Today over 3 billion of the world’s 6.6 billion people have cellular connectivity and it is expected that another billion will be connected by 2010. But what is often overlooked is the disproportionate impact of mobile phones on different societies, which is one of the reasons why, as researchers, we increasingly prefer to spend time in places like Cairo and Kampala: there is simply more to learn. These are places where for many, it’s the first time they have the ability to communicate personally and conveniently over distances – without having to worry whether someone can overhear the topic of their conversation – communicate with whom they want, when they want. It makes new businesses viable and creates markets where there was none. For many it’s the first time they can provide a stable fixed point of reference to the outside world – a phone number, which in turn creates a new form of identity that in turn enables everything from rudimentary banking to commerce. And not least – each new feature on or accessible through the mobile phone brings new modes of use – unencumbered by my, and probably your entrenched (and increasingly outdated) notions of entertainment, the ‘right’ way to capture and share experiences, the internet. If you work or study in the mobile space and you’re expected to innovate, these are places that bring fresh thinking and new perspectives.

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