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This Week in Global Mobile | April 29, 2011

At times it's difficult to keep pace with the latest global mobile developments. I hope this selection of news stories from the past week will help you navigate the growing global network of connectivity:

  • On Wednesday the State Department, working with the U.S. Institute for Peace, participated in a summit with global youth to determine how technology can “scale exchanges around the world.”
  • Korea’s Communications Commission launched an inquiry to Apple over privacy concerns about the company’s data collection and storage methods.
  • Uganda’s government announced that it would focus on “true ICT infrastructure development” in order to augment its process of economic development.
  • 500 million people around the world will use their mobile devices to purchase public transportation tickets by 2015, reported Juniper Research.
  • In the U.K., fraudulent wi-fi hotspots are exposing a security flaw for smart phone users seeking public access to the Web, reported The Guardian in an investigative story.
  • Indian Web users expressed dismay at new access restriction rules [PDF] announced by the government’s Department of Information Technology.
  • President Kagame of Rwanda announced plans to field questions submitted online by people around the world in a YouTube interview which will air May 7.
  • 44 billion apps will be downloaded by 2016 around the world, according to a study released this week by ABI Research.
  • India enjoyed a 600 percent surge in online video viewing in March, with 75 percent of the country’s entire online population tuning in.

This Week in Global Mobile | April 22, 2011

At times it's difficult to keep pace with the latest global mobile developments. I hope this selection of news stories from the past week will help you navigate the growing global network of connectivity:

  • Iran announced its own “halal” Internet that “conforms to Islamic principles” and operates parallel to the World Wide Web in order to increase the presence of Farsi on the Internet.
  • Global Voices reported a great story of a Chilean nurse who used a simple tweet to spur the Twitter community into action, expediting the transport of five essential organs to Santiago.
  • An interesting article in Flathead Beacon explored how 21st-century technology is enabling entrepreneurship and innovation in rural America.
  • The Ugandan government asked some Internet service providers to block access to Facebook and Twitter amid protests over rising costs in the country.
  • U.S. Senators Kerry and McCain introduced a Commercial Privacy Bill of Rights [PDF] in order to protect online consumers and ensure digital information collectors adhere to strict policies.
  • President Obama and Facebook C.E.O. Mark Zuckerberg co-hosted a digital town hall, fielding questions from a live and online audience and live-streaming the event.
  • Saturday’s presidential elections in Nigeria benefited from the mobile app ReVoDa, which allowed Nigerians to report incidents from their polling units using their mobile devices.
  • The Facebook Page of Fort Bragg was used by the U.S. Army to keep up-to-the-minute information about emergency response following last week’s deadly tornadoes.
  • Kenyan mobile operator Safaricom introduced a new Internet browsing service for home consumers that charges per minute or per second, rather than on a subscription basis.
  • The U.S. plans to provide $28 million in grants to help Web activists in countries with oppressive regimes, according to Bloomberg.
  • Asian mobile operators faced lower average revenue per user in 4Q-2010, lending credence to the concern that multi-SIM ownership and sharing among consumers might challenge operator’s growth, reported ABI Research.
  • Amazon announced a partnership with over 11,000 local libraries in the United States, allowing patrons to borrow e-books to read on their Kindles.
  • The University of Cape Town teamed up with Samsung to develop Africa-specific mobile phone applications in a new facility aimed at satisfying the needs of people in the continent.

This Week in Global Mobile | April 1, 2011

At times it's difficult to keep pace with the latest global mobile developments. I hope this selection of news stories from the past week will help you navigate the growing global network of connectivity:

  • Writing for Havana Times, Pedro Campos explained how the Internet is due to play an important role as “the great equalizer” in Cuba’s socialist tradition.
  • In a special to Al Jazeera, Jillian York examined how Western tech companies are making big bucks producing the censorship tools being employed in the Arab world.
  • The number of Americans watching mobile video increased 40% in 2010, while smart phone penetration jumped 9 points from 2009 to 31%, reported Nielsen.
  • Three Chinese dissident bloggers, arrested in February, were indicted for “issuing online appeals for a Jasmine Revolution in China,” reported Boxun News.
  • Amazon, Google, and Microsoft both revealed intentions to incorporate Near Field Communication technology in mobile payment services in the near future. More on NFC here and here.
  • In response to data caps imposed by Canadian ISPs, video provider Netflix downgraded its streaming content and compressed its content to keep it accessible in Canada.
  • Google launched +1, a social media service which prioritizes search results based on votes submitted by a user’s contacts and friends.
  • According to ABI Research, shipments of smart phones reached 302 million in 2010, reflecting a shocking 71% increase over 2009 worldwide.
  • MTN, Africa’s largest mobile operator, began offering life insurance to Ghanaian customers via their mobile phones, bringing security to the country’s low-income earners.
  • Nokia began distributing E8 Android-based phones to Egyptian Twitter activists, marketing the devices as important social media tools for activists.
  • Mobile money service M-PESA received a new feature allowing them to transfer funds from any Western Union account from 45 countries and 80,000 agents around the world.

