Mobile Internet

Mobile phone use is soaring, especially in developing and transitioning countries. What does the dramatic increase in mobile use — and particularly mobile Internet use — mean for public access venues? Will mobile Internet compete with, complement, or coexist with public access venues? The in-depth study, Public Access, Private Mobile, will explore the interplay between mobile Internet and public access venues.

This study used surveys, task analysis, and interviews with public access venue users and operators. Led by Marion Walton and Jonathan Donner, it sought to answer the following questions:

  1. What are the ways in which users combine and balance private mobile Internet use and public access venue internet use in a communications repertoire?
  2. How do social networks, affinity groups, and communities of practice mediate mobile and public access venue use to potential users? With what consequences?
  3. Are there particular patterns of attrition (withdrawal/substitution from public access venues towards mobiles), of attraction (seeking public access venue services after mobile use), and of complementarities?
  4. Which complementarities (and substitutions) are associated with higher levels of user satisfaction with public access venues and/or with various impacts for end-users?
  5. Is it possible to contrast collocated use (using a mobile phone while at a public access venue) and separate use (using the phone outside of the public access venue)?
  6. How do non-profit public access venue owners deal with the increasing availability of mobile Internet? What practices do they describe, and what policies do they apply in their venues, specifically with teenage users?

This study was conducted in South Africa, which boasts a vibrant mobile Internet market. Trends and patterns identified though this research may manifest in other countries in the near future, and it is our hope that we built generalizable theory as a result of this in-depth study.


Research proposal

Final research report

Two-page research summary