July 26, 2011

RT mobileactive. What stops women from accessing the mobile Internet?

Slide70-thumb.JPG In the first of a series of guest blog entries on mWomen, Shikoh Gitau, Founder Ummeli Trust, explains some of the challenges women in low- to middle-income countries face when trying to access the mobile internet from feature phones.

quotemarksright.jpgWhile I see the massive benefits that can come from accessing the mobile internet to those on low incomes in developing countries, I will be the first to admit, that in reality, it is really hard to get online on your mobile phone. And by mobile phone, I do not mean your Android, Blackberry or iPhone; here I mean a simple feature phone from mobile phone makers that have customized them for Africa - or indeed, a Chinese imitation of the same.

Barriers include affordability and difficulty of use. In the research, we discovered seven things that inhibit the adoption of mobile phones amongst our users, who, as a group of semi-literate women and first time internet users, are considered to be prime potential beneficiaries of the mobile internet revolution. These challenges were:

1. GPRS Settings. Unlike the assumption that internet capable phones allow for ‘plug and play’ scenario, this was not the case.

2. Security Settings. End User Legal Agreements that users had to agree to before proceeding into the world of the internet. This gate keeping made many a user give up as the text did not make sense to them.

3. WAP/Menu/Hard Key Confusion.We found that every phone has a different button and/or menu to get to the WAP/internet application.

4. Webmail chicken and egg. Email identifiers unlock the internet, something experienced web users take for granted. An email address had to be created on a PC on behalf of the users in order for them to be able to access the internet online.

5. Unfamiliarity with passwords.

6. No mobile-friendly websites.

7. Limited Functionality. The obvious challenge that the mobile phones on which we were training the users had low memory and processing and were not to be comparable to a computer.quotesmarksleft.jpg

[via @ mobileactive]

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