The End of Typing: The Next Billion Mobile Users Will Rely on Video and Voice

Voice

Excerpt from this article (subscription required):

The internet’s global expansion is entering a new phase, and it looks decidedly unlike the last one. Instead of typing searches and emails, a wave of newcomers – “the next billion,” the tech industry called them – is avoiding text, using voice activation and communicating with images. They are a swath of the world’s less-educated online for the first time thanks to low-end smartphones, cheap data plans…

 

The Facebook-Loving Farmers of Myanmar

Excerpt from this fascinating article, a “dispatch from an Internet revolution in progress”. I love articles that show how mobile and digital are evolving in the emerging markets – – it’s not just the affluent countries and tech-centric cities!

For six weeks last October and November, just before Myanmar held its landmark elections, I joined a team of design ethnographers in the countryside interviewing forty farmers about smartphones… Myanmar is especially fertile ground for this kind of work. Until recently the military junta had imposed artificial caps on access to smartphones and SIM cards. Many of the farmers we spoke with had never owned a smartphone before. The villages were often without running water or electricity, but they buzzed with newly minted cell towers and strong 3G signals. For them, everything networked was new.

…We ask about apps. One nephew says he uses Viber to text with friends and family who are outside of the village. But if he can meet in person, he goes to talk in person. He says he uses his smartphone mainly for phone calls, which are still simpler and faster than texting.

The lead farmer mentions Facebook and the others fall in. Facebook! Yes yes! They use Facebook every day. They feel that spending data on Facebook is a worthwhile investment. In fact, check this out, says one nephew. He wants to show us a Facebook post. He’s thrilled. Earlier, he said to us, lelthamar asit—Like any real farmer, I know the land. And so we wonder: What will he show us? A new farming technique? News about the upcoming election? Analysis on its impact on farmers? He shows us: A cow with five legs. He laughs. Amazing, no? Have you ever seen such a thing?

How Mobile Apps Are Improving India’s Rickshaws

Excerpt from this article in the Harvard Business Review:

In the past, auto rickshaws’ flaws stemmed from low rates of usage, an inability to identify demand and supply in real time, and inefficient pricing that often left both sides dissatisfied. The opportunity to address these issues by leveraging the one billion mobile phones (and counting!) in India was clear.

Rickshaw hail businesses started out tracking the real-time availability and location of drivers through a makeshift system of drivers self-reporting their availability via text messages. With the growing penetration of smartphones, tracking was elevated to GPS in the last few years, but the improvements were similar: a new ability to connect riders and drivers in a timely, reliable way. Rather than relying on happenstance, hailing an auto rickshaw became systematic, especially since the city of Rajkot launched a pioneering model in the form of G-Auto, a city-backed fleet of auto rickshaws, in 2012.

Individually operated rickshaws that previously meandered along disjointed routes with no connection to their customers’ needs now run on optimized routes, leading to improved service and greater road safety. Security has also improved for female passengers, as smartphone hailing apps provide users with the identity of their drivers, allowing for easier reporting of harassment. The system also means that because many drivers have doubled or tripled their number of rides completed in a day, they have been willing to accept the fare displayed on the meter rather than constantly haggling over price. Their increased productivity has put many rickshaw operators on a path to ownership and, in many cases, the means to upgrade to cleaner vehicles.

 

 

A Music-Sharing Network for the Unconnected

Photo: Digital-music merchants in Mali’s capital provide a vibrant human-driven alternative to iTunes. by Michaël Zumstein/Agence Vu, for The New York Times

Excerpt from this article, and be sure to check out the slideshow, excellent and interesting perspectives on downloading digital content in this part of the world:

…As of 2012 there were enough cellphones in service in Mali for every man, woman and child. The spread of cellphones in this way has driven innovation across the continent. M-Pesa, a text-message-based money-transfer system, has made financial services available for the first time to millions. Another enterprise tells rural farmers by text what their crops might sell for in distant markets; mass-texting campaigns have helped promote major public health initiatives.

Yet for many Africans, the phone is not merely, or even principally, a communications device. You can see this on the sun-blasted streets of Bamako, Mali’s capital, where a new kind of merchant has sprung up along Fankélé Diarra Street. Seated practically thigh to thigh, these vendors crouch over laptops, scrolling through screen after screen of downloaded music. They are known as téléchargeurs, or downloaders, and they operate as an offline version of iTunes, Spotify and Pandora all rolled into one. They know what their regulars might like, from the latest Jay Z album to the obscurest songs of Malian music pioneers like Ali Farka Touré. Savvy musicians take their new material to Fankélé Diarra Street and press the téléchargeurs to give it a listen and recommend it to their customers. For a small fee — less than a dime a song — the téléchargeurs transfer playlists to memory cards or U.S.B. sticks, or directly onto cellphones. Customers share songs with their friends via short-range Bluetooth signals.