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Category Archives: Technology and mobile market

Mobile market of Pakistan and the latest cellular phone technology.

Pakistan becomes the 27th most Popular Country on Facebook


Illustration of Facebook mobile interface

Illustration of Facebook mobile interface (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to a report of the Third World Strategy website, Pakistan now has 9,000,000 users on Facebook. The demographic profile and other segregated data reveals that 70% of the Facebook users in Pakistan are under the age of 25 and around 44,000 new users join Facebook on weekly basis.

The most interesting slant in the findings is related to the gender. In almost every age group the number of male users outweighed female users. The revelations do not end here as the website also claims that Android is the most popular Smartphone OS in Pakistan. Males prefer to get their hands on Androids while females remain content with iOS. The older individuals also cling to iOS and the youth banks on Android phones.

The analysis of brands in the market depict the ‘lion’s share’ for HTC and Samsung. With regards to the operators, Ufone remains popular among women and Mobilink is being preferred by men. Dell laptops are all scattered among teens (Thanks to the Laptop scheme which made everyone a merit scholar!).

The findings also connect the rise in GPRS supported cellular phones with the penetration of Facebook. Almost 5 million users access Facebook through their cell phones. Ufone is the most widely used network for visiting social networking websites.

The noteworthy fact remains unnoticed in most of the blog posts and news releases regarding the popularity of ‘social media conglomerate’ in Pakistan. Males are taking the leverage of social media more than female members. Can this lead to the conclusion that the male gender is more comfortable in voicing it’s views over social networks?

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Furious ‘Youtube’ users in Pakistan


Image representing YouTube as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

Technology has certainly evolved to unimaginable heights. It is the era of media convergence where telephone, television, text, graphics and audio get under the single roof (i.e the World Wide Web). ‘Youtube’ is the audiovisual leader of this era. Moreover, the immediacy coupled with choice that internet provides to online viewers has also accelerated the expansion of digital television. As Tim Kring, creator of ‘Heroes‘ (famous NBC series), rightly puts it; “now you can watch Television ‘when’ you want, ‘where’ you want, ‘how’ you want to watch it, and almost all of the ways are superior to watching it ON AIR”

In line with global trends, Pakistan also improved the rate of internet use in Pakistan. This reinforced the country’s democratic commitment to ‘freedom of expression along with access to information’. A research about ‘Digital Media in Pakistan’ by Singapore Management University (May 2012, can be retrieved from http://www.wiki.smu.edu.sg) revealed that “Youtube is the ‘primary source’ of English videos in Pakistan although smaller video-sharing websites are also available for local searches”. This implies that the international news, videos and innumerable other visually supported material flows into Pakistan through Youtube. Not only this, but private television channels also upload their programs on the Youtube channels for the ease of online viewers.

Unluckily for the Youtube users residing in Pakistan, the website has been blocked by Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) following the orders of the government. The website had been shut down on September 17, 2012, as a measure taken to demonstrate ‘online protest’ against the crudely produced blasphemous film (“Innocence of the Muslims”) that denigrated the Holy Prophet Muhammad (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). After the blockage, PTA had denied access to more than ‘750 YouTube links’ that could possibly connect internet users to the anti-Islam video film, ‘Innocence of Muslims’. On December 29, 2012, Pakistanis believed that the new year (2013) will begin with an access to Youtube’s website. However, a short-lived access was granted to the users (for two hours approximately) and the site was again blocked on the orders of Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf. Currently, the PTA has been asked to create strong filters that deny access to all the blasphemous material available on Youtube.

The film, undoubtedly, had hurt the sentiments of Muslims, many of them were using Youtube and continued to do so through ‘proxy software or websites’. This wasn’t the first time that Pakistan chose to take such an action. Youtube had been blocked before as a protest against sacrilegious content. However, this time, the duration was much longer and the consequence is little different. If the purpose was to build filters then the government could have ordered PTA back in September 2012. Furthermore, about 48 hours of video is posted in every single minute on Youtube’s website (about 69,000 videos per day). The real challenge would be to monitor and look for blasphemous material that might be uploaded on the site any minute even if PTA creates filters for the already uploaded content. With the elections around the corner, Youtube as an online audiovisual portal needs to be accessible.

