LIFT 2008: A glimpse of Asia
First up, Mark Laperrouza of EPFL on the current state and latest trends in Chinese telecomms. He's started a non-profit micro-credit fund for students, Bono Pro.
3 major blocks of economics are traditionally Europe, Japan and USA. In fact the two major economies are China and India. Japan and Europe are shrinking populations (I may have misheard this...).
Three basic messages:
- Mobile technology is the first technology to be used more in the developing world than the developed world;
- The war for telecomms standards will be waged in Asia;
- Mobile phones mean radically different things to different people;
Mobile has leapfrogged fixed-line communications. 25% of growth in the last 12 months was in China and India. Mobile is going to be the primary means of Internet access, even for illiterate users. Myanmar: 1% mobile penetration, Hong Kong: 101%. There's massive discrepancies across Asia.
In the US ARPU is $40 average; in China it's $11.
3 of the largest 5 mobile operators are in Asia. China Mobile: 350m customers. Second Vodafone: 200m.
China Mobile set up a mobile network at the Mount Everest base camp! They get 5-6m new customers pcm, 1m are new contracts, 4-5m are PAYG. Estimated 50-100m mobile internet users pcm. Location-based-services launching soon -is there more or less of a privacy issue in China than in more open democracies?
This implies a vast number of handsets, which implies an ecological issue. Nokia etc responded by setting up recycling bins, but as it happens the Chinese are happy to recycle/resell so these aren't getting used so much.
Most people in the developing world never roam more than 90km from where they're born. In developing countries relatively obsolete technologies can still be useful.
The Chinese developed their own 3G standard, TD-SCDMA, to avoid paying royalties to Qualcomm etc. Existing operators don't want this government-imposed standard and Chinese handset manufacturers want to sell their handsets to the rest of the world - so they've favoured 3G and GSM. There are some doubts over whether China will have 3G in time for the Olympic games, thanks to technonationalism. In China and Korea there's strong state involvement with technology.
Shows off: first "feng shui" phone which senses your environment. First mobile with inbuilt cigarette holder. First iphone knock-off, released in China before iPhone was launched.
What are the differences between Chinese and Western mobile usage? Difficult question. Instant messaging is a biggie: they're relatively impatient for responses. In China, it's acceptable to answer telephones during meetings, say.
Bangladesh and Grameen phone: it's microtrading for phones. Most people don't have access to market price information thanks to lack of communication and illiteracy. Knowing pricing can be important in business.
The future of China's economic development, the big task, is raising the level of living standards in the countryside, not the cities - and this is what will make or break "the Chinese miracle".
Two quotes from Wang Janzhou, Chairman China Mobile:
"If someone doesn't have a mobile phone they will lack the basic functions of what it is to be human"
"We know who you are and where you are"
Next speaker, Heewon Kim of Seoul University on youth and social software:
Stats on Korean environment:
- 30m broadband subscribers, 26% of population (or nearly every household).
- 38m mobile subscribers, 43% use it for mobile internet.
- 7.2Mbps connections to mobile via HSDPA
Internet culture in Korea is led by appearance of the individual. Cyworld quoted as a good example.
Minihompy: personal home pages. Sometimes used to present candid photos, sometimes they are edited/touched up first (often this is what drives users to learn about photo editing software).
Beyond self-expression, self-branding: an archive of everyday life, diaries, and thoughts.
Real-time intimacy is enabled by real-time comms. It doesn't need to be synchronous, almost-synchronous is fine.
Cyworld got really popular in 2003. It's still mainly teenagers, 20somethings are staring to leave.
Now Gen Kanai, who does biz dev for Mozilla Japan, talking about OSS in Asia:
28% market share in Europe.
2% market share in China (3.5m users).
10-12% market share in Japan.
Korean market restricted by encryption protocols. But also it was so far ahead of the world in broadband that crypto standards weren't available worldwide (?), so the Korean government went their own way. As of today, IE is the only way to do crypto in Korea - Microsoft have a de facto monopoly.
There's a tendency for Asians not to contribute to open source: thanks to culture, language and education, according to Linus Torvalds, no-one really understands why.
Take Bhutan (no, really!): 2.2m population, very isolated. In top 10% of happiest nations, Gross National Happiness more important than GNP. Microsoft wouldn't do them a Bhutan language OS, so they went to open source. Very interesting - they now have an opportunity to control their future and their language. They built the OS on top of Debian in just over a year for about $80k cost.
Ruby was developed by a Japanese developer.
In the West there's often a lot of direct confrontation in OSS projects. This type of dialogue is less common in Asia, both in person and online. Some of the standards by which people interact aren't there.
Language is an issue; it's not just a question of writing in code, it's about communication around the code too.
OSS has traditionally depending on a certain level of economic development: developers having time outside of work to carry out pro bono programming.
Another cultural difference: the west succeeds on meritocracy. This isn't necessarily true in Asia. Free and freedom are key ideals of open source, but the terms may have been polluted by international politics of late.