The Mobile Web in Developing Countries


The mobile web in developing countries has received increasing attention within the last few years, both as a potential means of bridging the digital divide as well as a lucrative market opportunity. However, while the realized gains so far as well as the potential are indeed tremendous, significant challenges remain to be overcome. Mobile data usage, particularly for advanced data applications, faces difficulties that are different from those posed by the initial expansion of voice services. The needs and environments of developing countries are very diverse, with as many significant differences perhaps as similarities, making it difficult to replicate country-specific solutions. In addition, while one traditional migration route of functionality – from the desktop to the handheld – may be viable in the industrialized world, it is not clear that this is the likely best approach in developing countries. What does seem clear is that there is a definite and significant need for further research examining the characteristics and challenges of the mobile web in developing countries at all layers, ranging from applications to networking. We sketch examples of such research issues, and mention specific roles the W3C could potentially play. This brief position paper presents these hypotheses with the goal of stimulating discussion at the workshop.