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Mobile Web for Social Development Roadmap published — 30 November 2009

I'm glad that the Mobile Web for Social Development Interest Group I have been co-chairing eventually published its mobile Web for social development roadmap, its most important deliverable.

This is finalizing 16 months of hard work and discussions. We hope now to receive comments from different groups including the Web Accessibility Initiative, the W3C Internationalization Working Group, Mobile Web Best Practices, Voice Browser, but also from the community working in the field (NGOs, development agencies, etc.).

I believe this document is an important milestone in the path to extend the frontier of the Web in developing regions. It is the first document published by W3C that investigate the potential of the Web and mobile technologies in the Social Development domain, and identifies technology (and other) gaps to be bridged in the future by W3C, the Web Foundation and others.

It is also in my opinion a useful resource for those in the field willing to mainstream mobile technologies in their project. Having discussed with and visited different organizations deploying mobile content and applications in the field, I have come to realized that many of them have a vision of how ICT can help achieving their own goals/impact, but are missing an overview of the available technology landscape. They are usually moving from the vision to the tools directly: looking at what they can find on the market, and using it. I think that it is critical to add an intermediary step, before moving to the tools, to look at the specific needs, profile and requirements of the targeted end-users, the objective of the application, and the complete life-cycle of the project before choosing a particular (set of) technology(ies). The MW4D roadmap hopes to fill this gap, helping organizations to understand the technology landscape and informing them on the critical factors to consider before choosing one specific option.

Obviously, this is only a first step. They are lots of directions to explore. For instance, the document does not investigate specific application fields, and it would be interesting to understand the specificities of each domain (health, government, education, etc.), to identify patterns or information needs that are relevant to these domains, and how to address them. The current roadmap also focuses on using mobile phones to access content, but not to author or deliver content. If mobile phones are really the “computer for Africa”, it is critical to investigate how these devices could become an authoring platform, or a delivery platform (e.g. hosting a web server to deliver content and share information with surrounding clients).

This are only a few examples of potential future items for our group. The group just got an extension till the end of February 2010 to build a new charter, and define its future. Note that the MW4D IG is a public Interest Group, and does not require W3C membership to participate. See details on how to join the MW4D IG.

Therefore, I encourage everybody interested in this topic to join the group, the mailing-list and the bi-monthly teleconferences to participate in the work on this future new charter.

I also encourage everyone to read the published MW4D roadmap and provide feedback!

by Stephane Boyera in Permalink

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Contacts: Dominique Hazael-Massieux