Global Mobile

This Week in Global Mobile | July 16, 2010

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

  • To combat cyber bullying, Facebook introduced a “Panic Button” available on all youth’s accounts which will connect teens with resources hosted by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre.
  • Australian researchers exploring mobile-to-mobile technology have developed software which reliably allows handheld devices to communicate with each other in areas without reception.
  • On Tuesday China verified that it had renewed Google’s license to operate its search engine in the country with a link available to forward visitors to Hong Kong’s unfiltered site.
  • Throughout the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Univision and ESPN streamed nearly 26 million hours of live online video. See more incredible digital world cup stats at our blog post here.
  • India mobile giant Bharti, the fifth-largest telecom company, announced a $150 million investment in the Keynan mobile network market.
  • The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals ruled an unfair trial after a juror was found to be MySpace friends with the defendant. In its ruling, the Court called for a re-writing of current rules to accommodate 21st-century media.
  • TED and Nokia announced a partnership to pre-load TED Talks on new Nokia N8 phones sold in Africa.
  • Yesterday the FCC voted to push forward a proposal for a $400 million rural health care broadband fund, while IBM announced a $100 million health care initiative to develop new broadband technologies and processes for providers.
  • Kenya launched a free SMS alert system to monitor hate speech ahead of the August 4 constitutional referendum vote.
  • Kerala’s state government is set to give 60,000 teachers an 8GB DVD containing e-versions of all Year 8 and 9 school texts as well as a host of multimedia, user training, and presentation software.
  • Today the East Africa Submarine System (EASSY) goes live, bringing 1.5Tb of additional capacity as the first east coast system to connect traffic directly to Europe.
  • Google CEO Eric Schmidt has a growing sphere of political influence in the D.C. landscape. Read Politico's review of this unique and increasingly important relationship here.
  • Freedom House called for a major international response after the Chinese government abruptly shut down over sixty blogs this week in its latest bid to stem the growing tide of social networking.
  • Don’t miss today’s NY Times Magazine article about digital diplomacy featuring Jared Cohen and Alec Ross, Senior Advisor for Innovation to Secretary Clinton.

Xenophiles Building Bridges

In the TED talk he delivered in Oxford yesterday, Ethan Zuckerman noted that while our world is more and more connected, and the problems we face are increasingly global, our media is becoming less global, and ever more isolated in national, lingual, and racial silos.  He talks about how people connect and (more often) fail to connect across boundaries, how xenophiles can find their place in "the full width and wonder of the world," and how we all can tackle global problems, globally.

But that's sort of a clumsy summary.  I'd rather you just watch the talk:

The Digital World Cup - By the Numbers

World Cup on Mobile Phone

A couple weeks ago, Sam blogged about the global reach of the World Cup, thanks in no small part to the rapid innovation of information and communication technologies (ICTs). Now that the competition is over, a look back shows what a powerful and record-setting role global tech played during the World Cup. I’ll let the numbers do the talking:


Internet Traffic

Internet Video

Social Media

Mobile Technology

The numbers alone are incredible, but even more remarkable is the emerging landscape of global technology they reveal. This past month, people around the world accessed and shared digital information in ways and magnitudes we wouldn’t have thought possible during the previous World Cup. Thanks to the ever-growing global network of digital connectivity, I can’t decide which I’m looking forward to most at Brazil 2014: the month-long fiesta of fútbol or the innovative technology we’ll be using to engage with it.

Throughout the next couple week's I'll be updating this post with new numbers as they come in, so keep checking back for the latest incredible digital World Cup stats!

Five Billion Mobile Subscriptions in Five Months' Time

According to a recent study by ABI Research, we’ll surpass five billion mobile subscriptions by the end of 2010.

The report also shows that that mobile growth is fastest in the developing world. Africa, for example, remains the fastest-growing adopter of subscriptions with a year-on-year growth of 22%. Asia-Pacific’s mobile penetration will reach two-thirds by the end of the year, up from 23% in 2005, with Indian and Indonesia gaining 150 million subscriptions in the past four quarters.

