Connecting the Unconnected


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  • Presentation to the media at the Nokia Technology Briefing, 3 rd and 4 th October, Helsinki & Espoo. All photos in this presentation were taken during field research and are copyright Nokia. For requests to re-use please contact the author. Photo: Jan Chipchase, Delhi, 2006
  • Firstly we’re traveling to the ends of the earth to explore and understand the way people do things in the real world – this is at the core of our very human centered approach to design. When I talk about design I mean design in the broadest sense of the word – not simply how things look but in deciding what to design, whether they are features, applications, services, products or even platforms. Secondly, that in emerging markets we’re starting to see mobile phones enable leapfrog technologies - a simple example being that it brings banking services to people with limited access to the regular banking infrastructure. And thirdly that the scale of the opportunity for Nokia is huge – that we’re exploring solutions that can connect and benefit everyone on the planet.
  • I’m going to start with a very simple question…
  • … .what do people carry?
  • Given the range of objects that you own, from your fridge to your cutlery, bed linen, shoes, music collection, DVD players – everything that you own what do you consider to take when you leave home, what do you actually carry, and of what you carry what do you actually use? The fact that you take some objects but leave others behind is interesting because the conscious and subconscious selection process implies that the objects that you do take with you have some form of emotional, spiritual or functional value… this is naturally interesting to us because we’re in the business of creating value…
  • So….what do people carry?
  • From our extensive multi-cultural research, it turns out that the 3 objects that most adults take with them when they leave home are keys money and, if they own one, a mobile phone. Yes people a lot more things and yes we can all think exceptions but by and large if you ask people what their three most important carried objects they’ll show you’re their keys money and phone. Which begs the question…
  • ...why? Why have these objects become such an ingrained part of our lives? Well, in a word…
  • … survival. Survival for us and our loved ones. Keys provide access to warmth and shelter, money has many uses not least buying food and drink, and the mobile phone is a flexible tool if for some reason the other objects fail. Of course you can do a whole bunch of other things with them as well – buy cinema tickets, catch up with old friends, text your partner to pick up some milk on the way home. But those don’t really explain why we consider these objects essential to be carried when we leave home. So what is it that makes the mobile phone so powerful?
  • It’s the mobile phone’s ability to allow us to transcend space and time Which sounds rather grand but it boils down this: Voice calls or mobile chat transcend space by allowing you to communicate over distances. SMS, email or even leaving a message on an answering machine allow us to transcend time because the recipient can pick up the communication at their leisure. Its pretty powerful stuff.
  • The mobile phone also allows us to do this from a time and place of our choosing – you can communicate with whom you like when you like from the privacy of where ever you want to be.
  • So when we talk about the scale of the opportunity being 6 billion we mean that almost everyone on the planet appreciates the ability to transcend time and space, whether it’s a New York executive closing a real-estate deal or a farmer on the outskirts of New Delhi trying to find a market for his crop. I know this is quite simple but I’m reminding you of the fact because you’ve grown so used to being connected that you’ve probably forgotten what its like to not have a mobile phone.
  • So what will it take to connect the unconnected?
  • It turns out that much of the growth and a lot of our recent research efforts have been devoted to what we call ‘emerging markets’ – places like India and China, Indonesia, Brazil and increasingly Africa.
  • And our challenge is that if we want to create products and services that people value, that fit neatly into people’s lives we need to understand both similarities and differences to what we already know.
