Book Review: Comunicación Móvil y Desarrollo Económico y Social en América Latina

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Information Technologies & International Development journal has just published its Vol 8, Issue 4 Winter 2012, a special bilingual issue featuring research on ICT4D from Latin America.

This issue features a piece written by me, the book review of Comunicación móvil y desarrollo económico y social en América Latina [Mobile communication and economic and social development in Latin America], by Mireia Fernández-Ardèvol, Hernán Galperin and Manuel Castells. As a bilingual issue, my book review has both been published in English and Spanish: please follow the links below to download the reviews.

It is worth reminding that, back in September 2011, Manuel Castells offered a presentation of the book which I attended. My notes can be read at Mobile communication and economic and social development in Latin America.

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Ismael Peña-López
Book review: Comunicación Móvil y Desarrollo Económico y Social en América Latina“. In Information Technologies & International Development, 8(4), 281-284. Cambridge: MIT Press.
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Ismael Peña-López
Reseña de Libro: Comunicación Móvil y Desarrollo Económico y Social en América Latina“. En Information Technologies & International Development, 8(4), 285-289. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Mobile communication and economic and social development in Latin America

Notes from the presentation of the book Comunicación móvil y desarrollo económico y social en América Latina, by Mireia Fernández-Ardèvol, Hernán Galperin and Manuel Castells, M., that took place at the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute, Barcelona, on September 28, 2011.

Presentation: Javier Nadal, Executive Deputy Chairman of Fundación Telefónica

There are few technologies, if any, that have been so quickly adopted as Information and Communication Technologies, in general, and mobile telephony, in particular.

And it is very worth noting that this adoption has not happened in the same way around the globe. Different regions, cultures, communities have and are using mobile telephony in many and very different ways. Thus the need to do thorough research in this field, and see how mobile telephony can empower and develop communities and individuals.

Manuel Castells, sociologist, director of the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute of the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) and author of the book.

The three things people value the most are Health, Education and the ability to communicate. And if we consider Education as Communication, we can narrow the priorities to just Health and Communication.

That is why ICTs are such a powerful phenomenon, with pervasive and fast rates of penetration and adoption. And the more important is a phenomenon, the more the need to perform research on it, to analyse it, understand it and, if needed, affect its path.

The book is not a descriptive one, but an analytical one, taking data from Telefónica and CEPAL-ECLAC to be able to perform econometric regressions.

Main conclusions of the econometric analysis:

  • There is a proven, statistically significant, systematic, positive effect of mobile phones upon economic growth, especially in poorest countries and especially in poorest regions.
  • Inequality is neither increased nor decreased because of mobile technologies. Mainly because adoption rates are so high (circa 80% in general) that any strata of society does have access to mobile telephony.
  • There is an impact of mobile phones decreasing poverty.

This last statement is especially proven by the qualitative analyses performed in the book (see below the case studies), which show:

  • A positive impact on employment. As many people work autonomously, thanks to mobile phones they can get jobs/works done without the bounds of more rigid organizational structures.
  • People find employment more quickly thanks to disintermediation of the job market.
  • Increase in security — and the feeling of security — of people: distant communication reduces exposure to different kinds of violence and hazards.
  • There is an increase in the autonomy of people, but at the same time increasing the connectivity amongst people and increasing the feeling of community, of a common identity. But not any autonomy, but “secure autonomy”.

If we take the context of schools, it is clear that the educational system is lagging behind the evolution of technology, and educators and policy-makers should definitely rethink their teaching strategies and leverage the power of mobile techonology and mobile (i.e. ubiquitous) access to knowledge [I personally disagree with Castells that laptops at school should be replaced with mobiles: I believe the problem is not the device, but the educational model].

Discussion

Ismael Peña-López: despite the high rates of adoption and, thus, the lack of impact in quantitative terms on inequality, what happens in qualitative terms? Are we witnessing evidence for the knowledge gap hypothesis? Castells: absolutely. What we see is that technology adoption is not affecting inequality, but social inequality does affect unequal technology adoption (e.g. poors not accessing broadband). Nevertheless, the inequality of mobile adoption, or the inequality in communications, is not as important as socio-economic inequalities, and that is a very important fact.