As much as we'd like it to, this doesn't necessarily mean that five billion people will own phones by the end of the year. Most professionals in major developed cities carry multiple subscriptions and phones (Blackberry at work, iPhone at home). Also, in the developing world it's not uncommon to own multiple SIM card subscriptions because of network reliability issues. Based on mobile penetration rates, phone sales, and subscriptions, it's safe to assume that about one billion people carry multiple subscriptions or phones, so we can still expect about four of the seven billion people in the world to own a mobile phone by the end of the year.

These remarkable statistics inspire a virtuous cycle of investment, innovation, and even more adoption, driving mobile operating companies to create new services. With global mobile revenue expected to hit $1 trillion by 2013, there is a huge market aching to be explored by phone manufacturers and service providers. In Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa, Nokia’s is selling more phones, cheaper, than ever before. In 2008 and 2009 alone, over 418 million handsets were sold globally, and this number is rising significantly on a quarterly basis. The demand for mobile Internet is also increasing world-wide; more than fifteen operators in Africa have announced plans to introduce 3G data services in the region.

Spurred by these incredible mobile adoption rates, mobile operators continue to explore the market, investing in mobile Internet, innovation, and infrastructure. Which means that in just five month’s time, nearly 60% of the world's population will be plugged in to our global network of connectivity, putting mobile health, commerce, and education into the pockets of billions.

This Week in Global Mobile | July 9, 2010

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

  • Yesterday the White House announced the second annual SAVE award. The crowdsourcing program asks government employees to submit ideas that would reduce costs in their departments, and fellow workers vote for favorites via IdeaScale.
  • Twitter now runs over 800 million search queries daily, making it the the world’s second-largest search engine with more monthly hits than Bing and Yahoo combined.
  • An Internet rights group launched a legal challenge in Turkey over a ban on access to a host of Google-owned sites, calling the ban “an infringement on our fundamental human rights, the freedom of conversations and our right to information.”
  • Pew released a landmark study on mobile technology use in America. Among the remarkable statistics: mobile Internet access increased 8% last year alone, with young blacks and Hispanics accessing mobile web more than any other demographic.
  • Today China renewed Google’s license to operate in the country, possibly under a compromise in which will post a link to the Hong Kong site rather than automatically redirecting to
  • The popular blog publishing tool WordPress introduced Post By Voice, a program which allows users to speak their blog posts through the phone to be transcribed and posted online. This could transform the way activists and reporters in the field blog.
  • First-time politician Yukiko Tokai wants voters to know her name before Sunday’s parliamentary elections, but Japan’s straitjacket campaign laws forbid her to knock on doors, update her Web site, or advertise on television. Read the entire story here.
  • A new regulation by China’s PLA prohibits soldiers from online dating, social networking, or blogging.
  • MobiTV streamed 88 million minutes of World Cup soccer to mobile phones - that’s 61,111 consecutive days of the Beautiful Game. To put it in perspective, the company streamed 2 billion minutes of TV in all of 2009.
  • Fred Hiatt and Anne Applebaum published stories in the Post about the current state of democracies and autocracies around the world, mentioning how some repressive regimes “have become adept at using the rhetoric of democracy” to further their authoritarian influence. Check out our blog post for more.
  • Venezuelan authorities arrested two people for spreading false rumors on Twitter aimed at destabilizing the country’s banking system.
  • Following a Skype discussion with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, UK Prime Minister Cameron and his government announced phase two of the Spending Challenge. The initiative asks the public to vote on over 60,000 of their own policy proposals for spending cuts.

Upcoming Event on Internet Freedom: Tackling Barriers to the Global Free Flow of Information

Since Secretary Clinton's groundbreaking speech on Internet Freedom in January, the conversation about the free global flow of information has devolved into a back-and forth between tech-utopians and tech-doomsayers. Internet and mobile networks can be used effectively by dictators and democracy activists alike, and the more relevant question is how can we, as supporters of democracy, free commerce, and unfettered access to information, craft policy and otherwise support the use of these technologies to advance our goals.

