How are mobile phones being used differently in the developing world? Are they the technology that will bridge the digital divide?

Recent news that approx. 75% of the world has cell phones and that mobile phone usage in the developing world has surpassed that of the developing world could do much to close the digital divide. Access to cellular services gives you access to a host of applications, news and communications that may have previously been too expensive.  The media’s view on the issue as so far been mixed.

For the middle class population it may do a great deal to spur the economic development of small businesses; farmers will be able to contact businesses, stores to their suppliers. It will connect them to the outside world and allow them to research information about there business in order to grow and succeed; e.g. advice on how to grow a crop. It can connect people to job services and people in rural areas to university programs to enhance their education. As seen in last week’s blog post it can also aid in political activism in at risk areas. In this population mobile phones provide an infinite number of options. The below image from PC World gives optimistic statistics on mobile phone usage in developing countries:

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(source: http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2407335,00.asp)

It’s a little optimistic to suggest that it will close the digital divide as it doesn’t do a lot for the world’s poorest unless there is an organization that is willing to donate and support these devices for educational purposes; e.g. One laptop for very child. You still are required to subscribe to a mobile service, have access to electricity and reception to be able to use the service and you still need to be able to pay for the handset. For those families who are struggling to even provide food for their families or send their children to school it is unlikely to have an impact. It would be more beneficial to finance traditional aid; such as agriculture, education and food rather than technological services. Using such devices also may be dependent on your basic literacy skills; if you cannot read the internet becomes difficult to use.

TED Talks: Iqbal Quadir: How mobile phones can fight poverty

Are Social Media Becoming Political Media?

-What is the role of social media in politics?
-Can Twitter and Facebook really become a sustained weapon in political struggle?

Social Media is used in Australian Politics on a regular basis; everybody has seen Kevin Rudd’s infamous Twitter and Instagram. How many posts about the election by people wishing to express their opinions? The share button on the bottom of newspaper articles is regularly exploited by many people. Social Media has a role in politics in a few particular ways; Social Media enables candidates to promote themselves and their opinions, it enables its users to promote their opinions and it creates a 24 hour news cycle. There is always someone watching, listening and observing. Even if they are passive observers of social media, they can make their opinions know via social media.

Twitter and Facebook maybe able to become a sustained weapon in a political struggle, although no revolution began on Facebook. They both enable news to be spread and reach across a large audience, groups to be formed and events to be created. The  first problem with Twitter and Facebook is that they can both be blocked by the government, much like internet is censored in China. The second problem with Twitter and Facebook in a political struggle is the passive observer; people are more than happy to ‘Like’ or ‘Retweet’ something but they are less likely to take active arms against a political struggle. The failure of Kony 2012 is a direct consequence of this. If the fight is on your own street, such as seen in the Arab Springs; affecting your internet supply or food supply you are much more likely to take part.

In this article a young writer from Jakata chronicals the ways in which he uses social media and the ways it impacts him in the up and coming elections in Jakata: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2013/10/12/youths-politics-and-role-social-media.html

Can we have privacy if we use social media?