Q: how is it that people spend relatively so much in communications instead of “food”? Castells: the main reason is because it is worth it: mobile phones have an impact on employability, for instance, and very important too, on socialization, which, at its turn, has an impact on employability and inclusion in general. That’s why: communications are of crucial importance nowadays and do have an impact on each and every aspect of our lives.

Q: is there a different impact depending on e.g. gender? Castells: there is, but not because of the gender factor, but because the gender factor already made a difference in the “real” world. For instance, in the Peruvian Andes markets are set up by women. Thus, the impact of mobiles on those women was higher than on men, but not because of their gender, but because of their important role on the local economies.

Book Review

The book performs a thorough and deep analysis on how mobile technologies have had an impact on Latin America, both at the economic and social levels. After two initial chapters depicting the framework and context, the book goes on estimating the quantitative impact of mobile telephony on economic growth and poverty alleviation, then moving onto mobile usage in rural areas, social businesses for e-inclusion, technology appropriation and usage among youth.

The table of contents is as follows:

  1. Introduction: Mobile communication and development in Latin America in the XXIst century; Roxana Barrantes Cáceres, Mireia Fernández-Ardèvol, Sebastián Ureta.
  2. Socio-economic context and ICT diffusion in Latin America; Mireia Fernández-Ardèvol, Andrea Molinari, Javier Vázquez Grenno.
  3. Estimation of the contribution of mobile telephony to growth and poverty alleviation; Mireia Fernández-Ardèvol, Javier Vázquez Grenno
  4. Mobile telephony in rural areas: case study in Puno, Peru; Roxana Barrantes Cáceres, Aileen Agüero, Mireia Fernández-Ardèvol.
  5. Mobile telephony and inclusive businesses: Proyecto SUMA in Argentina; Hernán Galperin, Andrea Molinari.
  6. Appropriation and usage: case study in Brasil; François Bar, Francis Pisani, Carlos Seabra.
  7. Mobile youth culture in an urban environmetn: case study in Santiago de Chile; Sebastián Ureta, Alejandro Artopoulos, Wilson Muñoz, Pamela Jorquera.
  8. Synthesis of results and conclusions; Manuel Castells, Mireia Fernández-Ardèvol, Hernán Galperin.

More information

Mobile Technologies for Learning and Development (XIV). Julià Minguillón: Closing remarks for the Mobile Technologies for Learning and Development seminar

Notes from the UOC UNESCO Chair in e-Learning VII International Seminar: Mobile Technologies for Learning and Development, held in Casa Asia, Barcelona, Spain, on October 6-7, 2010. More notes on this event: eLChair10.

Closing remarks — VII International Seminar of the UOC UNESCO Chair in e-Learning: Mobile Technologies for Learning and Development
Julià Minguillón, UOC.

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See also


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UOC UNESCO Chair in e-Learning 7th International Seminar UOC UNESCO Chair in e-Learning photoset UOC UNESCO Chair in e-Learning 7th International Seminar UOC UNESCO Chair in e-Learning photoset

UOC UNESCO Chair in Elearning VII International Seminar: Mobile Technologies for Learning and Development (2010)

Mobile Technologies for Learning and Development (XIII). Social and Ethical Issues in Education Technologies

Notes from the UOC UNESCO Chair in e-Learning VII International Seminar: Mobile Technologies for Learning and Development, held in Casa Asia, Barcelona, Spain, on October 6-7, 2010. More notes on this event: eLChair10.

Round Table: Social and Ethical Issues in Education Technologies
Jill Attewell, Steve Vosoo, Matthew Kam & John Traxler. Moderates: Manuel Castells, Professor of Sociology and Director of the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3, UOC)

Social entrepreneurship?

