The Power of Mobile

Watch this speech given by Google’s Eric Smith recently in Berlin to get an idea about The Power of Mobile.

He mentions a few concepts providing me with quite a bit food for thought:

  • The huge potential which becomes available whenever people connect cloud computing and mobile devices
  • The concept of crowd sourcing. You can get almost instantly a picture of events thousands of kilometers away by receiving information from a magnitude of eye witnesses. Raw information is distributed before spin doctors had a chance to get their hands on it.
  • How this changes the balance of power between buyers and sellers
  • How this changes the balance of power between government and citizen.

We had the chance to witness The Power of Mobile, which develops whenever millions of people have the ability to access this huge pool of information and the ability to publish instantly what they see, hear and think. Propaganda generated by governments and organizations like Hezbollah can now be dissected. Then suddenly becomes visible that one and the same person was shown as a dying bombing victim on 3 pictures taken in different places on different days, and the same toys scattered in the ruins of buildings on a host of photos taken in different towns on different days. (Examples taken from Hezbollah propaganda during the last Lebanon war)
Even the mere access to mobile phones, without the extra power of instant multimedia publishing has proven remarkably powerful. If people see something in the TV they may call a friend in the area affected and ask. “Are you o.k.? And what is going on.” As a result protests against Israel’s military offensive against Hamas in 2008 were much stronger in Morocco compared to Jordan, Lebanon or Egypt. People could already differentiate between the truth and TV coverage, as long as they were not too far away from the scene.
Such thinking is not new, but still valid and also economically powerful. I remember an article published about 20 years ago in the Harvard Business Review explaining that in rural India at the time the lack of phones was not a mere symptom of poverty, but an important source of poverty. The reasoning: Small farmers had to sell their product for a very low price to wholesalers, because they did not have a chance to know what people were paying in town for food. With a phone they could have called shopkeepers in town and ask what the pay for rice, wheat, potatoes or corn, make an informed decision what to plant and almost immediately increase revenue substantially.