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Avo Reid

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Mobile Devices Around the World

March 31, 2008

Tiananmen Square, Beijing China the Olympic torch arrived from Greece and Chinese President Hu Jintao ignited the flame in Olympic tradition to symbolize the start of the summer games. The 130 day torch relay will be historic, taking the longest route ever, covering 19 countries and passing through almost every province in China. But as news stories have reported all provinces in China are not so tranquil.  In fact, by some accounts the ceremony at Tiananmen Square resembled a military exercise with heavy presence of police officers to manage any anti-government protests by Tibetan groups who have called to disrupt the relay. Anti-government protests in Lhasa and other provinces have left 10-80 people dead depending on the source; the Chinese government is claiming the 10 with the Tibetan government in exile reporting 80.  The unrest is getting worldwide attention, even India's football captain Baichung Bhutia has refused to carry the Olympic torch when it arrives in New Delhi on April 17 in protest to China's stance on Tibet.

So what does this all have to do with mobile devices? Mobile devices are giving voice and sight to some of the most hidden, isolated places in the world and to the people who live there. Many of the photos and videos that made their way out of the deadly protests were captured on mobile devices.  The video although shaky and sometimes inaudible is clear enough to capture the events.  The raw photos and videos made it out of China's cyber shield, the "Golden Wall", and up to YouTube where they were viewed by people around the world without the edits of media organizations.  China acted quickly to control the flow of information by expelling all journalists and tourists from the affected provinces and of course plugging the hole in the "Golden Wall" by shutting down access to YouTube (yeah they can do that).  Too late, the cat was out of the bag.

Mobile devices may be the platform a significant portion of the world's population first experiences the internet. And considering the Monks in Lhasa, it maybe the platform that provides the rest of the world access to what has been until now, rather inaccessible. From an application development perspective, the needs of these markets, the Monks in Lhasa, may be very different indeed.

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