A Picture and a Thousand Words: Visual Scaffolding for Mobile Communication in Developing Regions

A Picture and a Thousand Words: Visual Scaffolding for Mobile Communication in Developing Regions

Robert Farrell (IBM T J Watson Research Center, USA), Catalina Danis (IBM T J Watson Research Center, USA), Thomas Erickson (IBM T. J. Watson Research Center, USA), Jason Ellis (IBM T J Watson Research Center, USA), Jim Christensen (IBM T J Watson Research Center, USA), Mark Bailey (IBM T J Watson Research Center, USA) and Wendy A. Kellogg (IBM T J Watson Research Center, USA)
Copyright: © 2010 |Pages: 15
DOI: 10.4018/jhcr.2010100105
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Abstract

Mobile communication is a key enabler for economic, social, and political change in developing regions of the world. This paper describes IBM Picture Discussions, which is a mobile social computing application framework designed to facilitate local information sharing in regions with sparse Internet connectivity, low literacy rates, and having users with little prior experience with information technology. IBM Picture Discussions runs on today’s internet-enabled smartphones as well as camera phones with multimedia messaging. In this paper, the authors argue that engaging citizens in developing regions in information creation and information sharing leverages peoples’ existing social networks to facilitate transmission of critical information, exchange of ideas, and distributed problem solving. All of these activities can support economic development.
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Background

BoP populations face a number of obstacles in becoming part of the global online community. In the economically developed world, access to information technology has been largely through Internet-connected computers. An important benefit of access to the Internet has been the potential for contact with the worldwide community of users. Through online communities, Internet users engage in discussions on topics of common interest, write comments that serve as a means of self-expression, and solve each others’ problems. We argue here that through mobile phones, similar applications could be deployed to BoP communities to enable discussions on topics of local interest, provide a voice for individuals who would otherwise have no forum for their ideas, and enable solutions to communal problems through information exchange.

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