People Power
By, Thu Mar 21 00:00:00 GMT 2002

Mobile phones to morph into community shapers and life stylers ...

Answer (Mohan Gyani, President of AT&T Wireless Mobility Group):
To start with, there will not be a single community. There will be many. People use and define wireless services to meet their unique needs. Some want to stay in touch with their kids away at college. Some want to access and read their e-mail. Some want to download streaming audio and video. Some want to call home and say, “I’ll be on time for dinner.” Some want to snap a little camera onto their wireless device, take a photo, and send it to a friend – all in a matter of seconds.

These and many wireless communities are already springing up everywhere. We all have different needs, but what continues to unite us is the need to stay free yet connected to the important people and things in our lives. Our industry uniquely empowers people to meet this need.

Answer (Jorma Ollila, Chairman and CEO of Nokia):
Digital technology can support the building of emerging economies, developing local markets as well as small and medium-sized enterprises. It can contribute to strengthening the democratic process by giving citizens, families and communities a voice and tools to promote change.

It took a century to connect one billion people through conventional phone lines – it took only a little more than a decade to connect the same number of people through mobile technology. The relative affordability and ease of mobile communication has already demonstrated its power to shape the destiny of societies – the Philippines is a case in point.

We believe that through universal access digital solutions can be powerful enablers for development. Community begins with families and peer groups and extends all the way to the international level. Enabling technologies offer individuals richer forms of interaction with their communities of choice. Ultimately, it empowers them to guide and develop their own futures.

Technology itself is not the solution. The successful application of technologies is the real challenge we face. However, with the commitment and leadership of governments, the private sector, and civil society throughout the world, technology can play an important role in empowering individuals and communities.

Our mission is to connect people, and in doing so, we are committed to bridging the digital divide. Strengthening communities is a collective responsibility and a joint effort – we invite others to join us in delivering on the promise of technology.

Answer (John Allwood, Executive VP of Orange UK):
We created Orange at Home, Europe’s first and only consumer-focused research centre designed to evaluate intelligent home services of the future, in order to offer a glimpse of an empowered and integrated community. The house has been created around our vision of delivering a range of wirefree life services, which are designed to enable people to manage their domestic and working lives, whenever, wherever and however they choose to.

The home allows occupants, through a wide range of devices, to access and control a number of different home systems and appliances. Lighting, heating, security, door unlocking/locking, audio visual systems, blinds/curtain control, bath filling, and numerous other home appliances can all be controlled from an Orange phone, using WAP, SMS, or dial tone (DTMF); PDAs/web tablets; wall panels in the house; any web-connected PC; and voice commands.

Answer (Rudi Lamprecht, President & CEO of Siemens Information and Communication Mobile Group):
An empowered mobile community will be made up of mobile subscribers who are able to run their lives exactly how they want. These mobile subscribers won’t be bound to the clock or conventional schedules – with the help of the mobile device of the future they will be able to manage their personal and professional lives wherever they are, whenever they want. Of course, this will also mean that business will have to deal with individuals on their terms. This will be a challenge to the business models built on the assumption that individuals are at the receiving end of the mobile food chain, so to speak. They will also be shaping the society they live in because they will be able to participate in the processes from wherever they are in the world.

I can imagine a new kind of direct democracy that builds on the processes we already have in place and the services that allow individual mobile users to vote for their favorite musicians. Only now it won’t be voting for a band it will be voting for the way a government body should function and what proposals should be law. When we speak about the global village and the vision of a world government or system that will help us cope with global concerns, we need global communication and exchange of ideas. The mobile Internet will empower the community that will spearhead this effort and knock down the barriers, as we know them today.

Answer (Nikesh Arora, CEO of T-Mobile online, Deutche Telekom's mobile portal business):
Mobility enables greater efficiency of communication and in doing so encourages active participation in our communities. But it’s not a perfect tool. While new technologies can make the social process less cumbersome, at the same time, the deeper you dive into mobile technology, the more potential it has to isolate you. Even today, many people are now more comfortable sending email via a mobile device than they are walking up to you and actually having a conversation. It’s the tragic dichotomy that communications technology brings.

Many of us are in the business of enabling technologies that become tools in the hands of society and, in the end, society decides toward what end such a double-edged sword will lean. You could presume the mobile Internet is the great equalizer – enabling people to exchange information on the move. Or, you could guess that direct marketing companies use it to spam you personally and wreak havoc on your personal life. You can see it both ways.

I think, as more advanced technology makes its way into the marketplace, a new techno-society will be born - and such a society brings with it a paradox where sometimes technology crowds your life.

Consider television. When the public adopted this wonder of modern technology, many people stopped leaving their houses in the evening, opting to spend their time with “The Honeymooners” instead of the Jones’s. Similarly, with the personal computer, we see that many people are spending entire afternoons and evenings staring at another form of CRT display. But with the next step, there is no going back. Mobile devices eliminate the remaining variables, and you don't have “dead time” anymore – not even on trains or in airports.

So in a way, mobile technology is just another link in a lengthening chain. While mobility enables the exchange of information more quickly, the flip side is that even when you are in the midst of society you risk being isolated, because you can use mobile technology to moderate your surroundings like never before: You’ll choose to interact only with those elements you really want to interact with, and when you choose to do so our world changes dramatically.

Do these technologies encourage an open society that empowers the individual - or will they more often allow you to interact with carefully chosen peers, and present more of a burden than we’re realizing?

It's Mobile Vision week on TheFeature! offers, in parallel to CTIA, its readers leading executive insights into the outlook of the mobile Internet in 3 to 5 years from now. Stay tuned!