In this weeks reflection we take a look at citizen media using mobile technology in developing areas. MobileActive.org posted an article (Mobiles in Citizen Media) that describes the cell phone as a Swiss Army knife, meaning it has everything you could need for communication. This is true. Mobile phones have video, radio, camera, internet, SMS and voice capabilities. With so many features, these phones are the perfect device for areas that don’t have landlines or much computer access. We hear a lot about how wonderful mobile technology is, but rarely the other side of the coin.
Citizen media, according to MobileActive.org, is “everyday citizens posting news media directly from a mobile phone to the Internet or people’s cell phones and thus, an online public.” The MobileActive.org article talks about the positive impact of citizen media, but also about the struggles with using mobile technology. While the list is not surprising, it is obvious to know that there have to be challenges. Just because there is not a strong infrastructure say in Pakistan as there is in Seattle, people still need to work through frustrations when there are technological roadblocks. The majority of challenges deal with cost, but others are quite similar to developed nations.
Technical problems, spam and the issues of personal security are challenges that follow this technology, and one could assume that different culture deal with these in different ways. For US teens, it is not as drastic if text messages between friends are not received. But in a place that benefits from early warnings of natural disasters or terrorism, having uninterrupted service could save a life. For example, in Pakistan, mobile phones are used to tune into radio shows to warn citizens about areas of violence. You could argue that this type of information doesn’t have a price tag.
But with so many different programs for mobile communication sprouting up all over continents like Africa, how will communication unite people when everyone is connected, but all by different companies, programs and policies? Will there be pressure to unite for ease and profit sake? Will the efforts of NGO’s be forgotten or praised?