Where Africa and Technology Collide!

SXSW: Mobile Web in Emerging Markets

I’m at SXSW in Austin, Texas in a panel that one of my friends, G. Kofi Annan is on. They’re talking about the reality of the mobile web in emerging markets like Africa. Here are some notes and quotes from this session.

Mobile web in emerging markets at SXSW 2009

“80% of the world has mobile network coverage. It’s an obvious thing to say that the mobile web should be the starting point for where we give access to the world.” – Matt Womer of the W3C Mobile Web Initiative

“More people have access to a mobile phone than have access to running water. More people have access to a data enabled mobile phone than there are desktop computers in the world.” – David Rogers of OMTP

What is the “Mobile Web”?

I got up and asked a question, as I’m curious as to how this panel defines the “mobile web”. Is it just a web browser on your phone, or is it any type of read/write ability on data enabled phones.

The panel batted back and forth the idea that there really shouldn’t be a difference between mobile and PC webs. It’s really the same thing. You don’t need a browser either, it’s just the ability to read/write to that database of information – which is the web. (Excellent! This is what I’ve been thinking for a while) This was best summed up by this quote:

“The mobile web is anything you can do while you’re walking along.” – Charles McCathieNevile of Opera


  1. Yes, your question is one that needed asking and I realize that marketing departments worldwide are going to glom on to one word to define a number of things as ‘Web Free’ gets more traction. I believe that there is a simple definition for “mobile web” if you break that in to three different things: Browser Mobile Web, Application Mobile Web, Text Mobile Web. There is a great deal of difference (as I’m dealing with right now) in creating a website that will display well on say an iPhone or Nokia N Series vs. developing an application for an iPhone of Nokia’s Ovi vs. developing a site to work with SMS or MMS.
    Is a site truly mobile if it only meets one of these? How about two? I just fear that the last one is going to be forgotten by developed nations, when in reality it’s that one which will truly reach that 80% of the world with mobile phones. Actually, now that I think about it, this might be a worthy article to dig in to more on Subsaharska when I get the chance as being a coder with a language background, I get ridiculously fired up about what things are called 🙂


  2. Perhaps a semantic solution is in order!

    “The World Wide Web (commonly abbreviated as “the Web”) is a very large set of interlinked hypertext documents accessed via the Internet.” – Wikipedia

    “The Internet is a global network of interconnected computers, enabling users to share information along multiple channels.”

    So, maybe, if we don’t need a browser, then what we mean is the “mobile internet,” not the “mobile web”.

  3. I can add more illiterate people have access to mobile phone than any other form of gadget.

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