Mike Stopforth called me from South Africa last week to chat about Web 2.0 in the enterprise. We talked about a lot of things. One topic that piqued my interest was how different technologies are adopted at different rates in different cultures.
What makes a big difference are personal cost and how entrenched existing technology infrastructures are. Mike pointed out to me how in South Africa, while computers and personal internet access are not yet as prevalent among the general population (the cost issue?) as they are elsewhere, widespread cell phone access via prepaid accounts has made very rapid inroads at all levels of society, even among the poorest.
Another factor is whether there is an existing (and potentially resistant) infrastructure to replace. We see this sometimes when cell phone and satellite TV are adopted rapidly in societies where existing phone and TV service are antiquated or underdeveloped. The newer and easier-to-distribute technologies expand so rapidly that they lead to situations where adoption rates are higher than in more “advanced” cultures. A typical example is how the U.S. lags other countries (such as Japan) in the adoption of newer cell phone technologies and services.
A related phenomenon may be occurring in adoption of Web 2.0 technologies by large enterprises. Newer relationship management and collaboration technologies, delivered over the web (as opposed to secure “within the firewall” networks), may be finding less resistance among mid-size and smaller companies since there is less entrenched competition in them than than in larger companies. Plus, web delivered applications have the potential for reducing demand for infrastructure maintenance and support.
Returning to the topic of cell phones, Mike commented that at least one vendor in South Africa (MXit) allows cell phone customers to add “social” features to text messaging in order to allow users to create and maintain groups via the phone. We also see this with Helio and its MySpace connection.
This convergence of cell phones and social software features is not new. My guess is that such features are bound to grow and to put more demand on wireless phone hardware power to deliver an increasing number of computer software like features. Powerful platforms such as MySpace still require computer keyboard and mice to create and maintain; in a few years that requirement may be gone if it isn’t already and we may very well see truly portable devices that incorporate wireless communications for audio and video as well as the all important social software and relationship management features.
Copyright (c) 2006 by Dennis D. McDonald