Mobile Devices: Low-Cost, High-Penetration connectivity: Tim Berners-Lee

20 02 2007

Judy Breck at the Golden Swamp blog has written an insightful article on Tim Berners-Lee’s keynote speech to the 3GSM World Congress 07, highlighting the importance of the Mobile Web. Tim Berners-Lee is regarded as the “father” of the Internet; his invention of the open network has been a revolution for the way information is shared around the world.

Tim Berners-Lee’s keynote emphasised the importance which W3C, the international standards body for the Internet (led by Berners-Lee hmself), is placing on the Mobile Web. Mobile phones have high penetration in developing countries, and provide a low-cost platform for information connectivity and education. In concluding his keynote, Berners-Lee provided great insight into his vision of the Mobile Web providing connectivity opportunities for those in poorer countries:

Among other things, many of us are hoping that a low-cost open platform will have a much greater penetration in what we currently call the developing world. I personally believe that it is important to humanity to connect peoples across the world as widely as possible. I think we must preserve the diversity of cultures and ideas. But also I think we must connect people to give more global harmony. We should not add connectivity to the long list that the richer countries have and the poorer ones do not, a list which of course has clean water, health care and peace pretty near the top.

As part of the Mobile Web Initiative, W3C held a workshop on the Mobile Web in Developing Countries. One of the concerns is that some of the new phones aimed at the lower cost bracket don’t all have Web browsers. The area is very exciting, and the figures for coverage — 80% of the world’s population I have heard (World Bank, according to Wikipedia), and for market growth in developing countries seem very positive.

So when we look at the choices for the mobile devices, it is clear that they must continue on the path to an open Web platform. That is what the Mobile Web Initiative is about. Huge new markets, and huge opportunities for humanity, depend on this. We know in general how to do it. But there is a lot to do.

As well as providing the potential for improving the quality of educational experiences, mobile teaching and learning promises to leverage the low-cost, high-penetration aspects of the mobile web. It may well help to deliver education to disadvantaged groups, and bring about the social justice and equity of which Tim Berners-Lee speaks.

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