Tech in the Rural Classroom Part 1: A Closer Look at One-Laptop-per-Child

Updated: Wayan looked over this post and added some important clarifications in the comments below -- be sure to check those out.

Last week I had the opportunity to hear from Wayan Vota, a technologist and founder of the blog OLPC News, which is dedicated to tracking the progress of the the One-Laptop-per-Child (OLPC) program. Founded in 2005 by Nicholas Negroponte, OLPC’s ambitious mission is to deliver durable $100 laptops to children around the world to improve their education.

OLPC must be commended for a couple of reasons. First, its noble intentions to reach the word’s rural and poor using 21st-century innovation reflects the critical influence that ICT’s have on development. Modern technologies have been deployed in developing regions throughout the world in an effort to raise educational quality for children, as this useful review of ICT’s in education by the World Bank’s infoDev initiative neatly summarizes.

Second, OLPC’s affordable, portable, and efficient design inadvertently spawned a miniature technological revolution by catalyzing the tablet PC industry. As Vota explained during his lecture, the OLPC laptops needed tiny, high-powered processors and efficient, long-life batteries. The technologies developed out of OLPC are now being used and improved upon by all players of today’s tablet PC revolution. Pointing to his iPad, Vota succinctly told us, “Without OLPC, we’d still be years behind that.”

Lastly, armed with what many officials concerned with international development view as a sexy and simple answer to their problem, Negroponte has delivered the goods. His program has managed to implement several programs throughout many developing countries, including Rwanda, India, and Paraguay, with nearly two million units delivered since 2005. Although the impact of OLPC in education remains hazy at best, there’s no denying that Negroponte has scaled the program to an impressive and meaningful level.

Still, Vota offered several reasons to be skeptical before jumping aboard the OLPC train:

Costs: The “$100 laptop” never really reached $100 and hovers around $188 plus shipping in a bulk order. To put that number in perspective, the government of Rwanda spent an average of $109 per student in 2009, making it easy to understand why some developing countries might be hesitant to splurge on OLPC’s tools..

Lack of Infrastructure: What happens, asked Vota to the audience, when a school located 40km from the nearest town is suddenly burdened with the impossible task of providing power to 300 OLPC laptops? The batteries are notably efficient, but once they run out, the students often have nowhere to turn to charge them. One school in a rural area of a developing country that Vota had visited, for example, had only one low-voltage outlet located in the principle’s office -- hardly enough to power an educational tech revolution.

Additionally, it’s difficult to imagine how any of these  off-the-grid schools are equipped with Internet access (although OLPC laptops do come with wi-fi capability), meaning it’s unlikely that teachers will be using the technology to e-mail assignments to their students.

Implementation Problems: In one African country, Vota and a team assigned to deploying computers in rural and developing regions encountered serious administrative problems accessing schools, since no central records were kept of what schools were where, or how many students attended which schools. “One ministry [of education],” to paraphrase Vota, “asked us to go and deploy the laptops, then share our data [on school counts and enrollment] with them!” Such administrative problems present a serious the deployment of technology like OLPC’s.

Vota also mentioned how difficult it is to find trained technicians, familiar with local infrastructure and technology, who can install and maintain the ICTs -- especially considering how easily components like the keyboard membrane and mousepad break down. Finally, he explained how, after receiving a shipment of OLPC laptops, one schoolmaster was told that he would be help personally responsible for any losses or damages. Petrified of damaging any devices, the laptops sat in his office, untouched and unimplemented for months.

Lack of Usage: Argued Vota last week, the OLPC program suffers from a lack of on-the-ground logistical factors that ultimately suffocate its laptops’ effect on education. First, he pointed out how, after the deployment of nearly half a million laptops to Peru’s poorest schoolchildren, most kids never even brought the devices home. In Peru’s roll-out, children were held responsible for reimbursing the school for any damages, many of which could easily occur during long treks or drives in mountainous terrain. Parents of these kids soon asked their children use the laptops as little as possible, rather than risking losing an entire year’s salary paying for broken devices.

