Link of the Day 072708: Literacy, Communication & Design [Jan Chipchase, Nokia]

Jan Chipchase, the Principal Scientist at the Nokia Research Center, speaks on designing phones for illiterate consumers. 799 million adults worldwide are unable to read and write [based on UNESCO definition of literacy].

From the Nokia Research Center:

As traditional markets for mobile phones such as Sweden, U.K., and Singapore reach saturation point handset manufacturers actively seek growth in ’emerging markets’ such as India, China, Vietnam, Brazil and Indonesia including some of the world’s most populous countries [2]. Targeting products and services at new markets creates many new challenges, not least of which is understanding and meeting the needs of new customers.

A number of these markets have limited formal education and consequently lower levels of literacy and numeracy.
The key question for mobile phone manufacturers who wish to address the communication needs of this potential customer base is: How does the inability to read and write affect the ability of mobile phone users to make effective use of mobile phones? How can we design communication tools that draw on the knowledge and experiences that these users do have?

The talk drags a bit in the beginning. At around minute 7 or 8, he talks about the types of interviews and home visits his team did to determine what strategies illiterate people use for coping with written material (e.g. bankbook, analog clock, text on motorcycle handle ), what devices they use, how they maintain contact information, etc. Minute 12, he reveals the results of their research.

His PowerPoint Slides

One of the questions Jan poses: “To what extent is textual literacy a barrier to device competency?” Here is a simple test to help you found out that answer for yourself.

If you’re wondering just how hard it is for a non-literate person to use a mobile phone? Change the language setting on your phone to one you don’t understand for a day and see how well you manage.

Another interesting slideshow from the Nokia Design team discussea how they do some of their research with consumers in developing countries.

Associated video from this presentation.

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