The Mobile Divide, Tiffany B. Brown, and Piers Fawkes

Tiffany B. Brown’s excellent blog post “Black folks is takin’ ovah da mobile innanets!” proves Piers Fawkes’ “Three Region Theory” research on mobile adoption vs. desktop/laptop adoption rates is alive and well right here at home in North America. Tiffany expands on Piers’ theory by giving examples of how folks in North America without regular personal desktop/laptop access are adopting the mobile internet faster than folks with desktop access.
Let’s start with Piers’ theory:

“OK, so here’s a theory about mobile phones and their use: in terms of phones their are three regions: Region 1 where the internet reached most people before mobile phones (North America); Region 2 where the internet reached most people at the same time as mobile phones (Europe); and then Region 3 where mobile phones reached most people before the internet (Asia, South America, Africa). The timing of the adoption of the internet versus the mobile phone within a region affects the relationship that region’s citizens have with their phone; and therefore should govern the services that will be used there.”

Then Tiffany writes:

Last month, I was in South Carolina for my cousin’s wedding. In attendance? Three T-Mobile G1 devices, one Blackberry, and me with my dying, yet WiFi-and-mobile Internet-enabled Nokia N80. That’s five internet-enabled smart phones, out of about two-dozen folks under the age of 45.
My cousins are not the same kind of people as the black folks I regularly roll with. My black friends are mostly college educated, almost entirely middle-to-upper-middle class in both occupation and income, and highly tech-literate. It would probably be a shock if none of us had smart phones, right?
My cousins? They’re mostly lower-middle and working class folks. College? Only one other cousin has completed a 4-year degree. Most are in service rather than knowledge jobs. Their computing know-how is basic. Some don’t own laptop or desktop computers.
And yet, here my cousins were using their phones to check email and update their Facebook status.

One of the things that both Apple and Nokia appear to forget with their desktop/laptop only updates, syncing & other services is that there are plenty of folks both in North America and in many parts of the rest of the world, whether by choice, income, or geography, who are mobile only or almost mobile only. People who have mobile internet access but no to very little computer based internet access or people like my Mom who have very little use for a laptop/desktop computer but loves and uses her mobile phone daily. These folks are the present and the future.
Let’s build mobile apps for them. Let’s make a great mobile web experience for them. Let’s make sure that they can do all internet and mobile updating activities directly from their mobile phones. Let’s not make them find someone else’s computer, be it work or a PC, to update the firmware on their mobile. Let’s make it easy to do everything from one’s mobile, if that is what one needs or chooses.
Let’s make it a mobile future.
The NYTimes on “Mobile Internet Use Shrinks Digital Divide

One thought on “The Mobile Divide, Tiffany B. Brown, and Piers Fawkes

  1. I hadn’t heard of Piers’ theory before now. Good to know someone else is thinking about these things.
    Seeing my cousins and their phones was a revelation for me. I was already highly connected, so for me, a smart phone + data plan was a luxury. I mean, I didn’t have access for the entire 2 hours a day I spent commuting. Not that big a deal.
    Now, this is a slight tangent, but I have owned a G1 for about a month now. It’s sort of always connected to the internet — surfing the web is a much easier process than with the N80. And you know what? When I am at home — where I have a desktop, an iPod Touch (WiFi-enabled), usually my work laptop, and a broadband connection, I still use that phone ALL. THE. TIME.
    I think we’re at a point where we can’t assume that users will visit a site using a computer. But I don’t know whether content creators or web developers have grapsed that yet.

Comments are closed.