Wednesday, February 25, 2015

How Different are our Digital Worlds?

Internet access in developed and developing countries still varies dramatically, according to Facebook Newsroom's report on 'The State of  Global Connectivity'.

The 2014 report suggests that the percentage of the global population who use the Internet at least once a year was 37.9%.

Other statistics include:

"The unconnected are disproportionately located in developing countries — 78% of the population in the developed world is online compared to just 32% in emerging economies.

Moreover, adoption of the internet is slowing — The rate of growth declined for the fourth year in a row to just 6.6% in 2014 (down from 14.7% in 2010). At present rates of decelerating growth, it won’t reach 4 billion people until 2019.

In order for the entire world to connect to the internet, we will have to address the three barriers to access: Infrastructure, Affordability and Relevance.

Infrastructure – More than 90% of the world’s population lives within range of a mobile signal. This means that we will need to look at issues like affordability and awareness in order to connect the majority of people.

Affordability – Globally, monthly data plans with a cap of 250MB are affordable to 50% of the population. Reducing this cap to 100MB achieves 80% affordability and 20MB reaches 90% affordability. But in locations like Sub-Saharan Africa where 69% of people live on less than $2 per day, only 53% of the population can afford the internet with a cap of 20MB, an amount that provides just 1-2 hours of web browsing a month.

Relevance – Many people are not online because they are either unaware of the internet or because there is limited relevant content in their primary language. To provide relevant content to 80% of the world would require sufficient content in at least 92 languages."

Source: Facebook Newsroom "The State of Global Connectivity"

A recent blog post by Upasna Kakroo raises two interesting questions.

First, how and why are social media messages any different from notes delivered by carrier pigeons?

Second, she cites research suggesting that developed countries tend to think of constant connectivity as eroding the boundaries between work and non-work life, which is implicitly viewed negatively in countries such as the UK, Germany and France.  By contrast, those surveyed in developing markets seem less concerned about work-life balance, at least when it comes to connectivity.

My take on this is that those living in developing markets are perhaps more actively seeking opportunities, many of which come through digital media.  And, that the wonders of digital media in our homes are still something of a marvel.  I know this personally as we finally got significantly faster broadband speeds at home a few weeks ago and it is like having a new well in a parched village.  As they say, there are two parts to happiness.  One is having what you want and the other is knowing when you have it.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

How Tinder works...and why

The Dating Game 2.0.

If you've heard a lot about dating apps, but are not quite sure how they work, or why anyone would use them, there was an insightful recent article in the NY Times that explains the most popular app, Tinder, comparing it to other, more established web dating applications, such as

Essentially, once a user signs up and includes a few pictures (generally from your Facebook archives), the mobile app finds other registered users and presents your photo to them, and likewise, you see photos of those around you.  You swipe one direction to indicate interest and the other direction to suggest you're interested in meeting someone.  Then--and only then--can they message you.  Basically, two mutually interested parties are able to make contact by text, followed by face-to-face contact if both are still keen after the text exchange.

The author, Molly Wood (her real name?) admits that while this approach, based mostly on physical looks, seems a bit superficial at least and 'sleazy' at worst, it is also the appeal of the application, namely its easy-to-use simplicity and unpretentious nature.  It also feels like a game, where you decline others' advances by saying 'still playing,' which says this is not necessarily a search for a life partner (although the author admits being in a promising relationship that started with Tinder).

The comparison with match-making sites is that Tinder is not trying to play matchmaker, it is just helping you play the field, with the advantage of knowing who else is playing on the same field.

But why is there an overall surge in dating apps?  Functionalist sociologists and animal behiorists will tell you that dating rituals are necessary and important to help individuals let down their guard enough for would-be suitors to become intimate enough to mate.  Not very romantic, but it does help us understand the role that dating apps serve in connected and busy societies.

Dating apps reduce at least some of the anxiety of approaching strangers who are not interested in us personally, or not interested in dating in general.  By letting us contact the 'maybe' persons around us, the odds of carrying on a conversation over a drink go up substantially.  Plus, by making it look and feel like a game, it perhaps bring a playfulness to first encounters, which is both fitting and helpful, in most cases.

For those of us with soul mates and those still looking, Happy Valentines Day!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Rate, rank, review...right back at you!

Giving feedback is a good thing, right?  We love heaping praise (or scorn) on those who serve us.  It makes them better, stronger, faster!  And, it makes us feel so much better.

But, the tables may be turning as this article in the NY Times suggests, where taxi drivers are now rating their Uber customers.  So, be careful what you say about the cabby, or next time you may be refused service or treated as consumer non grata. Of course, honest rewards for good behaviour makes sense.  But, just as tipping can become an expectation, what happens when the game becomes two parties gaming each other with both parties' reputation at stake?

Is this a good thing?  I couldn't possibly comment.

See my earlier post on Rate, rank and review and the cult of verification.