Lack Of Locally Relevant Online Content Deters Mobile Users In Developing Countries, WSIS Panel Says 28/05/2015 by Catherine Saez, Intellectual Property Watch Leave a Comment Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Although most people in the world live within reach of a mobile internet signal, a considerable amount of mobile users in developing countries are not using the opportunity to go online. One of the factors, according to a panel today, is the lack of locally relevant content. The World Summit on the Information Society Forum 2015 is taking place from 25-29 May and “represents the world’s largest annual gathering of the ‘ICT for development’ community,” according to the WSIS website. The WSIS Forum is co-organised by the United Nations International Telecommunication Union (ITU), UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), UN Development Programme (UNDP), and UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). A panel of speakers today looked into the impact of locally relevant content. According to Michael Kende, chief economist at the Internet Society, acting as panel moderator, ITU numbers show that in 2013, 94 percent of the world population was living in range of a mobile signal for voice. It takes about 10 percent of the original development cost of a network to upgrade it from 2G to 3G (and beyond) technology. About 48 percent of the population lives within range of a 3G network. However, only 28 percent of those are internet subscribers. “That kind of shifts the discussion of the digital divide,” he said. The question is why people who could access the internet are not choosing to do so. One reason is affordability, but another is the lack of interest because there is not enough locally relevant content, he said. Torbjorn Fredricksson, chief of the ICT Analysis Section at UNCTAD, said there is growing reliance on ICTs in the delivery of government healthcare and education. However, this implies the increased demand for customised applications in all countries. Off-the-shelf software solutions that are imported are available, he said, but “if you really want to boost the uptake of the internet and other ICT tools… then you really need to have content that is adapted to local needs and circumstances.” To develop such applications for the local market, in local languages, local skills are needed, which means that the capabilities of the ICT and in particular the software sector are particularly important, he said. Looking at software development in developing countries such as India, there is often an emphasis on the export market, while the local market “is kind of neglected,” he said. A main reason for this neglect is lack of a market for local developers. Nevertheless, the “mobile revolution” has changed the landscape and there is an increasing number of mobile users willing to pay for various applications, he said. Ellen Blackler, vice president of global public policy at the Walt Disney Company, said the company tends to produce movies in multiple languages and release them in multiple markets. The company also has a model where stories that do well in one market are reproduced locally with local actors and modified story lines. The real key, she said, is that people need to be able to make a living creating content so an adequate business model has to be developed. Meanwhile, a representative of the GSMA Digital Inclusion Programme identified all the mobile internet barriers to mobile adoption, looking in particular at four areas: infrastructure and policy, affordability and taxation, digital literacy, and local content, said Sarah Crampsie, consumer and content manager of the programme. GSMA is a global umbrella organisation of mobile operators. Most people in the developing world are accessing the internet for the first time on a mobile phone, and there is a lack of understanding about what the mobile internet is, she said. There are three reasons for this, she said. The first is the lack of knowledge about what the mobile internet has to offer. The second is the lack of knowledge on how to access and navigate the internet, and the fact that people often find themselves in front of websites written in English. She claimed that over 65 percent of websites are in English, while only 5 percent of the world speaks English. The third reason is that people do not understand the value proposition of accessing information on the internet, said Crampsie. Copyright Blackler said that in the developing world market, the issue of copyright and content is interesting from the producers’ perspective. “They will tell you that the issue is not somebody stealing their work and making it available, but it is the fact that they can’t compete against” the vast majority of the stolen work available for free on the market. “There is just no market for paid content that they want to produce,” she said. “The audience cannot be developed because they have access to this stolen content,” Blackler also underlined the role of broadcasters, “who oftentimes” are making available free content over which they have no rights. Content producers cannot make a living if that happens, she said. Local Software Skills Needed Matthew Shears, director and representative for global internet policy and human rights at the Center for Democracy & Technology, underlined the importance of fostering local micro entrepreneurship to develop locally relevant content, and to enable entrepreneurs to acquire digital literacy and entrepreneurial skills. Innovation and entrepreneurship are changing, he said, in particular in developing countries where there is a large informal sector. UNCTAD’s Fredricksson said it has become more and more important for all countries …to have certain level of skills in the software sector.” In the long term that will allow countries to interact and participate in the learning and innovation process that goes on in the area, he added. Without those particular skills they will fall further behind as new things are developed, he said. Governments have to sit down with the relevant stakeholders and ask for advice, and when they do their public procurement in IT services area and software area, they should consider how they can get their local software companies involved. “Many times, local software companies do not have all the full skill set to deliver the solution that they need, but often times they can deliver a portion of what is needed,” he said. Image Credits: Flickr – Sven Seller Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Related Catherine Saez may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org."Lack Of Locally Relevant Online Content Deters Mobile Users In Developing Countries, WSIS Panel Says" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.