Talk on fostering Digital Literacy @ Stockholm Internet Forum (SIF) 2015

SIF15

The Stockholm Internet Forum (SIF) 2015 with more than 400 participants from over 90 countries –  hosted by The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) – is in full swing and the first day of the main conference just came to an end. There was plenty of lively and fruitful debate on issues of internet access from a multi-dimensional perspective with a strong emphasis on social and structural inequalities.

I was pleased to be chosen to give a talk on „Promoting Digital Literacy in Developing Regions: Business Goals and Media Education in unison“, where I shifted the emphasis slightly from issues of physical access (i.e. the digital divide) to a more skill- or digital/media literacy-based approach to viewing barriers in access to the (mobile) internet – the so called „2nd-level digital divide“. My talk was inspired from and drew on my field research experiences from my ongoing PhD-research on the meanings of mobile phones in everyday life of urban Kenya (Nairobi).

SIF Unconference programme

While I was stressing the possibility of the corporate sector to bridge those gaps in media education that are not covered by public education curricula, I also pointed out the need of teaming up with professional (media) educators in order to carry out such trainings in a sensitive manner and not make them serve business interests alone. Here is the abstract of the talk I gave:

Physical access to the internet is still an issue in many sub-Saharan nations. What matters equally, however, are the still low levels of digital literacy among users. This is to say that the availability of digital media does not really help, if people have problems in using these services.
This is not only a problem because it means that people who can not fully use digital tools will suffer from further societal exclusion and economic disadvantages. The other problem is that media literacy training is often not part of public education and, if private lessons are taken, mostly expensive.
Since the digitally semi-literate represent a vast clientele of sub-Saharan media markets, I suggest that the mobile industry sets up training camps to bridge that gap in media education. This is not only to serve the public good (CSR) but also to develop businesses, because customers will be able to use the future services/devices. Users would benefit from media skills-development that leads to improved usage scenarios, while at the same time being part of the product design process and not having to appropriate technologies that were originally designed for other times and places (i.e. the west).

There was a short interview conducted with me just before the talk, which can be viewed below:

I am already looking forward to the second part of the conference tomorrow!

Swedish mobile service operator Tre (3) lets go of charging for data generated by music streaming services

What is great for consumers might have some serious political and economic consequences, though.

Tre, Swedens third largest mobile service provider, now „sets music free“ (loosely translated from the Swedish strapline „Nu släpper vi musiken fri!“).

What this means is that the cell phone carrier will no longer charge for any data (i.e. up to 70GB/month) that is being consumed through the usage of streaming music services – and, thus, not deduct such data from a customers monthly data plan. That is, as long as the music service being used is either Spotify, Deezer or Tidal (the latter also offers music videos – video data, however, is not included in the offer). For some reason, Apple Music is not (yet?) included. The offer applies to all forms of subscription and to existing as well as to new customers.

According to an article in the Swedish daily newspaper METRO (September 1st, 2015), industry observers expect Tre’s competitors (which are basically Telenor, Tele2 and Telia Soneraplus some smaller ones) to follow that move sooner or later in order not to experience competitive disadvantages.

The very same article, based on data from The Internet Foundation in Sweden (IIS), also mentions that:

  • 3 out of 4 Swedes listen to music on their mobile phone
  • 1 in 3 does so every day, and
  • 3 out of 4 pay for a music service.

That means an already existing pretty large customer base that might, all of a sudden, start generating massive amounts of data traffic. I am curious to see how that will work out.

I am also curious to see if there will be any public debate revolving around the principle of network neutrality 1, which I would certainly expect to happen.

Additionally, this move of Tre might also bring along some serious economic consequences and/or options: Obviously, the company has the power to exclude certain streaming providers (such as Apple Music and others in that case) from that offer, which, of course, causes a serious competitive disadvantage for those (see the cross-reference to „net neutrality“ above!), because consumers in turn might not want to choose a music streaming provider that is not eligible for unlimited streaming on their respective carrier. Cell phone carriers might start teaming up with music streaming providers along some negotiated lines in order to achieve some kind of strategic objective. In that instance here, Spotify might benefit by stabilizing the market position in Sweden, which has become seriously threatened by the market entry of Apple Music some months back.

Let’s see what happens. There will be some interesting developments in any case, I guess.

 

  1. Net neutrality (also network neutrality, Internet neutrality, or net equality) is the principle that Internet service providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or mode of communication.