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IAB Minutes 2014-06-11

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Minutes of the 2014-06-11 IAB Teleconference (Tech Chat)

1. Roll-call, agenda-bash, administrivia, minutes

1.1. Attendance

  • Jari Arkko (IETF Chair)
  • Marc Blanchet
  • Alissa Cooper (IESG Liaison)
  • Lars Eggert (IRTF Chair)
  • Joel Halpern
  • Ted Hardie
  • Joe Hildebrand
  • Russ Housley (IAB Chair)
  • Eliot Lear
  • Cindy Morgan (IAB Executive Administrative Manager)
  • Erik Nordmark
  • Andrew Sullivan
  • Brian Trammell
  • Dave Thaler
  • Amy Vezza (IETF Secretariat)
  • Mary Barnes
  • Heather Flanagan (RFC Editor Liaison)
  • Mat Ford (ISOC Liaison)
  • Xing Li
  • Alexey Melnikov (RSOC Chair)
  • Jonathan Donner

1.2. Administrivia

Cindy Morgan reminded the IAB that the BOF Coordination call would be held immediately following this meeting.

1.3. Meeting Minutes

The minutes of the 2014 IAB Retreat and the 4 June 2014 business meeting remain under review.

2. Tech Chat: Everybody’s Internet? Mobile-only and mobile-centric Internet use in the developing world

Jonathan Donner joined the IAB to discuss mobile-only and mobile-centric Internet use in the developing world. Jonathan is a researcher in the Technology for Emerging Markets Group at Microsoft Research, and is currently based in South Africa.

Jonathan Donner noted that we are over a decade into the mobile boom in the developing world. The number of mobile subscriptions now passes the number of fixed-line users; in fact, the number of mobile subscriptions will soon overtake the world’s population. Jonathan presented three mobile Internet use cases:

1) Livelihoods

  • Interviews conducted in Rwanda in 2004 and South Africa in 2009 showed that having Internet access was useful in finding jobs, as employers asked for CVs to be submitted on the web.
  • Merchants with street-cart businesses were able to increase their business once they were available by mobile phone.
  • Online marketplaces such as (South Africa and Kenya) allow mobile-only users to build profiles on their site. These microenterprises show great promise for productivity and market inclusion.

2) Secondary Education

  • Secondary students in Cape Town who have Internet-enabled phones still use libraries for public access to the Internet. School work requires information be obtained from the library.
  • Users are willing to wait in lines to have access to the free public Internet in libraries, rather than paying per bit on their phones.
  • Internet-enabled phones do not have printers; libraries do.
  • Because there are time limits on free library Internet access, students end up searching for as much information as they can, and then print things off to review offline later.
  • The current culture does not support connecting mobile phones to free library networks, for fear of viruses and network corruption.

3) Citizen Journalism

  • In Chhattisgarh, India, the population is 80% rural and has an Internet penetration rate of 0.5%; there is no local-language news media.
  • CGNet Swara is a voice-based portal, freely accessible via mobile phone, that allows users to report and listen to stories of local interest.
  • Stories are translated into English and posted on the Internet, where they may be picked up by additional news sources, thus propagating the story to the broader community.

Jonathan Donner noted that across all three use cases, there are gradations of Internet experiences:

  • Core users on 3G+ smartphones
  • Compromised users on 2G and/or feature phones
  • Indirect users with access only to SMS, IVR, and USSD systems
  • Shared users who must borrow access from those within their proximity.

Additionally, it is difficult to know how many users are mobile-only. Facebook estimates that 15% of their billion+ users are mobile-only. Jonathan Donner explained three problems with mobile-only Internet use:

1) The meter is running.

  • Prepay is a different mindset, like roaming all the time.
  • The cloud doesn’t like meters.
  • Neither does video.
  • Sipping and dipping, not browsing and surfing.

Jonathan Donner added that some large content providers are looking into ways to subsidize access to their content for mobile users.

2) Limited production scenarios

  • Certain uses are limited by the devices being used.

3) Circumscribed structural roles

  • App stores introduce barriers from borders to bitcoin.
  • Side loading is discouraged.
  • Coding is hard (though not impossible) on phones.
    Platforms govern interactions.

Jonathan Donner noted that people’s livelihoods, journalists’ stories, and students’ projects are increasingly dependent upon the ability to manipulate data on the servers, and asked whether mobile alone was up to the task. He added that while work on improving access is still important, effective mobile use should also be encouraged.

The IAB thanked Jonathan Donner for this presentation. Due to time constraints, the IAB was unable to discuss the next steps for the IAB on this topic, but may continue the discussion on the mailing list and/or at a future meeting.