Eva de Lera: What about social entrepreneurship?

John Trexler: there does not seem to be a lot of activity in social entrepreneurship in the field of learning. Maybe other models, like free schools in the UK would be a better option if we are talking about education.

Matthew Kam: it depends on the definition of social entrepreneurship. If entrepreneurship is doing something that benefits your community, we may find some. And some of this deliver pretty good education.

New colonialism?

Emma Kiselyova: Can we do more wrong than good?

Jill Attewell: I’d rather use technology enhanced learning, not e-learning. This way, what we are doing is not creating something new from scratch, but enhancing something that already existed.

Steve Vosloo: how carefully is too careful? Sometimes going “too” carefully may imply losing lots of opportunities.

John Trexler: It is OK to go as quick as possible. The problem is that reflections need their own pace, and we sometimes take decisions on flawed reflections.

Motivation

Mireia Fernández-Ardèvol: What are the conflicts between formal and informal education? What is the role of motivation in this apparent dichotomy? Does it have to be informal to motivate? Is that good or bad?

John Trexler: It depends on what we understand by motivation. Motivation has sometimes been “triggered” by just pouring money or free devices in the users’ hands.

Mireia Fernández-Ardèvol: Indeed, motivation should come from other channels rather than — or added to — technological ones, like organizational change, institutions, etc.

[I personally wonder whether we might be “crowding out” formal education for too much focusing in informal education].

Success and failure

César Córcoles: How do we know which projects are successful and which a failure? And which ones are more likely to succeed and which others to fail? What is the tolerance to failure?

Matthew Kam: One of the problems is that most of the projects do not count as scholarly research, which means that many resources (especially human) are automatically kept away from being applied in many projects. On the other hand, most funding goes to successful projects, even if some failures may imply interesting lessons learnt that could be applied to following projects.

What infrastructure

Carlos Fernández: What about one-cellphone-for-all (the style of OLPC)?

Manuel Castells: the matter is that almost everyone already has a mobile device, and thus is why many projects address mobile phones.

John Traxler: this is the story again of the ideology behind the technology.

Jill Attewell: people in poor areas want the same devices as everyone else and they want the same features.

Julià Minguillón: the OLPC project failed because it never was an educational project. It never had the educational community in its design, teachers were not trained, contents were not created, etc.

Educational institutions

Ismael Peña-López: if industrialization — with its flaws — brought education to everyone, why do most educational projects keep on circumventing educational institutions instead of strengthening them? Why so much focus in informal education?

Matthew Kam: agreed. Nevertheless, there are many aspects of informal education, gaming, etc. that could contribute a lot to improve and bring a wind of change to institutions [which I in turn agree too].

Manuel Castells: indeed, most schools are not about education and empowering the kids, but about politics. Nevertheless, if change is to be made, institutions definitely have to be an important part of it.

UOC UNESCO Chair in Elearning VII International Seminar: Mobile Technologies for Learning and Development (2010)

Mobile Technologies for Learning and Development (XII). John Traxler: Mobiles for Learning in Africa…. Too Good to be True?

Notes from the UOC UNESCO Chair in e-Learning VII International Seminar: Mobile Technologies for Learning and Development, held in Casa Asia, Barcelona, Spain, on October 6-7, 2010. More notes on this event: eLChair10.

Mobiles for Learning in Africa…. Too Good to be True?
John Traxler, University of Wolverhampton, UK

Technology should address three kinds of problems, in this order:

  • Problems that are difficult;
  • problems that are impossible; and
  • problems that are inconceivable.

This in part means that solutions may not be extrapolated because most problems aren’t (mainly because of their context-dependent nature).

We also have to be aware that all technologies have embedded ideologies, and in this specific case contain embedded pedagogies. This might put in danger pre-existing (to our technological landing) learning communities or learning systems, communities or systems that may be fragile compared to the steamroller power of technology. Bottom-up developments are here replaced or impersonated by outside-in developments.