Writing in 2010, one OLPC intern also identified the problem of literacy. “A large majority of the kids have no idea where keys are located and sometimes don’t even know the letters,” he writes, pointing out that keyboard are strictly English, meaning laptops in Peru say “erase” instead of “borrar,” which would make using the device much easier.

To emphasize how much OLPC misses the mark in some cases, Vota also told us that, despite the impressive slew of the laptop’s features, (such as cameras and multimedia programs), the vast majority of teachers he’s met over the years only care about one program: PowerPoint. His evidence is admittedly only anecdotal, but Vota suspects that all the attractive talk about multimedia or interactivity in the classroom enabled by OLPC’s laptops doesn’t really shape up in the classroom, as teachers stick with old techniques using a modern medium.

Lack of Empirical Evidence: Indeed, students don’t really use the laptops for much at all, and most studies actually indicate that OLPC laptops have little, no, or even adverse effects on student’s learning. Check out Miller-McCune journalist Timothy Ogden’s summary of the empirical case against giving laptops to students in the developing world -- it’s a good read and presents some interesting arguments. Of greater concern is that most of OLPC’s evidence of success is based on anecdotal evidence; only recently has a large-scale empirical study been initiated.

Lessons Learned: Vota’s message was clear, and it was one worth sharing. As is often the case, it’s easy to view technology like OLPC’s laptops as a sexy, straightforward answer to the crisis of education in many developing regions. Instead, it must be viewed simply as a tool to supplement education. It’s not enough to throw shiny toys at the developing world’s youth; myriad related factors come in to play, requiring an intimate knowledge of the specific region before ICTs can be rolled out.

This isn’t to say that injecting 21st-century in the developing world isn’t the right answer. In fact, there are several, more practical technological alternatives to OLPC that stand to drastically improve education in the developing world: Mobile phone communication and interactive radio instruction (IRI), both of which take advantage of a much stronger ICT network already in existence. That’s where the second part of this series comes into play -- check back soon for a look at how mobile and radio technologies stand to transform the rural classroom.

Last Week in Global Mobile | March 25, 2011

At times it's difficult to keep pace with the latest global mobile developments. I hope this selection of news stories from the past week will help you navigate the growing global network of connectivity:

  • The State Department’s blog explained how traditional radio, combined with innovation in mobile technologies, continues to empower people of rural Pakistan.
  • Crisis-mapping software Ushahidi’s creator Patrick Meier reflected on the how technology could be used to counter SMS-based rumors during crises in Kazakhstan.
  • Sudan’s ruling party warned that its “cyber jihadists” are prepared to crush Internet dissent following an increase in anti-government social media campaigns.
  • Google teamed up with a few other companies to launch Missing.net, a social mapping platform designed to help people find each other after a humanitarian crisis.
  • Worldwide fixed broadband subscribers surpassed 500 million by the end of 2010, gaining nearly 48 million in the fourth quarter alone, reported ABI Research.
  • A new directive granted the government of Uzbekistan the power to ask mobile operators to identify suspicious customers and shut down all mobile services at any time.
  • On the company blog, Google posted an interactive map of broadband speeds around the world based on 300 terabytes of data collected from 2009-onwards.
  • Search giant Google accused China of interfering with its Gmail service by disguising a  “government blockage” as an error on Google’s part.
  • Washington Post’s Cecilia Kang explained why telecoms’ success in the United States depends on mobile Web access, arguing for an expanded mobile network.
  • Mobile operator AT&T announced plans to acquire T-Mobile USA for $39bn, merging into the largest mobile services provider in the United States -- and some parties aren’t pleased.
  • Research and analytics firm ComScore reported that mobile Internet soared nearly 200 percent in Japan in the hours after the earthquake struck.
  • NY Times reported on China’s tightening of electronic censorship in recent days, including cutting off phone calls at the very mention of the word “protest.”
  • Amazon launched its own app store for Android devices, introducing several new features such as the ability to test-drive an app in the browser before installing it.
  • Google launched a new tech incubator, Umbono, which will help raise funds for innovators and start-ups throughout Africa.
  • McGraw-Hill and Pearson, two of the world’s largest textbook manufacturers, injected millions of dollars into a San Francisco-based e-textbook company to create “interactive books” for learning.
  • Egypt’s 3G offerings are expected to increase five times by 2012 to five million users, reported market research firm RNCOS.
  • A French tech company announced a fascinating new technology that uses a translucent solar film, placed over a phone’s screen, to charge the device while using it.

