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Exploring mobile phone use in emerging markets

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Exploring mobile phone use in emerging markets


Experientia conducted a number of interrelated projects to inform Vodafone’s strategic direction entering emerging markets.
Each of our projects have provided insights that inform the design of products and services, and have paved the way for future research related to the optimization of interaction and industrial design in developing Asia-Pacific and African regions.

3 things to know

  1. Experientia conducted a number of interrelated projects to inform Vodafone’s strategic direction entering emerging markets in Asia-Pacific and Africa.

  2. Our contributions have included a variety of services including ethnographic research, prototyping, service design and co-creation workshops.

  3. Research insights have informed the design of Vodafone’s more recent products and services, and paved the way for future research on interaction and industrial design in developing regions.

Our projects covered qualitative ethnographic research, initial design concept development, concept prototyping, service design, participatory design and foresight recommendations to influence the company’s medium-term strategies.

Before we can envision and design products and services for developing markets, we must understand the ways in which such technologies are being used and the needs they fill in people’s lives, and how these differ from markets in the developed world.

Early developing market projects for Vodafone aimed to understand behaviors and needs of people in Asia-Pacific and African regions, with an emphasis on social networking, through user panels that allowed for regular and long-lasting communication with Vodafone. Using mobile phones to set tasks and collect information from participants, we pioneered an experimental remote research technique that allowed in-depth, ongoing channels of communication with people in these regions. These open channels provided valuable information about implications, opportunities and threats for the development of new tools and interaction paradigms for mobile social applications.

A continuation of this project involved ethnographic research with participants from the lower economic strata of selected developing regions. Through a local facilitator, who also conducted contextual observations, people were involved in a series of tasks through a more supported variation of the remote user technique.

Exploring the needs of this socioeconomic group was especially vital, as they often differed strikingly from higher socioeconomic groups. In particular, for lower income people, technology usage is a contributing factor to their daily survival, where resourcefulness in applying technology can give people a genuine competitive edge.

Based on the insights gathered in the ethnographic research, design concepts for products and services for mobile devices were developed, tailored to the behaviors and contexts of the different regions.

These designs were generated through methods such as opportunity modelling, brainstorming sessions, and collaborative processes, and then refined over successive iterations. One project included a participatory design workshop with lower socio-economic groups, aimed at collecting people’s feedback on service ideas by engaging them in concept development and co-creation activities. This included testing, evaluating and refining key ideas for mobile related services and features.

Design concepts were prototyped using a variety of methods, including low-fi and high-fi conceptual experience visualizations of the services and their user interfaces, interface interaction flows, videos and storyboards. In the participatory design workshops, participants were invited to make their own low-fi prototypes of mobile interfaces and services.

As final deliverables, Vodafone received high-level ethnographic research and analysis, foresight recommendations for strategic direction, and sophisticated concept prototypes, based on contextual scenarios and needs.

Check out our video presentation of mobile phone concepts based on in-depth ethnographic research with low-to-medium income earners in India, South Africa and Egypt.

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