I'm excited to say that on Tuesday, July 20, at 12 p.m., Global Mobile will be hosting a conversation about practical approaches to internet freedom and the global free flow of information.  Joining us will be Daniel Calingaert, Deputy Director of Programs at Freedom House, and Anita Ramasastry, Senior Policy Advisor in the Commerce Department's International Trade Administration. A third panelist may be forthcoming, but you'll have to check back later for news on that.

I hope you'll RSVP if you can make it to our offices on 15th Street.  If not, we'll of course be webcasting the event live.  Should be an interesting conversation on a timely subject. I, for one, am looking forward to getting pas the hype hearing about how various groups and organizations are practically addressing barriers to the global free flow of information. Which is to say nothing of the sandwiches that will be available, as well.

Phony Democracy and the Internet's Influence

The Post has published a couple opinion pieces in the past couple days-- one from Fred Hiatt, and a column by Anne Applebaum-- both addressing the state of democracy in the world. Applebaum applauds Secretary Clinton for her appearance at the Community of Democracies in Krakow, and issues a call for full-throated support of democracy to return as an objective for American foreign policy.

Hiatt riffs on the work of Freedom House, observing that the forward march of freedom, after decades of remarkable progress, has ground to a halt.  In recent years, we have seen the tide recede, with basic freedoms curtailed and many democratic governments slipping away from basic democratic values like rule of law, press freedom, and open markets. Hiatt blames this regression on repressive governments learning from past mistakes and evolving to be smarter and more effective:

Dictators have learned from each other to stamp out any buds of independent civil society by means of tax laws and supposedly neutral regulation. With China in the lead, they learned not only to neutralize the World Wide Web but to turn it into an effective weapon for propaganda, tracking and repression of their own citizens, and attacks against democratic rivals. Taking advantage of their control of television, they mobilized ideologies of nationalism and anti-terrorism to undermine the rhetoric of freedom...

Three assertive powers -- China, Russia and Iran -- not only resist democratization but actively seek to disseminate their model of authoritarian rule in their spheres of influence.

I think Hiatt is quite right that there is a new trend in authoritarianism, and one that is gaining momentum.  But one of the funny things about this resurgence of authoritarianism is that, unlike the communist states of the 20th century, these autocrats aren't trying to win on the power of their argument. Really, democracy can already boast rhetorical victory, and the fact that these autocrats hold power in part by perpetrating a charade of democracy is a testament to that.  As Applebaum writes:

Countries as disparate as Russia, Venezuela and Iran have become adept at using the rhetoric of "democracy" -- along with faked elections, phony political parties, even state-controlled "civil society" organizations -- to deflect pressure for change.

These prosperous yet undemocratic states like Iran, Venezuela, Russia, and China offer the trappings of democracy, with few of the freedoms. Their ideology is a daunting competitor, and developing countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia face a choice between developing as open, free-market democracies, or as closed, statist autocracies. Increasingly, countries are sliding in the wrong direction.

ChinaIn the quote above, Hiatt cites control of the internet as a powerful tool for manipulation and repression by these authoritarian governments. And in truly, madly, deeply authoritarian states like China, North Korea, Belarus, or Syria (or the other 16 countries that grace the pages of Foreign Policy's review of the 20 least free places on earth), that's true.  But I think that internet and mobile networks actually make it harder for states to put on the "charade of democracy" that lets modern authoritarian governments legitimize themselves to their own people and to international observers.

Up until last June, Iran's Islamic Republic was a prime example of a repressive, dictatorial government that managed to be seen as legitimate by many of its own people and many in the Islamic world thanks, in part, to a machinery of democracy that they operated.  But when it didn't produce the result they wanted-- the wrong guy won the presidential election-- the machine started working against them, with the relative free speech and free association they permitted on internet and mobile networks helping to organize an opposition movement.

