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Update: seeing how the developing world uses technology

April 8, 2006

In Early March, we wrote the piece below about the work of Jan Chipchase at Nokia. On March 23rd, Business Week wrote a story about Nokia and how it had climbed back to dominance in India and China. It highlights how Nokia’s success has come from understanding how these markets use technology and creating products to meet local needs. It seems to suggest that the work of Jan and the research team at Nokia has been invaluable in helping to make this happen.

Last week, Vodafone made the decision to quit the developed Japanese mobile market, changing it’s focus to developing markets like India.

On the front line of these developing markets, out there gathering insight, are people like Jan Chipchase. As anthropologists, they are the ones going out into the field to uncover how technology is really being used.

Recently, Jan has been spending time in Mongolia understanding how mobile technology is being used. She found manned “white phone” mobile phone kiosks, next to hot dog stands, which rent phone time to anyone who wants it, providing they remain inconveniently connected to the body of the phone, that’s carried by the kiosk vendor.

The assumptions that technology adoption in the developed world, will follow the same path as Western economies, is fundamental wrong. Tech companies will need the services of people like Jan to work out exactly how to localize their product and service offerings.

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