msn-messenger-13

Although I don’t particularly remember the date I started using social media, I can tell you that my first contact with social media was with MSN messenger. Anyone and everyone in our generation used MSN messenger and their main form of online communication (simpler times). At that era the internet was still a somewhat tame beast- its potential still being unraveled, ideas bounced around, privacy was still not an issue. Up until then,  privacy setting were simple, you put your username (Raider666…Don’t you dare judge me!), email, and created a password. Friends were added through manually typing in their email addresses (like cavemen) and no strangers were involved in your day to day online experience.  Then one day, a friend introduced me to Friendster. Nobody could have prepared me for the psychological egocentric train ride that was Friendster. The first BIG thing of its kind to have reshaped our perception of social media that blew up on a  global scale. Suddenly friends were pitted against other friends, how many friends do you have? Who are your top 10 friends? who are your hottest friends? Nobody could prepare you for such a wave of pride and ego because nobody before you has ever experienced douchebag-ness  at this level. Douchebag- ness that you were very well apart of. When you thought you were at the height of all that is social media….. MySpace arrived, Then MSN fought back with their new version of front page social media (or at least struggled to), then….. Facebook. The be all and end all of social media arrived. Each and every one of its predecessors offering more mediums of communication until Facebook provided them all; from pictures, to text, to video. Now you could know when someone has won the election seconds after it was announced, now you could know exactly what everyone was eating and what they looked like while they were eating it, now you had front row seats to when a friend with no boundaries announces his massive dump is proving hard to launch. Information was freely given to fill up our facebook pages, from our age, our gender, relationship status, sexual preference, where we went to school, where we work, the list goes on and on.  Then overnight, privacy was an issue, with so much personal information floating around it only took one angry child to realize he/ she could use all of this to his/ her advantage. In an equally large wave that social media rode in on, people were getting blackmailed, bullied, taunted, sexually harassed, and stalked, privacy was indeed an issue.  We want everyone to know what we are doing but not certain people, a double edged sword social media has become. Only now have people been paying attention to what they put into social media. Can we have privacy if we use social media? Plainly and simply, Yes. It just takes effort, effort that the internet was there to eliminate in the first place. But if we take time to read the terms and conditions of the use of social media, and actively go through our settings to ensure the right people see it whilst others don’t, then no foreseeable problems will arise. Worst comes to worst, DON’T PUT PRIVATE INFORMATION ON SOCIAL MEDIA.

– Jian. Chan

Can we have privacy if we use social media?

We can have privacy if we use social media depending on the information you choose to divulge online. If you use social media you could choose to use a pseudo-name, an avatar and not release your own personal information, it is your own choice to provide the information that you release on your profile.

I use caution upon releasing information online, even on secure websites such as Facebook. I never “check in” to a location and remove location settings on my photographs before I post to Instagram or Twitter. I never status update anything that I would not wish a potential employer to see unless its on my Twitter or Tumblr using a pseudo name. I do however have a personal Tumblr account where I chronicle my personal highs, lows and experiences of my job, however no information about my name, the particular place that I work or any of my friends is ever given.

I have been using social media websites starting in early high school. My first experience of social media was using the pet website “Neopets” (www.neopets.com) which is aimed at pre-teens, its a website which allows users to have virtual pets and collect points via games to buy virtual items for their pet. I used “Guilds”, a type of group to meet people online and chat with them via Microsoft Messenger, however I never gave any of my personal information.

My next experiences with social media came via myspace.com. At that particular time in high school I was quite emo and gothic and used the site to meet others in my area that were the same. I closely monitored my online profile and took many “selfies” showing new piercings, hair styles, clothing items etc. I edited my profile to look much the same as other people within the same social group and closely edited profile information such as my favorite bands, movies and tastes. Later, I started using the website Vampirefreaks.com, a social media website aimed at more gothic/alternative youth, I joined groups for other people in my area to meet other gothic people my age. I attended meet ups and made friends online.

Bad Myspace Selfie

Bad My Space Selfie

My later experiences with social media came a few years ago, while living in Japan in 2008/2009 I began to be interested and where Gothic Lolita fashion and Japanese Metal. When I arrived back to Melbourne I really wanted to make friends with people who had the same interests as I did, my hobby consumed my entire life. I searched online and joined a group called EGL via Live Journal, through this website girls arranged meet ups in their area and sold used items. I eventually joined the smaller Melbourne Lolita Community, made up of roughly 170 members and started to attend their meet ups. In the 4 years that I have been in this community I have made countless numbers of new friends that have more in common with me than the ones I had previously.
As much as I would not like to admit it, social media has effected my dating and relationships. In this scenario, I do not think I am the only one. My first boyfriend found me by commenting on a photo on Myspace.com, which at the time was bright pink. My second boyfriend I meet in Cherry Bar during a gig, but later stalked me down on an event page and through mutual friends and started to chat to me via Facebook. My now boyfriend was a friend of a friend, who I saw at a club but embarrassingly so I was too shy to speak to. Therefore when I had a little too much to drink, stalked his Facebook page, added him and sent him a message. Although this is all slightly embarrassing, I admit that I would be quite lonely without social media.

For better or worse social media is apart of our lives, regardless of whether you choose to participate or not. I think its very important that you a knowledge and value you own privacy, but this is not something that will go away despite your opinions. After all I am sure we all love a little bit of Facebook stalking, regardless of if its a previous lover or a classmate that who moved away in grade 5.