First World Summit Award Mobile Content

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1 UNITED NATIONS EDUCATIONAL, SCIENTIFIC AND CULTURAL ORGANIZATION First World Summit Award Mobile Content Releasing mobile potential for development Keynote Address by Mr. Jānis Kārkliņš Assistant Director General Sector of Communication and Information UNESCO Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates 6 8 December

2 We are in the midst of an ongoing mobile revolution, changing the way we communicate, learn and live. By some measures the developing countries, which now have 59% of the world s mobile users, are benefiting the most from this revolution, with some of the least developed countries as major beneficiaries. For example mobile phone usage in Africa is growing twice as fast as in any other region. But development has many dimensions and cannot be limited to economic measures. For example, for developing countries the Millennium Development Goals and Education for All goals are especially relevant. Can we say that mobile deployment alone is helping to bridge the digital divide? How do we engage this potential of increasingly sophisticated mobile communication to help us achieve our development goals, social and cultural as well as economic? Only when the use of smart mobile applications is more widespread, will we be able to affirm that the gap is narrowing. UNESCO, as the United Nations specialized agency mandated to promote cooperation for education, science and culture as well as communication and information, has as an overarching goal to promote the building of inclusive global knowledge societies. In this context UNESCO is well placed and committed to be a catalyst to facilitate the harnessing of mobile applications for all, including the most disadvantaged groups. I would like to share with you some of the mobile technology application areas in which we are working. 2

3 m Learning UNESCO recognizes the huge potential of mobile technology to contribute to achievement of the Education for All (EFA) goals which were adopted by the World Education Forum in Dakar in We see mobile technology as major contributor to e Learning, defined as the process of acquiring knowledge and skills through the use of information and communication technologies (ICT). The World Summit on the Information Society, held in 2003 in Geneva and 2005 in Tunis, adopted e Learning as one of the priority follow up Action Lines and designated UNESCO as the facilitator. Mobile devices are increasing seen as assets in the classroom, rather than as disruptive elements. M Learning can bring educational quality and innovation to learners and teachers despite geographical isolation or social marginalization. Of particular interest in the latter context is the potential role of mobile technology in worldwide dissemination of Open Educational Resources (OER), learning materials that are in the public domain or released with an open access license that allows for their free use, adaptation, and redistribution. In the area of basic education, there have been many successful innovations, such as the Text2Teach programme in the Philippines sponsored by public sector, civil society and industry partners, by which teachers and students can access more than 900 multi media educational materials like video, pictures, text or audio files by requesting them via SMS. The program now covers 900,000 students in 204 public elementary schools, and will be extended to an additional 500 schools over the next three years. 3

4 UNESCO is actively working to define and promote the role of m Learning within e Learning in three ways: Policy, research and advocacy: Exchange of experience among policy makers in developing and industrialized countries, and development on forward looking policies that can promote EFA through mobile learning. Capacity building: Supporting the development of competencies of teachers to use mobile technologies within range of available ICT based modalities. Applications: Identifying specific mobile technologies to support the achievement of EFA goals, through study and exchange of experience to understand what works and why. Within this effort we have the possibility of sponsoring specific projects that show proof of principle, provided that UNESCO s role as a neutral advisor relative to specific products and economic actors is ensured. m Science The use of mobile devices is of particular interest to UNESCO s efforts to support developing country scientists and scientific endeavours, and to promote the dissemination and application of scientific results around the world. In the latter area, UNESCO is working to promote Open Access to scientific information through worldwide free access to online scholarly, scientific peer reviewed journals, and creation of such journals in developing countries. A related area is the promotion of enabling 4

5 environments for the development, sharing and use of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS). It is clear that mobile technology has an important contribution to make in both area, particularly for scientists, engineers and computer specialists who are working in isolated areas or in countries without strong fixed telecommunication and data communication services. Another very interesting aspect of m science its potential to allow researchers to more effectively and affordably collect data and collaborate in research. The Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics, a UNESCO institute in Trieste, Italy, organized a landmark conference on this subject last month, and has published the proceedings as a book presenting an overview of the state of the art in this area: New software that runs on smart phones, including grid computing solutions, can approximate in seconds computations that would take hours for a supercomputer, thus scaling sophisticated applications to needs on the ground where even a rough result can be very useful. With this kind of new power, computer specialists can now develop both scientific and commercial applications to address the numerous challenges faced in developing countries. Many fundamentally different research activities share the same need for accurate and timely field data. Filling out paper forms, sending them back and transcribing them is a slow and cumbersome process that delays information availability and potentially crucial decisions. Data collection with a mobile phone 5

6 has the potential to dramatically improve any service that relies on accurate and up to date information. These solutions are not dreams for the future, but are increasingly being deployed on the ground. Nokia Data Gathering is a solution that helps organizations to collect field data on critical issues using mobile phones instead of paper forms, PDAs or laptops. Two winners of the 2009 Vodafone Wireless Innovation Project were compact microscopes that interface with a cell phone camera. There is also a nanosensorbased detector for airborne chemicals that plugs into an iphone. Mobile technology in news media Responding to one of UNESCO s critical concerns, mobile technology has an immense potential impact in promoting the free flow of information and freedom of expression. The media in most developing countries have lagged in taking advantages of mobile technology opportunities in this area, already proven in good practice in the industrialized countries. Examples the opportunities are: production of innovative mobile adapted content, e.g. educational games, breaking news, and videos on development issues; voice based wikis or repositories for the delivery of spoken content on mobiles, instead of relying on video which requires substantial bandwidth or text based content which is not useful to illiterate users; development of systems to diffuse local content on mobile devices, for example by means of direct downloads, streaming, 6

