The Digital Economy
E-inclusion: creating a mobile internet for all
Eirini Zafeiratou / Feb 2012
Millions of people, across Europe, are using the mobile internet and benefitting from services as diverse as keeping a fitness schedule, checking train times or managing a bank account, whenever and wherever they want.
However, at Vodafone we do not see the mobile internet as being the privilege of the few. E-inclusion is one of the big priorities of the Digital Agenda of Commissioner Kroes.
We share her view and we believe that smartphones can help achieve her e-inclusion objectives: access to the Internet has the ability to transform lives and we are committed to tackling barriers of cost, geography and accessibility to take the benefits of the mobile internet to all.
In 2009, Vodafone commissioned research to identify the size of the market segment of users who required minor adaptations to use their mobile phone and those who need a specialist handset or services. We found that across 19 markets – with a total population 1.76 billion – approximately 136 million people experience moderate or minor disability or impairment: some 11% of the population.
Some basic needs have already been addressed. Innovation in mobile telecommunication services opened up new ways to communicate for people who are deaf and/or hard of hearing - via text and mobile email - and to people with limited manual dexterity, through voice-activated dialing and speakerphone functions. We are now seeing a new wave of innovation as smartphone platforms enable low-cost and widespread distribution of services which facilitate free movement, such as maps for people with reduced mobility which can show the optimal travel routes, either on foot or on public transport, tailored video calling services for hearing-impaired customers and so on.
As part of our effort to make the mobile internet fully inclusive, we have partnered with the European Disability Forum (EDF), and with AGE Platform Europe to run the EU-wide Vodafone Foundation Smart Accessibility Awards, a competition to create mobile applications specifically targeted at older people and persons with disabilities.
The four winning applications, now available on our appstore, were designed to improve lives in areas as different as ability to communicate by speech (Help Talk app), improved mobility (Wheelmap), visual impairments (Zoom Plus Video Magnifier and BIG launcher).
In 2012, we will continue with the second version of Smart Accessibility Awards, another effort to make services and devices accessible to all. We are confident that together we will overcome the barriers to the freedom of movement of all European citizens.