Originally written for Phone World Magazine 8th issue. 

 

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Phone World Magazine 6th Issue


Phone World 6

 

PhoneWorld 6th Edition

Click on the link above to download the PDF version of the entire magazine.

My contributions are:

The Water Resistant iShower

From e-learning to m-learning Trends in South Asia

Technology in Action in Monsoon Season 

 

 

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From e-learning to m-learning: Trends in South Asia


E-learning is a way of learning by using the information technology trends. It enables people to learn any time and any where. It is a fast growing application in the world, it is widely used in universities, enterprises, communities as a typical technical-driven application, and the development of e-learning has close relationship with information technology such as computer network, cellular phone network, and multimedia technology. The use of cellular phone, in particular, for the purpose of education has led to the coinage of the term ‘mobile learning or m-learning’. It is slightly different from e-learning, which aims to do the same but through the medium of laptops and computers. Hence, e-learning is location bound; while mobile learning allows one to attend lectures, read, and ask teachers questions from any where and at any time.

The use of mobile phones in education in South Asia has increased in the last few years. The time constraints, average or below average standards of living make ‘education’ the only option for moving ahead in the competitive world for third world countries. The ‘digital divide’ is a very significant issue especially after the swift penetration of technology in our lives. The affluent North and the deprived South are incompatible with each other. Major difference between both the spheres of the globe lies in the disparity among literacy rates and the access to technology. There are some parts of the globe where villages are equipped with an internet connection and there are other parts where there is no electricity even.

However, the South Asian region, residing in the Southern sphere of the globe is cognizant of the challenges that it has to face. It has embarked upon a plan to utilize cost effective technology for the purpose of education. The high rate of penetration of cellular phones is now being considered for broader visions and constructive aims by the less privileged countries. The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, which includes; Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka is also utilizing the ‘m-learning’ mode.

According to the website of Afghan Institute of learning (AIL), despite all odds and after a decade of war, Afghanistan is tuning her communication capabilities. Begun in June 2011, AIL and Georgetown University’s Afghan Women’s council joined forces to pilot a new mobile literacy project. The goal is to reinforce literacy skills among newly literate women and girls in rural Afghanistan, and to provide them with the opportunity to use mobile phone technology, and thus communicate with their peers, mentors, and family. The program also has a social benefit enabling communication between young people and especially women who may be restricted in when and where they can go out from the home. More communication brings more sharing and support and helping each other this rebuilds the fabric of caring, supportive community which is crucial to healthy societal resurgence in Afghanistan.

Bangladesh is among those countries in the world which has presented a model of ‘mobile phone access’ in rural areas. According to Sylhet Times (Digital), “mobile users in Bangladesh have accessed more than 1 million English lessons using a service called BBC Janala (Window) in the year 2010”.In Bangladesh, the BBC Janala project used the internet and fast-growing mobile technology, which offers a wide range of people inexpensive access to English learning materials at any time and at any place. BBC Janala has transformed the cellular phone into a cost-effective education device by offering hundreds of 3 minutes audio lessons and SMS quizzes through people’s handsets. The project is funded by the UK’s Department of International Development (DFID) through English in action, a major educational initiative launched to raise the language skills of 25 million people in Bangladesh by 2017.

Bhutan is witnessing a poor IT infrastructure combined with cultural resistance. This is impeding the ‘m-learning’ mode of education over there. Bhutan has a stated policy of resisting ‘inappropriate’ westernisation. Given their existing system whereby the student travels to the appropriate college, there is less need to develop a truly distributed university. Introducing elements of resource-based and student-centred learning for campus students, however, may be the way forward to taking advantage of the best aspects of flexible learning.

