14 May 2009

The "m" term ... where are we going with it?

I find myself struggling with something here, and would love some feedback.

Suddenly I am not so comfortable with all the "m" terms that are starting to pop up, m-banking, m-learning, and in particular m-agriculture. This last one is a relative unknown - the only use I've seen of it up until this week has been by MobileActive (who I have a lot of respect for, by the way). I don't challenge the intent of those using the terms, but wonder if we are doing the correct thing by creating another set of terminology, when even many of the "e" terms still have diffuse definitions.

Also in talking with several people I collaborate with, I find the "m" may indicate a specific focus on the wireless, movable technology. On one hand, if we come to a common understanding that this is the case, then I will be more content. When I read an explaination of m-learning I think this may be the point of using the term. (Considering my own interests and focusing on the specific case of "m-agriculture" I do not find a definition. The closest I have found so far is "m-development", but I am not trying to substitute one for the other.) Yet there is still a part of me that wonders if this terminology isn't more about trending.

I realize that mobile technology is in the forefront of the ICT arsenal at the moment - indeed I've facilitated discussions on the use of mobile technology in rural development, and participate in panels about this next week. However, I really think what is important is the impact on development issues, how processes are modified and enhanced (or new ones created) for better outcomes, not the technology per se.

What do you think? Do we need both "e" and "m" terms to add value to our discussions and work in using ICT for development? When is it important to distinguinsh between technologise, versus the way people use and understand a technology? Am I making a mountian out of a molehill? :-) I would be greatful for any thoughts.

1 comment:

Subir said...

You're right about the confusion. I personally think that the ends justify the means. If a certain tech intervention is going to really empower farmers then it doesn't matter whether its through a computer or through a mobile phone. I suspect that in the developing world's case, its simply the fact that the mobile phone has almost become ubiquitous hence a lot of people are thinking of using mobile phones as a platform. An example of m-Agriculture can be found in the Agriculture component of the Nokia LifeTools which will soon be launched in India (http://www.nokia.co.in/A41427317). In the end, it just seems to be a term that focuses on the fact that M = mobile/wireless while E = can be wired and relatively larger in size :)