7 RSS, video on demand, and perhaps ultimately digital broadcast of live mobile TV as is already being done in several industrialized countries. UNESCO is helping journalists, professional news media and community media in developing countries to made use of mobile technology through two thrusts: a) Capacity building for broadcasters, newspaper publishers and journalists. We are assisting media professionals in developing countries to keep up with the development of mobile media since they will, in a short time, face strong competition from international broadcasters and publishers who already have programme brands that transfer well to mobile users. As an example, we are organizing a workshop together with Al Jazeera Training Development Centre for broadcasters of the Arab States region, aiming to build their capacities to use mobiles as news media. This event is scheduled to be held in Doha, Qatar, on February We hope that it will prove to be a useful model for similar capacity building support in other developing regions. b) Content development. Content is becoming the added value for mobile phone manufacturers and network operators who know there will only be a market for mobiles with media functions if they can provide valued content and services. This may provide very interesting opportunities to media professionals and organizations in developing 7

8 countries to produce mobile content for both local and broader audiences, and to develop business partnerships with manufacturers and operators for its dissemination. An example is UNESCO s work with the Commonwealth of Learning (COL) to empower community media in developing countries to exploit mobile friendly audio or visual content. In the first phase of the project, we collected lessons learned from the experiences of community media, conducted a training needs assessment and prepared a framework for curricula on production and diffusion of mobile media content. This year we have been field testing the methodology in India and soon expect to release the refined product as an open educational resource. Policy considerations The above application areas are only intended to be illustrative, as I have not had time to cover all themes of UNESCO competence, such as the areas of conflict and disaster mitigation, or of culture where, for example, mobile devices applications are already widely serving as guides to museums and other historical and cultural sites. Instead of going into more detail, I would like to discuss some more general policy considerations. In the social area, national policies and market strategies should take account of the fact that the benefits of, and contributions to, mobile technology are not evenly distributed in society. For example: 8

9 In societies imposing strict social and gender roles, women, especially rural women, are often not able to enjoy or benefit from advances in mobile technology. On the other hand, this same technology is in other cases allowing women greater social and economic freedom. UNESCO, for which gender equality is a priority as a fundamental human right as well as a necessary condition for the achievement of development objectives, is fully committed to raising awareness about and addressing these gaps. Youth often show great gifts for mobile technologies when they have access, so that there is a strong argument for empowering them to contribute to the application of these technologies to development, not only as users but also as advisers and, why not, as developers. In societies with strong oral traditions, audio applications may be more appropriate than textual and visual ones in preserving cultural heritage and in facilitating social networking. On the other hand, reports and studies have shown several examples of the value of mobile phones in promoting and reinforcing literacy by encouraging people to write SMS's. It is a fact that mobile devices are becoming an important factor in political processes, governance and democratization, as ordinary citizens increasingly use them to report news, expose wrongdoing, mobilize opinion and monitor elections and government. 9

10 The rapidly advancing mobile technology scene presents special challenges for international development, particularly in providing policy guidelines and promoting capacity building. In the school system it typically takes 5 10 years before results of policy changes can be measured and evaluated, during which the mobile technologies undoubtedly will have evolved through several steps. The figures we have on mobile device penetration are often several years old and do not provide much detail on the functionality of the devices concerned. Policy makers at the national and international levels could therefore benefit from more detailed and timely indicators of mobile technology availability, organized at the sectoral level when needed. UNESCO, for example, is working with Member States to develop and apply a system of indicators on the use of ICT in education. As an example of technological evolution, this year we have seen the first mainstream arrival of tablet devices, and in 2011 we are likely to see a large increase in tablets of varying sizes, quality and price ranges as well as a variety of new applications adapted to the tablet format. The tablet presents new challenges and opportunities to mobile content for development. The current tablet functions depart from the previous common denominator of mobile telephony with significantly enhanced user interfaces, more intuitive modes of operation and vastly improved processing power. All of this seems to make the tablet a potentially more versatile platform for substantial development initiatives such as m Learning or m Health, but we do not know whether or when the tablet will have an equivalent impact in development contexts as the mobile phone. 10

11 We should also ask who will develop the increasingly personalized and diverse mobile applications needed in development contexts. Industry will surely continue to do a very large part, but we should also look to users such as governances and civil society to take a larger role. In both cases, we see FOSS approaches as potentially very important, especially where public service needs do not produce a sustainable market, or where a market exists but consists of widely dispersed and differing social and cultural contexts which could be brought together by a distributed application development community. UNESCO is also concerned about interoperability and compatibility of the different mobile technology standards, especially the operating systems at the core of application development for mobile devices, as well as about overall operator strategies for wider deployment of mobile networks. Last but not least are questions of increased affordability of mobile devices and services, and of recycling of electronic waste. Although UNESCO does not traditionally have a direct role in these areas, we are ready to work with industrial partners to help to define and validate development needs for mobile technologies, and with governments to adopt and implement the necessary policies. Very recently UNESCO signed a first a large scale framework agreement for cooperation in m Learning with Nokia. Discussions are underway with other mobile industry actors, and all who are interested in the potential of mobile technology in development are warmly invited to contact us. 11

12 The fundamental premise of the role that information and communication technologies, including mobile communications, play in our lives is rooted in the Declaration of Principles of the World Summit on the Information Society. The declaration stresses a people centred development and inclusive society where all can access and share knowledge in an atmosphere of unrestricted access to information with guaranteed freedom of expression. ICT enabled networks provide a shared space for knowledge creation, sharing and accumulation. In this context governments, especially those in the developing world, need to formulate policy frameworks that ensure an enabling environment for information access and the further development of mobile technology. Overall, the need for more investment in new technologies cannot be overemphasized; nor can the need for targeted government interventions to ensure greater freedom of access to information and innovation in the ICT sector. It is through a mix of such policies that we can ensure universal access to ICTs for the benefit of all. Thank you. 12

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