March 31, 2010
I find it quite amazing to see the societal impact of mobile phones.
They have changed the way we communicate and live. There is a drastic change in the way children and parents communicate, in our individual relationships with time and location and in so many other parts of our daily lives. There are interesting books and theses about this topic. I recently came across an interesting view point from Russell Buckley about the "Unintended Consequences and the Success of Blackberry in the Middle East", which is further proof of how disruptive mobile can be. As communication and creation/media tools, mobile phones offer new ways to upload and access information (remember the riots in Iran). As such, governments have to monitor and anticipate this impact.
Beyond this, public authorities can make the most of mobile services. Many local councils, regional and national governments, and transport authorities are launching mobile initiatives, creating new value-added services for citizens, and trying to use mobile to connect with the least connected. They need to anticipate the arrival of NFC technology and make the most of more mature mobile ecosystems. They should balance their mobile investments with the constant need to avoid discriminating against particular groups of citizens and to allocate funds to projects with critical mass. Governments in particular can play a key role in stimulating ideas for new services and in backing and funding the most relevant initiatives.
In this regard, the French government is pioneering a number of interesting initiatives. For example, Proxima Mobile is a unique initiative launched under the direct responsibility of the French prime minister to develop mobile innovation in the public sector. With €10 million in backing, this initiative has selected 68 mobile projects to support. The Le Louvre application below is just one of the many interesting initiatives selected:
In addition to developing services for citizens, mobile also offers opportunities to attract companies, workers, and tourists in a global digitalized economy in which regions compete with each other. Innovative research and development clusters that focus on mobile innovation, optimized transport systems, and a tech-savvy image are key to appearing innovative and attractive to firms looking for new locations. This is why the French government and the city of Nice are heavily backing the large-scale live Near Field Communication (NFC) trials that will take place in Q2 2010 in the South of France. The pioneer launch by the French authorities of a public organization to analyze, promote, and link up NFC services is a unique and best-in-class approach that other governments should follow. You can download the white paper ("liberty, equality, mobility") here. The challenge of course is to act as a catalyst and not a substitute, which can be quite dangerous as stakeholders need to agree between themselves on the right business models without the help of public funding.