My first venture to Mobile Twin Cities event was quite enlightening.
The event started from the presentation of YouthAssets efforts to use mobile phones for helping young people in Africa. The organization helps youth-headed households in Swaziland (South Africa) – country with highest HIV infection rate. Many orphan households are headed by older brother or sister who is trying to support the family.
Though majority of the people in the country live in poverty, 90% of the population is covered with a mobile phone network. The typical monthly plan phone service is available only for the wealthy able to pay (about 1%); majority of the population “pay as you go” easily transferring minutes of “air time” to each other. The calling culture is different – people have to pay to call, but don’t have to pay to receive. Voice mail is not popular, while “buzzing” is – calling and hanging up before the recipient picked up the call. Youth who had mobile phones in many cases did not have electricity at home, but managed to charge their devices at school, at home of a wealthy neighbor, or find other cheap method.
Most of the population had feature phones, though all 16 king’s wives had iPhones 😉
Some of the youth in the program already had basic mobile phones, and some could “purchase” them from the organization. Mobile phones provided needed connections with relatives, opportunity for the support group to transfer “air time” that could be sold later, and the emotional support young people needed. The organization also successfully tried conference registration via mobile phones.
Second session was devoted to Nokia N900. Though the session was too technical for me, I was glad that the rest of the attendees were quite interested and knowledgeable in building applications for mobile devices 😉 From marketing perspective – Nokia promotes this phone as a powerful “mobile computer” rather than a phone.