Iran cracked down, hard.  The government gave up its claim to democratic legitimacy, and the state has been pushed out of the middle ground into a position where everyone can see the regime's true nature.  Increasingly in the coming years, new connection technologies will force governments in this phony middle ground to make a choice.  With powerful tools for organizing, advocacy and communication in the hands of every individual, you can't fake democracy.  Elections are easier to monitor, movements are easier to organize, and the truth has a lot more routes to the people.

Some countries will follow Iran's path: give up their claim to democratic legitimacy and tightly control freedoms of speech and assembly on ICT networks. For other governments, that may not be worth it, or may not be possible, and we may see some developing countries, faced with a fork in the road, taking the path toward openness. As these technologies make phony democracy impossible, countries will have to choose their course, and if anything, we can surely expect the chasm that divides open and closed societies in the 21st century to grow still deeper and wider.

Broadband Stimulus: Jobs Now, Jobs Later

President Obama announced 66 new stimulus projects this morning devoted to expanding broaband networks, particularly in rural America. This announcement came as the decidedly mixed June jobs report showed how far we have yet to go before we're on solid economic ground. Said Obama, in the announcement:

Broadband can remove geographic barriers between patients and their doctors. It can connect our kids to the digital skills and 21st century education required for the jobs of the future. And it can prepare America to run on clean energy by helping us upgrade to a smarter, stronger, more secure electrical grid.

The projects draw from funding contained in the Recovery Act passed last year, and the $795 million will be handed out by the Commerce Department and the Department of Agriculture. Altogether, the projects are expected to create 5,000 constructions and installation jobs in the coming months.

That's a low number, but it doesn't account for the long-term benefits that come from broadband.  As Obama said, "All told, these investments will benefit tens of millions of Americans. More than 685,000 businesses, 900 health care facilities and 2,500 schools will see positive gains from them." Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack emphasized the benefits that farmers could reap from broadband access, but talked also about the benefits to education, healthcare, and economic development that rural areas would gain from broadband.

This Week in Global Mobile | July 2, 2010

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

  • On Monday the White House announced its plan to double the amount of wireless broadband spectrum available for use to 500 megahertz in order to free up a crowded space and spur wireless innovation. Click here for the WH blog post, here for the Presidential Memorandum, and here for the WH fact sheet.
  • The State Department launched "Apps4Africa" to spur mobile innovation in East Africa. The competition rewards entrepreneurs who develop mobile applications which show how "technology can be part of the solution" on issues related to transparency, health, and education. Read the State Department's blog post for details.
  • Yesterday U.S. Representative Lofgren (CA-16) introduced the One Global Internet Act of 2010. The bill promotes "the global free flow of information" in response to foreign governments like China "breaking the global Internet into a fractured patchwork of national interests." Read CNET's summary of Chinese censorship here, and click here [PDF] to view a summary of the Act.
  • Gmail, Google Maps, and Chrome are now available in Swahili and Amharic, extending the web of connectivity for developing countries in Africa and helping to "foster integration by enabling East Africans to communicate, learn and work together with greater ease." Coverage here.
  • Today, Obama announced $795 million in broadband grants as part of a continued rollout of the Recovery Act. Here's the announcement, and here's the roster of awards.
  • Reporters Without Borders opened an "anti-censorship shelter" in their Paris headquarters which allows bloggers to post freely on a secure connection which masks their identity. Check out coverage here.
  • In the wake of growing protests following the killing of civilians by security forces, Kashmir has banned the use of SMS in the region. Check out this report, and don't miss our blog post for a deeper look.
  • The Asia Pacific Regional Internet Governance Forum, held two weeks ago, just released the 2010 Asia Declaration on Internet Governance, which identifies openness, accessibility, and cybersecurity as critical 21st-century issues.
  • Today the U.S Government released four new mobile phone apps, including a TSA application which sends up-to-date security checkpoint wait times directly to your mobile phone. Check out the whole line-up at's re-vamped website and new mobile apps store here.
  • A new initiative by the Internet Bar Association uses mobile technology to help resolve serious land ownerships disputes taking place in rural Afghanistan. Check out the program's website, and head over to our blog post to learn more.
  • In South Africa, Google Trends is being used to track the outbreak of influenza in the hope that public health officials can use the information to respond proactively to the threat of the flu. Play around at Google Flu Trends to learn more about this impressive and potentially life-saving database.
  • Yesterday the U.S. government launched, a comprehensive digital resource for learning about new healthcare policy, options, and availabilities in your area.
  • Internet giant Google has been sailing in rough waters in China. This week the conflict between the two escalated as tensions rose over Google's decision to forward Chinese search requests to the Hong Kong domain to skirt Chinese censorship. Here's a great review of the current situation, which could have dramatic consequences for Internet policy in the region.
  • PayPal just launched Mobile Express Checkout, allowing users to make financial transactions easily from the comfort of their mobile phone. Check out TNW's report here.

