvayMmg&sig2=PrLTDK-KHmmehjsMGnoCxA&bvm=bv.64125504,d.cWc

Kaplan, A. M. (2011). If You Love Something, Let It Go Mobile: Mobile Marketing And Mobile Social Media 4×4. Business Horizons, 55, 129-139.