A deeper look at the local context, institutions, needs should be taking place. We’re looking at the sewer and the seeds, and not at the soil.

John Traxler quickly highlights here several examples of m-learning, open and distance learning in Africa. One of these projects is about an SMS-enabled Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) [which reminds me of an exchange of tweets that some of us had long ago about creating “FrontlineSMS:Edu”].

UOC UNESCO Chair in Elearning VII International Seminar: Mobile Technologies for Learning and Development (2010)

Mobile Technologies for Learning and Development (XI). Magí Almirall: Learning technologies in mobile scenarios

Notes from the UOC UNESCO Chair in e-Learning VII International Seminar: Mobile Technologies for Learning and Development, held in Casa Asia, Barcelona, Spain, on October 6-7, 2010. More notes on this event: eLChair10.

Learning technologies in mobile scenarios
Magí Almirall, Office of Learning Technologies, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC), Spain

In ancient Greece, learning was a collective activity, and a pedagogue was usually a slave that walked along with you to help you in understanding the world. These are the roots of mobile learning: collective knowledge sharing with no boundaries of time or space.

A set of projects were designed to adapt mobile learning scenarios from a user-centered design (UCD) perspective

It is very important keeping the user in mind when designing a learning initiative (at the technical and also at the non-technical levels).

If you cannot see the video please visit <a href="http://ictlogy.net/?p=3560">http://ictlogy.net/?p=3560</a>

The project consisted in analysing how users (UOC students) were studying online and, after that, 6 projects to adapt the learning process were designed to improve their learning experience:

  • My Way: that adapted content to be delivered in many different supports, like audiobooks (including Daisy for visually impaired people), videobooks, ePub, MobiPocket, etc. The idea leading the project is that the best learning content format depends on the scenario.
If you cannot see the video please visit <a href="http://ictlogy.net/?p=3560">http://ictlogy.net/?p=3560</a>
  • Annotation: this project allows including Layers to your own content. Layers organize your activity, can be shared, sent to the student, etc. Learners will define uses that we may not imagine, test and observe it.
  • Mobile Classroom: a project to put your virtual classroom on your mobile phone, but selecting only what makes sense on a mobile phone. The idea behind the project is bringing the student the alerts they might need at the appropriate time.
  • Mobile widgets: content and services from the online campus are created for the iPad interface, campus mobile, campus e-book, etc. so that the most relevant campus services are accessible in these mobile devices. The idea is to bring the same information for any device… which at its turn is quite a challenge, as devices are many and new ones appearing each and every day.
  • Foreign languages self-assessment: Mobile scenarios need more interactive contents, that’s why language teaching has a more interactive approach (quizzes, self-assessment activities) in the mobile scenario in comparison with a stationary scenario, where other kind of more static content can be displayed.
  • Campusproject.org: the goal of this project is to connect the virtual campus with any kind of platform, service, content existing on the Internet and bring it into the virtual campus. Interoperability is used to connect with other institutions, to expand the own learning tools, etc.

Discussion

Steve Vosloo: How is content processed or developed to be adapted to any format? A: If content is written in DocBook, then translation to other formats is almost straightforward. On the other hand, people’d rather have video formats for their small devices, and would rather have iPads for content, as they are more friendly that other screens.

Ismael Peña-López: Most projects here presented were about content-student interaction. Are there any projects that deal with person-to-person interaction? A: There are two ongoing projects in this line. One is called Speak Apps and it is about adapting the Tandem platform to the mobile world. The Tandem platform enables students in differents parts of the world to team up and study foreing languages, the languages being respectively foreign or their native ones. Another project is adapting the Langblog platform for mobiles.

UOC UNESCO Chair in Elearning VII International Seminar: Mobile Technologies for Learning and Development (2010)

About Me

    I am Ismael Peña-López.

    I am professor at the School of Law and Political Science of the Open University of Catalonia, and researcher at the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute and the eLearn Center of that university. I am also the director of the Open Innovation project at Fundació Jaume Bofill.