Happy Fourth of July!

Nokia Brings Bicycle-Powered Mobile Phone Charger to Developing Markets

Last month, Nokia unveiled a bicycle-powered phone charger, which can be attached to any bicycle and is powered by the pedaling motion of the rider. The charger works with all Nokia phones carrying a standard 2mm power jack. Designed specifically with the developing world in mind, the charger was introduced by Nokia in Nairobi, Kenya, where mobile penetration is expected to reach 66.7% by 2013.

“To begin charging, a cyclist needs to travel around six kilometers per hour [four miles per hour], and while charging times will vary depending on battery model, a 10-minute journey at 10 kmh [6 mph] produces around 28 minutes of talk time or 37 hours of standby time. The faster you ride, the more battery life you generate,” explained Nokia in a statement.

The entire kit contains a dynamo which is attached to the bicycle wheel, a plastic phone holder to secure the handset, and a plastic bag in case of rain. The Bicycle Charger Kit will hit the Kenyan market late this year, running at $18, according to the product’s data sheet.

John Nichols, Head of Marketing at Nokia UK called the tool “the perfect piece of kit for those that care about the environment,” but the pros go far beyond eco-friendliness. The charger will have a massive effect in developing countries, where bicycles are often the most used means of transportation. As Kachwanya explains (I’ve edited to clear up translation errors):

“The bicycle mobile charger is a solution badly needed in the rural places in Kenya. Despite the best efforts at rural electrification, electricity is still a foreign thing in many rural places and mostly found along major roads, some schools, and government offices. But as we know mobile phones penetration in Kenya is a phenomenon, the same is true with the use of bicycles. For that, the bicycle mobile charger is the perfect kind solution needed.”

The economic value is clear. In rural Kenya, people often travel great distances to stores which charge $2 to power their phones for them. With this alternative source of power, Kenyans can avoid long trips to city centers and save money they’d otherwise be spending on charging handsets. Moreover, this innovation “could lead to sustainable micro-business development” for some rural Kenyans, who could use the charger “to carve out a means to earn a living,” says Ian at the official Nokia blog.

Already a leader in the developing world’s mobile markets, Nokia has its eyes set on further mobile innovations. Nokia VP Alex Lambeek has already hinted that the company plans to bring similar phone-charging devices to markets where motorcycles are heavily used. Also, slated to be released concurrently with the charger are four new, lightweight, affordable mobile phones directed for developing markets with little access to electricity. One phone’s battery has an estimated six-week standby time.

Nokia isn’t the first to bring kinetic phone charging to the marketplace. Motorola and Dahon have introduced similar products before, and a couple Kenyan students actually created a device like this from junkyard scraps a year ago. But Nokia has a firm stronghold on the mobile hardware market in Africa, giving this piece of mobile technology a promising outlook in terms of the impact it could have in the region.

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