LIFT08: Future and Asia

One of the highlights of LIFT08 was the Asia track. First on stage was Marc Laperrouza who talked about the telecommunication situation in China. To summarize what I thought was most interesting (download PDF of presentation):

  • 59% of the world’s 2,5 billion mobile phone users are in developing countries – it is the first time in history that a technology has more users in developing countries than in developed countries
  • 3 of the worlds 5 largest mobile phone operators are in China – the largest is China Mobile with 350 million users
  • Super Girl, the Chinese version of Pop Idol, received 800 million SMS votes – government reactions was to quickly apply severe restrictions to prevent something similar to happen again
  • mobile phones are e g used as tools for instant crowd shopping – a phenomenon which I in the late 1990:s thought was going to emerge faster in the West than it apparently did

Marc ended by quoting Wang Jianzhou, Chairman of the world’s largest mobile phone operator China Mobile in Davos in January:

“We know who you are and also where you are!”

A comment that made the relation between technology and politics in China very clear to everybody.

Another interesting speaker was the South Korean researcher and consultant Heewon Kim who talked about social software spread in her home country. (her slides can be downloaded at LIFT_HeewonKim.pdf)

Interesting facts from her presentation was

  • South Korea have 37.89 million subscribers to Mobile Internet services with a usage rate of 43%
  • 20 million people = half of the number of citizens is members of the hugely successful Cyworld, the most successful virtual community sites in South Korea
  • Of the younger population 98% of the young people at the age of 20-30 are members = everybody
  • $260 000 worth of virtual items are sold every day in Cyworld

Heewon focused on the word “almost synchronous communication” to describe the common communication pattern, which means that you have access to status updates and messages all the time and can response immediately, but is not required to do so by the communication situation. It is basically the same kind of pattern that fits very well with MSN and SMS which is hugely spread among young kids in Europe, but not with ordinary phone calls (which is completely synchronous) and not mail and blogs (which are basically asynchronous). The mobile phones was the natural and always present tools which was able to support this mode of communication and Cyworld was of course extended to mobile phones anymore. The point with the emergence of almost synchronous communication seems to be that supports the emergence of real-time intimacy. (See also my earlier post about Consumers in a connected world)

Last on the Asian track was Gen Kanai, head of Mozilla in Japan.

What I though was most interesting and thought provoking in Gen’s speech was his description on how bad the Open Source model really worked in Asia. Of course Gen didn’t describe it as bad, that is my interpretation. E g during the Linux development the Asian participation was very low in Asia. There seemed to be few theories of why but cultural, language and educational barriers were discussed.

He also talked about good examples and mentioned Bhutan which is a really small country who have chosen Linux (Dzongkha Debian Linux) as their major operating system. It was developed during just 13 months and to a cost of about US$80.000.