This Week in Global Mobile | March 18, 2011

At times it's difficult to keep pace with the latest global mobile developments. I hope this selection of news stories from the past week will help you navigate the growing global network of connectivity:

  • The government of Cameroon asked mobile operator MTN to ban SMS Twitter messages, claiming the service was being used to organize illegal protests.
  • Nearly half (47%) of all American adults access local news on their mobile phones or tablet computers, reported Pew.
  • The U.S. embassy in Kabul partnered with a local organization to launch a $4 million telecommunications infrastructure project in Afghanistan.
  • Google launched its Gmail SMS service in three African countries to continue its efforts towards increasing e-mail access in the developing world.
  • Speaking before a Senate hearing on Internet privacy, the White House and chairman of the F.T.C. threw support behind new Web “Do-Not-Track” privacy measures.
  • Internet provider AT&T announced that it would begin to cap Web use among its DSL users, charging users $10 for exceeding 150GB of data per month.
  • Latin America’s online population grew 15 percent in 2010 to 112 million people, according to ComScore.
  • A report out of the Russia-based Public Opinion Foundation predicted that 80 million Russians will gain Internet access in their homes by 2014, bringing penetration to 71 percent.
  • The Middle East and Africa will enjoy a 10.7 percent increase in IT spending in 2011 to spur e-government development, reported research firm IDC.
  • Planning to replace credit cards with mobile wallet features in its next line of phones, Blackberry manufacturer RIM locked horns with various mobile operators about which party would maintain control over customers’ mobile banking information.
  • Meanwhile, Google announced that it would be testing its own NFC-based mobile payments solution in New York and San Francisco in the near future.
  • Mobile app downloads approached 8 billion around the world in 2010, reported ABI Research.
  • Smart phone shipments increased 74 percent in 2010 to 295 million units, with shipments expected to reach 1.2 billion worldwide by 2015.
  • To free up bandwidth in crisis-stricken Japan, the U.S. military blocked access to YouTube, ESPN, Amazon, and other popular services earlier this week.

This Week in Global Mobile | March 4, 2011

At times it's difficult to keep pace with the latest global mobile developments. I hope this selection of news stories from the past week will help you navigate the growing global network of connectivity:

  • A portion of the U.S.’ $150 million aid package to Egypt will be spent on “digital training,” Secretary Clinton’s Senior Advisor for Innovation Alec Ross told Fast Company.
  • This interactive visualization indicated that the United States’ share of the online population has declined dramatically since 1990, falling behind China in 2008.
  • The Chinese government plans to monitor the movement of the 17 million mobile phone users in Beijing, reported The Next Web.
  • Intel Corporation announced the World Ahead Program, a partnership with the Kenyan Ministry of Education to promote “the transformation of the education system” to the 21st century.
  • San Francisco’s mayor rolled out an application that allows residents to report graffity, potholes, and other problems to officials via Facebook.
  • The U.S. Army launched a new iPhone app that allows soldiers on the ground to upload, blog, and share information as part of the “Army Strong Stories” initiative. More on mobile in the military here.
  • TIME journalist Abigail Hauslohner revealed how SMS messaging was the key tool for communicating reporters’ stories from Libya to the U.S. media.
  • Pew released a study about peer-to-peer health care, indicating that the Internet has emerged as a valuable tool for patients to teach each other medical information.
  • Ahead of expected protests on March 11, Internet connections in Azerbaijan were restricted, allegedly to prevent protesters from organizing via social media.
  • The Philippine authorities announced a proposal to register all laptops in the country in an effort to reduce cyber crime.
  • Researchers at the University of Illinois proposed a new paradigm for spreading information which involves sharing short animations about important information (such as cholera prevention) on mobile phones in the developing world.
  • 20 percent of all divorces in the U.S. are caused by a Facebook feud, reported the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers in a recent study.
  • Mobile apps will rake in $38bn by 2015, reported Forrester Research, representing an increase from $4.5bn in 2011.
  • Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad reached out to his young followers on Facebook, asking them to suggest people to fill the seats of his new cabinet.
  • A record number of people in Southeast Asia turned to online banking in 2010, with visitation to e-banking services increasing as much as 35% in Vietnam, reported ComScore.
  • An Egyptian human rights group announced plans to sue various mobile phone companies and ISPs for cutting of service during the recent unrest in the country.