  • In Nokia we do this through human centered design process – traveling to where people do the things they do to understand their current practices and, anticipating their future needs by figuring out where this can collide with technology roadmaps. The next couple of slides should give you an idea of the very human centered approach to design that we do. Photo: Jan Chipchase, Tokyo 2005
  • I work in a team whose job it is to understand why people do the things the way they do them, from the moment they wake up, to the moment they go to sleep and pretty much every place in between. Where ever and when ever they do what they do. And we do this on a a global scale, whether its close to catwalks of Milan or in a suburb of Kampala, always partnering with local universities and organisations, and working with local experts. I don’t know what your office looks like, but this is a fair representation of my office this past year - traveling from China, India, Brazil, Vietnam, Uganda and South Africa to name a few destinations. So what kind of research methods do we use….? Photos: Jan Chipchase, Indri Tulusan, Roger Ibars - Ulan Bataar, Lhasa, Ji Lin City, Bali, Chengdu, Hokkaido, Tokyo, Kyotera (Uganda) – 2002 to 2006
  • One method is shadowing, which is quite simply following someone (with their permission). It’s a fast way to understand their context, and the range of things that they do over the course of the day. Photo: Per Persson, Berlin, 2002
  • Careful observations can be good for picking up small details, and show us how people do the things they do…. For example thinking about how people store things in the physical world and how this might map to storage solutions in the digital world… Photo: Jan Chipchase, Milan 2003
  • Those methods are pretty good at giving us a sense of what and how, whilst in-depth interviews – usually carried in the home can help us probe the why questions… Photo: Gilles Baudet, Ji Lin, 2005
  • The home is a particularly rich environment for conducting this kind of research because by and large its where our lives' are centered. A question on how they manage their contacts on their phone might lead to a nearby drawer to show what they mean, so we get to appreciate the rich context in which these objects live. Photo: Jan Chipchase, 2005
  • People also tend to have a lot of control over their home space which is useful if you want to map what’s inside their bag or wallet… Photo: Jan Chipchase, Berlin 2002
  • And we supplement this data with themed street surveys, such as these manual workers on a building site in Ji Lin City, China – simply engaging people on the street and asking them about whatever our research topic is, again in the context in which they do them Photo: Jan Chipchase, Ji Lin City, 2005
  • And thinking quite broadly about who our advanced users are - for example to get a sense of what people are able to do using only touch and memory we can turn to blind users, like this gentleman in Ahmadabad, India. Photo: Lokesh Bitra, Ahmadabad, 2003
  • And by the very fact that we’re in these disparate places means that we can pick up on weak signals and communicate these back to people in the company – in this case the people doing trend research. This photo by the way shows mobile phone carrying style for a few female manual workers in Ji Lin City. The wrist mounted carrying position is driven by a combination of security concerns, a desire for convenience - in particular noticing incoming communication, and a lack of alternatives carrying positions. I’m not suggesting that in a few years time we’ll all be carrying phones in this way, but it is one example of how people are using mobile phones in the real world regardless of them being design to be carried in this way. Photo: Jan Chipchase, Ji Lin City, 2005
  • One of my favourite research methods is to buy a bicycle, cycle the city until I spot something interesting, then dismount and engage with people. I like it because we can cover a lot of ground, its easy to engage with people when we see something of interest. In China you can get a bike for around 20 dollars and I think last year I bought about 10 bicycles – giving them away at the end of the study to people who, well basically can do with it more than we can. Photo: Jan Chipchase, Beijing, 2005
  • Given that we have access to the minutea of people’s lives we have developed processes that enable us to gather data in a way that is culturally and ethically responsible. The photo shows a data consent form signed using thumb-print by an illiterate person. What steps do you need to go through to obtain informed-consent when the person is unable to read what they are signing? Photo: Jan Chipchase, Kampala , 2006.
  • Of course an important question is how this research affects our thinking and what we design. The first thing to point out is that we don’t simply go to a culture and apply one method, we apply many carefully balance all the data with the aim of achieving convergent validity.
  • The second thing is sometimes we collect statistically valid data that can be presented as fact, but most of the time what we end up with is informed opinions…
  • … or if we’ve done our job particularly well, very informed opinions. And I personally think that being humble about this research is one of its strengths – I work with smart people who want to know my vision of the world, but also want data that can help contribute their vision of the world.
  • And at the end of the day using this research to inspire, inform and guide product creation teams… Photo: Jan Chipchase, Ulan Bataar, 2005
  • … in creating very human technology Photo: Jan Chipchase, Ulan Bataar, 2005
  • So what kind of things have we learned on our journey to connect the unconnected? One of the topics we’ve spent considerable time on in the last few years is….
