Here I’m thinking about the large population in developing countries that do not have computers and definitively not wired Internet connections.
If you go to the Mozilla homepage and try to find out what Mozilla is, then it’s about “…improving the way people everywhere experience the Internet”, now if a significant part of the world community don’t have access to computers, what can we do about it – I would claim that we can give them access to the Internet trough their mobile phones.
Some might ask if they have mobile coverage in undeveloped areas, and the answer is, that yes, it is much more likely that they have mobile coverage than wire-based coverage, simply because it is cheaper to create a mobile network than a wired one – in a wired one you have to physically connect each node with a wire, in a mobile network you only have to connect the base stations in the cells, which you might also do with wireless technology, leaving a power source as the only thing that might require some sort of existing infrastructure – this might be solved by generators, batteries, solar cells etc.
The next thing that might be relevant to ask is, if people can’t read will they then have any benefit of Internet access? – First of all, it is not everybody that lives in undeveloped areas that can’t read, and secondly, there are content types that could be highly useful even for those that don’t have the ability to read – like farmers could benefit from a graphics based weather forecast, or they might see a locus warning forecast as highly valuable. More long valued audio content like educational or political could also be seen as valuable.
Now it would be a challenge to create a browser that didn’t require any form of written interaction, but I’m sure that it can be done, creating a web without written words would also be a challenge, but, again I’m sure that it can all be done and it would make us really change the world!
The handsets that are available to people in developing countries are probably be very cheap and hence low on features and certainly they don’t have lots of processing power nor memory – there have even been talks about creating phones without displays both for this market and for use-once-then-throw-away-when-your-battery-goes-dead-or-you-have-used-the-prepaid-amount phones for more developed areas – this would require some kind of audio-only browser which could give a similar web experience as people that don’t have the ability to see the display on a normal computer has today. The main difference here being that the input method would be very different, as the target market might not have the ability to write – the most obvious solutions here are speech recognition and spoken menus.
We might not be ready to jump into development of the web-experience or the browser technology as described in this post, but I hope that more people will start to wonder how the content and the browser experience could be for these markets, this is where the important development needs to take place – the things that can be discussed later, is how do we make the software fit in very limited flash and volatile memory.