Social Media Delivers Digital Diplomacy in Egypt

Last week Masrawy.com, a popular Egyptian-language news and information portal, hosted a Q&A session between the country’s youth and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. As reported on the State Dept.’s blog DipNote, users submitted over 6,500 questions via Twitter, YouTube, and Masrawy’s website in a powerful demonstration of new media’s ability to connect governments and people. Watch the video and read the transcript here.

The State Department’s decision to work with Masrawy was no accident. The largest web portal of its type with 600,000 daily visitors, Masrawy’s users are predominantly young Egyptians under age 35. This same demographic is widely credited with playing a major role in the January 25th revolution against autocratic ruler Hosni Mubarak, who had enjoyed U.S. support for years.

Because of the U.S.’s prior support of the Mubarak regime, last week’s digital Q&A session presented a unique opportunity for the people of the revolution to speak their mind about America’s involvement in Egyptian politics. Many of them used the forum to challenge U.S. foreign policy in Egypt over the years. Here are my favorite and most direct questions, submitted over YouTube and Twitter (some are direct translations from Arabic):

Does America really support democracy? If yes indeed, why the U.S. was late in its support for the Egyptian revolution?

The attitude of the U.S. during the Egyptian revolution was to support the Egyptian regime first. Then, when the revoluation turned successful, the U.S. switched sides and supported the Egyptian youth and the youth revolution, and the U.S. said that we learn from Egyptian youth. Why was such a delay?

Over the last 30 years, why the American Administration shook hands with such oppressive regime and treated them like we treat other true democratic government?

Does the U.S. Administration prefer to see the presence of a true democratic system in Egypt capable of ensuring stability and peace in the region, or does it prefer to see only a partial appeasement that put on the face of a democracy but only to serve its own interests over those of the people of other nations?

Don't you think that the latest American veto was just a clear reminder that hte United States loses any credibility as a fair and honest partner in the Middle East peace process?

My point here isn’t whether U.S. foreign policy in Egypt is controversial (I don’t know nearly enough about the subject to take sides on that). Rather, my point is that this conversation, enabled by social media and increased web access around the world, provided the outside world with a transparent window into the thoughts of the Egyptian youth. More importantly, these young, passionate people actually used this opportunity to speak their mind. Through videos filmed in Tahriri Square and tweets posted from Internet cafes, Egyptians presented challenging, candid, and intelligent questions to Secretary Clinton.

And most importantly, this whole conversation wasn’t a tame P.R. stunt. The host didn’t toss softballs at the Secretary, choosing instead to ask valuable and honest questions, and Sec. Clinton answered them, streaming her responses around the world. The Masrawy conversation was as raw as we could have hoped for. So as far as digital diplomacy goes, last week’s Q&A session between Secretary Clinton and Egypt’s youth was a resounding success. And as the web of digital connectivity continues to spread to other regions of the world, we can look forward to more substantive and honest conversations between the United States and citizens of other countries.

This Week in Global Mobile | February 25, 2011

At times it's difficult to keep pace with the latest global mobile developments. I hope this selection of news stories from the past week will help you navigate the growing global network of connectivity:

  • An Egyptian man named his daughter “Facebook “in tribute to the role the social media service played in organizing the protests” that took place in late January.
  • Nancy Scola of MobileActive provided specific examples of how the cell phone camera was an essential tool in fomenting unrest in Tunisia, Iran, and Bahrain.
  • In Russia a new crowd-mapping service launched which ambitiously aims to “united all bloggers on one map” to help increase digital cohesion across the country.
  • The Communications Commission of Kenya released its latest quarterly mobile statistics, revealing that broadband subscriptions increased 450% over the previous quarter.
  • A recent study by Frost & Sullivan West African Broadband Market Tracker estimated that broadband providers’ revenues will increase over 100% to $1.9bn by 2016.
  • Chinese mobile operator Huawei finalized a deal to provide a free mobile network on the London Underground in time for the 2012 Olympics.
  • Authorities in Botswana slashed mobile phone and Internet charges, a move made possible by a direct link to the East Africa Submarine System (Eassy) fiberoptic cable.
  • Egyptian news portal Masrawy.com announced that it would host a social media Q&A between U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Egyptian youth.
  • The Chinese government launched its own search engine, Panguso, to provide a “state-approved version of the Internet” to its people.
  • South Korea, which already has the world’s fastest average broadband speed, launched a pilot program to bring 1 gigabit-per-second connections to households by the end of 2012.
  • The President of the American University of Nigeria blamed declining educational standards on a weak technology infrastructure in the school system.
  • Al Jazeera explained how Tunisian protesters took to the streets with “a rock in one hand, a cell phone in the other,” using social media to break through a media blackout.
  • Hispanics trail other groups in Web usage in the United States, with 13% fewer Internet users accessing health information online than their white counterparts, reported Washington Post.
  • Global network specialist Cisco predicted an annual growth rate of 129% of mobile data traffic in the Middle East and Africa between 2010 and 2015.
  • In an attempt to “connect with the youth leaders of the January 25 Revolution,” the Egyptian military opened a Facebook page to promote its image among citizens.
  • A study of high school students suggested that “youth who pursue their interests online are more likely to be engaged in civic issues.”