  • … how illiterate people communicate. When we talk about connecting people we’re really looking at what it would take to connect all people. Of the 6 billion, almost 800 million cannot read and write. So another simple question for you - how do you navigate textual menus, or manage and address book if you cant read and write? So we’ve been conducting research in places like India, China to explore this topic to understand what it would take to design a phone that is more suited to illiterate users. Its challenging work but the results are starting to bear fruit. By the way it may surprise you to know that illiterate people can manage their address books, but and large they delegate the task to other people. It turns out that in emerging markets understanding what tasks the user can do, and what can be delegated to others or to technology is an important lesson that can apply to all users. Photo: Jan Chipchase, Delhi, 2006
  • Another thing we’ve been looking at is informal repair cultures – the ad-hoc services that have sprung up in many emerging markets to fix mobile phones. These places co-exist with formal customer care centers, and largely serve users who are buying or using second hand devices that are out of warrantee. What does it mean if the product you make can be fixed by a guy on the corner with a flat surface, a screwdriver, a toothbrush (for cleaning contacts) and above all knowledge? From a research point of view these informal services are interesting because they challenge our assumptions of how to design, build and even distribute our products. One of my topics this year is, that given the range of skills that can be found on the streets today, what would it take to turn cultures of repair into cultures of innovation? Photo: Jan Chipchase, Delhi, 2004
  • I recently returned from Uganda on a study we conducted into the Village Phone – an initiative between Nokia, MTN, Grameen Foundation USA and local micro-finance organisations to extend cellular coverage to remote villages. A village phone kit consisting of a micro-financed loan, a Nokia phone, cable and external antenna can extend coverage from a proximity of 15km of a base station to around 30 kilometers, bringing connectivity to many villages for the first time. So we’ve spent time documenting their existing use and working to create solutions more in tune with their local needs. Photo: Jan Chipchase, Lwamangga, Uganda, 2006
  • Whist we were in Uganda we also spent time documenting the communication practices of what are essentially highly price sensitive consumers, and whilst people try to purchase the best phone they can afford they’ll go to great lengths to minimize communication costs. One of the practices we came across is one called ‘pooling’ the act of sharing the cost of pre-paid minutes which are then distributed amongst members of the group. Uganda is in many ways on the cutting edge of the charge to connect the unconnected – Ill give you a couple of examples…. Photo: Indri Tulusan, Kampala, 2006
  • Step messaging is the name we’ve given to an informal service offered by village kiosk operators and mobile phone owners to deliver messages ‘the last mile’ on foot. You may not have a mobile phone but there is a common understanding that you can leave a message with the person in the village who does and that message will be passed on. It’s a simple example of extending the culture of connectivity to people who are not yet connected. Photo: Indri Tulusan, Kyotera Uganda, 2006
  • My final example of the mobile phone as a leapfrog technology is shown in this picture. This rural shack doesn’t have a house number but rather the mobile phone number is written on the store. I know its quite subtle but I think it suggest something that’s much large – what does it mean when your phone number becomes your primary identity? Photo: Jan Chipchase, Kyotera Uganda, 2006
  • You have probably heard that some carriers support the sending of air time from one phone to another – you simply buy a prepaid card and send the scratch off number to the recipient for them to use. During our research in Uganda we came across an informal version of this called Sente . (the world Sente means money or the sending of money as airtime in Uganda). It works like this… I want to send cash to you so I buy a pre-paid card, and send the top-up number to the nearest mobile phone kiosk owner. The phone kiosk operator takes their cut – 10 or 20% and passes the rest onto the recipient in cash. The kiosk operator also makes money by re-selling the airtime to people who wish to make calls. Its essentially bringing rudimentary banking services to communities who may be kilometers away from the nearest money lender and, one way to think about it is that it enables people with a mobile phone to function as an ATM. Photo: Indri Tulusan, Kyotera, Uganda 2006
  • Connecting the Unconnected

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