Three faces of mobile broadband: we need more than mobile super consumers

I’m on jury duty this week – so far that has meant a lot more time to read emails that usually breeze by me. One up note – they do have Wi-Fi here. I’m going to say about a third of us in the jury duty holding cell are typing away. Some folks are reading and I can hear at least two people snoring! So today I am thankful for mobile broadband. In light of my gratitude I thought I’d highlight three disparate uses of mobile broadband that help illustrate its importance.

Moms Shop via Mobile

eMarketer reports

According to a December 2012 survey conducted by women’s mobile network Alt12, which surveyed US moms who used the network’s apps, fully 70% reported using their smartphone or tablet to shop. An even more staggering one-third of moms said the devices accounted for nearly half their shopping time or more.

The report goes on to indicate that moms use retailer apps; 60 percent reported that apps helped them make buying decisions. Moms also use social media channels and peer reviews to make decisions.

Workers in the Field Go Mobile

The Wall Street Journal reports…

Nearly half of the respondents in a recent Forrester Research Inc. FORR -0.96%survey said they use a smartphone at least once a week for work, and 21% said they use a tablet for work at least weekly.

Much of this use so far is for emailing or as a mobile supplement for existing workplace tasks, like digital flight manuals for airplane pilots on iPads or checking in guests at hotels. But now, mobile technology is becoming affordable for a broader base of companies, and it is spreading from ancillary functions to areas ingrained in employees’ workdays, such as marketing materials for pharmaceutical reps, customer account software for service technicians and apps for testing the quality of cow’s milk for farmers.

Again apps are noted as a popular way to get things done. The article highlights a couple of fun examples: online blue prints accessible from the building site and Coca-Cola technicians tracking customer info with ServiceMax apps.

People in Indonesia

eMarketer reports…

Indonesia’s economic engine will help create a new and considerable digital class of consumers. eMarketer projects about 29% of the population—or 72.7 million people—will have access to the internet by the end of 2013. That penetration rate is expected to climb to 39.8% by 2016, accounting for 102.8 million internet users. …

Fixed broadband remains a rarity in Indonesia, with a penetration rate of about 1.6% of households, or 800,000 homes.

A significant impediment to fixed broadband access is that many people in Indonesia simply can’t afford it, along with the logistical difficulty of providing internet across a geographically fractured area. While the government is taking steps to improve broadband access, as in most developing economies, growth in internet access will largely come through the adoption of internet-enabled mobile phones.

Mobile access, mobile devices will make it possible for millions of people all over the world to get online in the upcoming years.

It’s interesting to take a look at three faces of mobile. I am an advocate of mobile access. I think the applications above – shopping and working – make the case that mobility is attractive in technology. I am also wary of any situation where access is mobile only, especially in the case of Indonesia or lower income users in the US because I think mobile-only users are relegated to partial functionality online. Never mind cap issues, I think a mobile device is great for shopping, directions, even ready reference – all consumer tasks.

Without training, I don’t think mobile access allows users to become creators of content. The power is there – I think of folks such as The UpTake who have turned cell phones into powerful reporting tools. (The UpTake uses cell phone video to record civic events.) Or even Google Square, which makes it easy to accept credit cards from your smart phone.

The challenge is providing training and/or developing apps that make it as easy to allow mobile users to become more than consumers – we/they need better access to create content, create jobs, engage in civic action through mobile access.

This entry was posted in economic development, Research, Wireless by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (, hosts a radio show on MN music (, supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota ( and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

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