This is not to say that these billions of mobile phones do not have the potential to access content from the web – rather, the traditional browser-based paradigm of internet usage does not cater to them. The idea that the mobile web consists exclusively of mobile devices running web-browsers identical to the web experience we are used to with IE/Firefox is simply wrong. Throwing more and more resources towards creating devices for the developing world that can emulate the PC browsing experience is misguided. The 2 billion phones being used in the developing world are really great at making and receiving voice calls and text messages: Why not shape the internet experience to meet the specs of every phone’s inherent functionality (voice!) rather than requiring devices to have specs that quite frankly aren’t going to be realistic for many years to come?
I don’t often simply quote someone and leave it at that but Nathan Eagle’s post on the limitations of the current perception of the mobile internet experience for the developing world are spot on and the most insightful I have come across to date. Go read his entire post here. As anyone who has any experience in a developing country where a significant proportion of population maybe illiterate or not literate in the roman script – India comes to mind – what he is saying makes absolutely perfect sense. Voice, not data.