Mobile phones to drive Internet access in JA?
Mobile phones with their high rate of penetration in Jamaica could become the dominant means to access the Internet locally, says Dr Hopeton Dunn, Director of the Digicel-sponsored Telecommunications Policy & Management (TPM) programme at the Mona School of Business, University of the West Indies (UWI) Mona.
Speaking ahead of his seminar at UWI this afternoon, 'Ringtones of Opportunity: People, Poverty and the Possibilities of Mobile Telephony in Jamaica', Dunn told Caribbean Business Report that mobiles could overtake laptops and desktops and drive the relatively low rate of broadband penetration in the country.
He predicts that at the very least mobiles will become the 'bridging technology' introducing lower-income users to browsing the Internet via their handsets and then transitioning onto laptop or desktop computers.
He places current Internet access at below 20 per cent with access to high-speed broadband at about two-thirds of that figure. By contrast his own survey of 1,182 households last year, revealed that 93.8 per cent of respondents had used a cellular phone in the previous three months and of those users, 95.5 per cent owned a mobile phone.
“We are talking about an ability to get to the Internet which is currently mainly limited to persons working in offices or upwardly mobile citizens so we have a long way to go whereas we feel that mobile is the technology of choice by the majority of people all over the world,” he said.
However he added one qualification: “There are (handset size) limits for education and serious research and so I think maybe it's that people will go for a PC and use a mobile or PDA for everything else.”
However manufacturers are producing ever 'smarter' phones with improved screens and keypads.
“It will be (mobiles) because a lot more people are browsing with high-end phones, so you are not waiting to go in front of a laptop or plug in to access the Internet,” said Damion Daley of Software Architects, who will also be addressing the seminar.
“A lot corporate Jamaica are using them to bring up their email, the screens are getting better in quality and you can read information more effectively and respond just as urgently.”
Software Architects developed the 'Mobile Money' application, scheduled for an official launch in Jamaica later this month, which allows users to carry out financial transactions using mobile SMS messaging.
Daley is optimistic that their application will bring poor Jamaicans into the banking sector and believes that mobiles can have a similar impact on broadband penetration.