Page 9 of 13Technological Developments (Including Convergence)
The development of bandwidth infrastructure described earlier enables new forms of connectivity and also responds to demand coming from new applications (particularly audio-visual content delivery). Technological convergence continues as device manufacturers, software suppliers, traditional telecommunications companies, mobile operators, content companies, social networking companies, and providers of new wireless infrastructure jostle for position in determining the content and services that are delivered through ICTs. This leaves ICTD practitioners in a difficult position as ICTs are reliant on standards and multinational companies attempt to become "default standards", often leaving standards bodies and governments catching up in a reactive mode.
Vickram Krishna believes that "the recent development and commercial launches of ultra-compact low-energy consuming network-ready devices, such as the Asus EEE PC available at stunningly lower price points than previous “advances” in computing platforms, is seminal" (Vota 2007). The same is true for the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) XO and the Intel Classmate PC that are integrating features such as durable rugged design, flash memory (rather than hard drives), rechargeable power systems, built-in multimedia and wireless devices, and the like. These devices are competing with each other to get access to poor underserved classrooms of children, although there are substantial debates about total cost of ownership and the long-term suitability of these solutions for the least developed countries (Vota 2007). A case study in India, for example, shows that the introduction of computers in schools has resulted in the misallocation of resources and neglect of infrastructural facilities, which should be a higher priority (UNDP 2004).
At the other end of the scale, the rise of feature-rich, application-centric multimedia handsets led by Apple's iPhone model are rapidly changing the market. While many of these features are designed for more affluent users, they have the effect of setting the agenda for convergence and establishing models for associated service delivery that drive standards development. For example, the bundling of Google's video streaming application YouTube and mapping applications helps cement these sites as default platforms for such services. YouTube, for example, launched an Indian site with local content partners on 7 May 2008; many other territory-specific versions of the platform are being developed. As the iPhone begins an unprecedented rollout to over 46 carriers in 42 countries through 2008 (Elmer-DeWitt 2008), its importance, like that of the iPod before it, will be not only in terms of the volume of sales it makes, but also the way it shapes the market for telecommunications and integrated digital content. Asia Pacific is the world's largest market for smart mobile devices, accounting for 46 percent of worldwide shipments of 23.2 million in the first quarter of 2007 (Burns 2007).
Overall, the convergence of audio, video, and Internet content is rapidly reshaping the media experience in the region, and Internet networks and new ICT devices are central to the new content distribution platforms. Because national governments and content owners have little control over the development of standards used in integrated devices, there will be a number of challenging issues for content regulators and traditional content business models.