The mother of democracy and by far the most technologically advanced country in the South Asian Region, India, is now one of the fastest growing markets for mobile phone services, with growing usage and increasing penetration. The Biju Patnaik University of Technology (India) started a service in collaboration with GupShup called the BPUTALERT, which distributes information, academic notices and calendars through SMS to students. Voice-tap is another service using which people can send their queries through SMS, and the company messages back names of experts on the subject, and then users can connect to the right expert. Another initiative, mGurujee, allows users to download questions and take tests to evaluate themselves. The service also allows people to receive reference content even if they are outside and away from their books. Users just need to register at the mGurujee portal to access free content.

Maldives and Nepal have still a long way to go in order to achieve the aim of m-learning. Whereas in Sri Lanka, mobile phones are not too costly and easily available. The users are well acquainted with their functions, it is worth exploring the use of mobile phones for teaching and learning science. The penetration level of mobile phones in Sri Lanka is about 55% and it is much higher than that of computers. The Government of Sri Lanka has banned students from using mobile phones in schools after an unfortunate incident. However, a set of mobile phones belonging to schools which are on a private network. This will enable to harness the potentials of the mobile phones to make the teaching and learning process more effective.

In the homeland, Pakistan, UNESCO has collaborated with Nokia to launch Mobile Learning Project for Teacher’s Professional Development in Pakistan. Through the project “Mobile Learning for Teachers” Nokia’s Education Delivery application will help UNESCO to enable the delivery of high-quality educational materials to teachers who lack training and resources though mobile phones giving an opportunity to teachers to train themselves on the same level as professionally competent teachers.

At a micro level, I managed to conduct an online survey to know how cellular phones are influencing the learning behaviour of ‘Pakistani students’. The respondents belonged to an age group of “18 to 25 years”. The following questions were put forward:

Q 1: How often do you use internet through cellular phone?

44% of the respondents claimed that they do net surfing daily via cellular phones, 28% claimed that they browse via cellular phones weekly while another 28% claimed that they rarely use the internet via cellular phones.

Q 2: Does cellular phone help you to increase your general knowledge?

57% percent of the respondents declared that cellular phones do increase their general knowledge while 43% negated this notion.

Q 3: What is the proportion of forward text messages that you receive daily?

Around 50% of the respondents chose the option of satirical and funny texts particularly the ones’ in which the politicians are ridiculed. 36% of them claimed that they receive quotations and texts with useful information. Only 14% claimed that they receive texts pertaining to religious knowledge.

Q 4: How often have you used a cellular phone to make an assignment or to prepare for a surprise quiz?

57% of the respondents revealed that they use the cellular phone for the academic purposes mentioned in the question ‘sometimes’. 29% of them ‘rarely’ use it in the mentioned circumstances and only 14% of them use a cellular phone every now and then for accomplishment the academic requirements.

This succinct survey has its limitations, but it clearly depicts that ‘m-learning’ mode is gaining momentum among the educated youth of Pakistan. The challenge for Pakistan is to ensure the uniformity of this ‘technological learning pathway’.

Originally published in the October issue of Phone World Magazine.

 

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Cellular phone- an integral part of your life- Lahore speaks!


Cellular phone- an integral part of your life- Lahore speaks!.

 

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Technology in Action in Monsoon Season


Advancement, evolution and innovation has all been combined to make human life easier. Technology is a blessing which makes things convenient and feasible for all those who use it in a proper way. The damp monsoon season arrived in Pakistan with a technological encounter and for the first time the high-ups will be relying on Smartphones to monitor troubles caused due to excessive rain. The Water and Sanitation Agency (Wasa) in Lahore has given Smartphones to the Ministers of Provincial Assembly of Punjab province.

