Network Effect

After a dreary first couple of days (meteorologically speaking), the sun finally came out on the third day of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. The world’s mobile industry gathered under the Spanish winter sun and showed its healthy nature. Thoughts of the dark side of the economic crisis, which worried the industry last year, seemed to have disappeared.

The industry is showing a great deal of confidence in transforming our society into a mobile-networked society, and exploiting all the business opportunities that this transformation brings. This optimism lies behind the vast range of devices and tablets launched during the Congress; the increasing attention on the Internet of Things; and the continuing emphasis on applications and the cloud. All the speeches, and the general mood of the conference, were a celebration of a new era in mobile communications, the era of the “big data” networked society.

Critical slant
Allow me, however, to put a critical slant on all this optimism. Does all this evolution meet the needs of people, or is the mobile industry creating a world in which the people have to fit in one way or another?

I saw several videos about devices and applications. They all showed people focusing their attention on games, social networking sites and music; while walking down the street, in the car with their partners and kids, or at parties. And the message is that you, the user, take control of your life. You do whatever you want. And the industry can give you more and more. You, the user, will be connected all the time. It does not matter where you are. It does not matter what device you have. You will be networked. But is this what users really want? I did not see two individuals talking face to face using their mouths in these videos. Does this revolution meet the needs of the social nature of human beings? Or will it alienate human beings?

It appears to me that the revolution envisaged, or at least part of it, could dissolve the social nature of human beings. The mobile industry should reflect on this. The mobile industry should evolve, enabling individuals to empower their social nature.


Saverio Romeo is senior industry analyst, Mobile Communications – Europe at Frost & Sullivan