How indispensable are mobile computing devices in your life? Are they an “extension” of who you are?
I would like to think that I do not depend on mobile computing devices, but the truth is that I do, both at work and in my personal life.
I manage projects performed by virtual teams of people who are located all over the world. I depend on the functions, applications and connectivity provided by my mobile computing device, a wireless notebook computer, to do my job. This device enables effective communications between my team members and me using various channels, which allows us to collaborate and resolve problems very quickly. Decisions that used to take days to resolve can now be handled in a matter of minutes when we use these technologies.
For instance, consider a situation I handled today. My team is coordinating the presentations of several speakers at a virtual conference we are conducting this summer. We are currently lining up the speakers who will present at the event. The speakers will record their presentation, which will be played during set times during the conference.
We had scheduled a speaker to record his presentation tonight. However, he informed us at the last minute that he had several critical questions he wanted answered right away. Otherwise, he threatened to cancel the session.
The recording coordinator, who is located in India, contacted me via instant messaging to inform me of the situation. We immediately added a subject matter expert, who lives in Canada, to our chat and worked through the questions. I then called the speaker and asked him to join a web conference, where we reviewed his presentation in real time and answered all the questions he had. The result: the speaker just recorded his presentation without any further concerns.
All this happened in a matter of 45 minutes. Without the ability to communicate in this manner, it would have taken us at least a day to resolve the issues, and the recording session would have had to be postponed.
The other mobile computing device I use constantly is my smartphone. When I first bought it, I used it almost exclusively as a “normal” telephone; until I discovered how useful apps can be. Now this device has become a tool I use as an organizer, as a source of reference information, for entertainment and even for learning on the go. The apps range from productivity applications, like calendar and “to do” lists, to photography software, like Adobe Photoshop.
As I discover different apps, I am creating a device that is totally customized to my tastes, interests and lifestyle. Even though I have had the smartphone for only a month, I use it to perform both important and mundane tasks throughout the day. I can see how the smartphone can become an “extension” of my life and, if I am not careful, I could become an extension of it.
How can mobile computing devices be used in disadvantaged or underdeveloped environments?
Assuming the appropriate telecommunications infrastructure exists in a developing area, mobile computing devices can become “equalizers” by enabling people in these environments to gain access to the World Wide Web and all its resources.
In general, developing countries tend to establish wireless telecommunication networks and not invest in the more expensive wired networks. This leads to a relatively high use of mobile phones in these countries (see the table shown in this Wikipedia article about mobile phone use). A logical progression is to enable broadband technology (e.g., 3G) over the established wireless infrastructure. Having wireless broadband capability obviates the need for more expensive wired technologies (e.g., DSL) and unleashes the power of mobile computing devices. These fully-enabled devices can give the citizens of underdeveloped areas the means to reach information, avail themselves of applications, improve communications and enhance collaboration. This, in turn, can help them better compete in the global economy with people from developed countries.
List of countries by number of mobile phones in use (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved on April 5, 2011 from