Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Cell phones : the next big thing in libraries?

While in Auckland last week I gave up trying to find an internet machine in order to check my emails.

The hostel had internet to the room - but I needed a cat 5 cable (I don't make a point of carrying around network media...) There were numerous internet cafes - down the hill, seedy looking and $10 an hour - and while I could have gone to the cafe next to Auckland Library and used their free internet connection the coffee was crap and I would have had to lug my Dell Vostro around all day (a weight lifting exercise of some merit and there was that hill to consider ....)

Then I remembered my cellphone - hooray for pocket computers! It is just so dam easy and quick and convenient to check my emails that way. Wish I'd remembered my internet capable cellphone while I was in Singapore: had to pay $NZ40 for the first hour of internet access in the hotel!

After a hideous experience a few years back when my desktop got hammered by a virus I now use my computer as an access point only. In addition to saving all my work to the network server I have also shifted my bookmarks to delicious, post links I want to remember to this blog, and have copies of all emails, from all 5 of my email accounts, sent to my gmail account. This means I can not only work at any desk in the workplace, but I can get my emails from anywhere - including while lying in bed in a student hostel.

I was chatting to Wendy at work a week or so ago about a report I had been reading about the phenomenal uptake of cell phones especially in Africa. There is a whole continent apparently skipping the wired world and going straight to wireless. Here in Horowhenua we find growing numbers of people are not bothering with a landline and using cellphones only .... noticeable in Shannon initially but becoming more frequent. I observed that I think cell phones will be the next big thing for libraries; we need to think all the different ways that we could be utilizing that technology, a communication device in the pockets of most people over 13 and under 65.

I found an interesting report from Nielsen Mobile : Critical Mass - The Worldwide State of the Mobile Web.

Key findings:

  • 15.6 percent of mobile subscribers in the US, 12.9 percent in the UK and 11.9 percent in Italy actively use the mobile Internet. In New Zealand the figure is 1.6%.

  • In the US , mobile internet use has reached a critical mass as an advertising medium: 40 million.

  • In the US, there is almost an even split with the same % aged over 35 as under 35.

  • and there are approximately as many teenagers using the mobile Internet as there are persons over the age of 55 (5.1 million persons age 13–17 and 4.4 aged 55 and older).

  • The mobile Internet audience is not overly concentrated in high-income households.

  • 82 percent of iPhone users access the mobile Internet, making them five times as likely to do so as the average mobile consumer. Remember iphones are still very new and expensive, and due to their strong brand their use will mushroom. (ipod generation)

  • Mobile Internet users do not visit nearly the same number of individual sites as Internet users do over the PC. PC Internet users visit more than 100 sites on average vs 6.4 for mobile.

  • Email, weather, news, maps and search predominant uses.

Critical mass is when a sufficient mass has formed to sustain a chain reaction. The researchers suggest that mobile Internet is today at a point of seeing rapid growth in consumer adoption
and, in turn, mobile Internet marketing.

So how are we as libraries going to prepare for this trend which will hit NZ? How can we maximise the value of having almost everyone having a pocket receiving device, GPS, audio-video and still image recording device in their pockets?

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