The gadgets will be used by the ministers of the most densely populated province of Pakistan for detecting water stagnation and puddles. Moreover, the notorious ‘dengue larvae’ growth will also be examined through the Smartphones. According to the managing director of the Water and Sanitation Agency, these phones can only be used for relaying images of the troubled spots and not for conversing. The Smartphones will have to be returned back to Wasa after the end of the rainy season.

It’s interesting to note that how the device will be used to achieve the monitoring aims mentioned above. The Android OS based Huawai handsets will be given to each supervisory officer working under the government. Along with recording indicators like non-functional equipment,absent staff, troubled localities and ‘dengue’ zones the
supervisors will take a self-photo that will be submitted along with the data. The submitted data will automatically pop up on a map in real-time with GPS accuracy of five meters. This data can be monitored by senior officials and back-end auditors.

The mobile based ‘data-entry’ has several benefits over the conventional paper entries. One screen, one application, is able to handle a form with as many pages/ screens as required. Electronic information entry is more reliable. Dependencies of information transfer are reduced thereby reducing chances for errors. Mobile phones with touch-screens provide the simplest user interface possible. GPS-enabled phones allow monitors/ inspectors to verify their physical location at time of report. Built-in digital cameras allow photographs of report-submitting personnel to aid authenticity of reporting. A robust mobile data network existing in rural Punjab allows for much more reliable connectivity of remote locations to central servers and information seekers.

This ‘technological dive’ for the sake of improvement in governance is a healthy sign and a laudable initiative. In addition to this, it throws light on yet another utility of cellular phones. According to renowned academic activist, Jeffry Sachs – “cellular phone is the single most transformative technology for development”. A cost-effective Smartphone with GPS and camera can make the data transmission task convenient for the government- more than any laptop or computer. The Punjab government, under the prudent leadership of Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has taken a great step!

Courtesy- Help from the formal report of Punjab Health Sector Reform – Monitoring the Monitors.

Originally published in the October- November 2012 issue of Phone World Magazine. http://www.phoneworld.com.pk

 
 

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The gender gap at Lahore when it comes to Cellular phone ownership


South Asia is considered as a ‘gender-gap’ hotspot when it comes to cellular phone ownership. There are 300 million fewer female subscribers in low and middle income countries – Pakistan also falls under that category. Surprisingly, a woman is less 23% likely to own a cellular phone than a man is she is living in Africa, 24% if she is Middle East and 37% if she is living in South Asia.

The disparity in ownership of cellular phones between males and females transcends from the national to the city level. The enthusiastic residents of Lahore (Pakistan) also witness this gender-gap. Lahore is largely an urbanized country with high literacy rates compared with the rest of the cities in Pakistan. One might draw the conclusion Lahore will exhibit a lesser gap between male and female consumers or it will display a gender-balance in this regard. However, the statistics show that as per the international gender-gap, Lahori women are also well-behind. Teenagers are in the front row while grabbing cellular phones irrespective of gender. Most of the middle-aged women who stay at homes seldom use cellular phones. Moreover, the conservative cultural trends also hinder the ownership of cellular phones by women.

Like many other problems, bridging the mobile gender gap at one of the most urbanized cities of Pakistan requires a change in mind set. People should know the position of a mobile phone as a life-enhancing and income generating tool. The positive uses of cellular phones should be taught to both the genders; so parents can keep a check on their children for the reasons of protection and privacy. Excluding innovation from your life is not a solution to stop the negative use of cellular phones in the society. Increased level of awareness, best possible utilization of cellular phones by promoting them as effective development tools that create education, health, employment, banking and business opportunities can make a difference in the society.

To support this argument it is necessary to mention that if telecommunications providers close the gender-gap in mobile phone penetration, worldwide telecommunications revenue would increase by US $ 13 billion. Pakistan has to give its due share by empowering women through cellular phones!

Originally published in Phone World Magazine February 2012
This post is also available at the website of Phone World Magazine
http://phoneworld.com.pk/the-gender-gap-at-lahore-when-it-comes-to-cellular-phone-ownership/

 

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