Near Field Communications (NFC) Revisited

A few months back I shared some thoughts about Near Field Communications, a close-range technology that enables mobile devices to communicate directly with each other to exchange information, money, commands, and more. At the time of writing, mobile money was the clear beneficiary of this tech, allowing people to buy Cokes and transfer funds with the swipe of a phone. And NFC chips had yet to be included in any major (RIM, Apple, Nokia, and Android) mobile devices. Oh, how things have changed.

At last week’s Mobile World Congress, a high-profile showcase of mobile innovation in Barcelona, it became clear that NFC has evolved dramatically over the past three months. By all measures, it’s entered the mainstream. Some examples: all of Nokia’s phones released in 2011 will feature NFC compatibility, the next iPhone edition should feature the technology, a couple NFC apps are available on Android’s Market, and Google’s commercially-available Nexus S Android phone is NFC-friendly. Finally, NFC chip manufacturer NXP expects to ship 70 million phones equipped with the technology this year alone.

The biggest commitment yet to NFC technology came from GSMA, the mobile operators’ association which sponsored the Mobile World Congress. In a statement, the GSMA outlined a plan to launch global commercial NFC services by 2012, with the cooperation of dozens of mobile operators from around the world.

But what will these phones be doing with NFC? In this interview at last week's Mobile World Congress, BlackBerry manufacturer RIM’s VP Andrew Bocking emphasized the mobile payment possibilities of NFC. But when I wrote about NFC back in November, large-scale NFC mobile payment systems weren’t really out there.

That’s no longer the case. At the Mobile World Congress conference, electronic payments giant Verifone announced the launch of its PAYware NFC-enabled mobile transaction service in Canada, the U.K., and various Latin American and Asian markets throughout 2011. And last week, Business Week reported that Google and eBay might be building their own mobile payment services using NFC technology.

But if the Mobile World Congress taught us anything about near field communications, it’s that NFC isn’t limited to mobile money. Last week Jenna Wortham of the New York Times shared some ideas about NFC’s diverse applications:

NFC can also trigger an application to start. Say, for example, you waved your phone over a chip embedded in a wristwatch, or on a card next to a phone in your house that was programmed to call a particular contact. The NFC chip would prompt the phone to begin dialing that number automatically -- a feature that could be handy in a household with small children or older relatives.

As Wortham explains, NFC-enabled phones could also help unlock vehicles, exchange contact information, activate GPS and Pandora stations in your car, help retailers track inventory, and transfer coupons from a shop window to a consumer’s phone.

I don’t mean to harp too much about the wonderful world of NFC, but it’s hard not to get excited about a technology that’s so diverse, so scalable, and so rapidly entering the mainstream. Three months ago, NFC-enabled mobile payments were tangible but not widespread. Recent announcements by Verifone, Google, and eBay will change that landscape, quickly and dramatically.

Perhaps most impressively, the near field communications revolution won’t be leaving developing markets in Europe, Latin America, and Asia in the dust -- a concern I raised in my previous report about NFC. The GSMA’s statement includes a promise to focus on “global interoperability” to ensure standards and security measures are applied in all mobile markets, with major operators from India, China, and Latin America signed on (notably absent from the agreement, however, are any leading African telecoms).

In just three months, near field communications technology has entered the market and is already flexing its muscles in the world of mobile money. The Mobile World Congress showed that the NFC momentum will continue to grow beyond this application, and a few months from now I look forward to following up with the latest NFC features that will have entered the mainstream.

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