OK, apologies for the confusing title, but I spend much of my time at Blue Latitude advising clients on social media strategies, often based in some of the lesser-known corners of the globe.
This September, however, these aspects of my professional life will be converge as two friends and I attempt to traverse the 2,200 miles of desert, jungles, Himalayan altitudes, and densely populated cities that constitute the breadth of the Indian subcontinent.
It’s all for charity (details at the bottom of the page), and as part of the effort around fundraising, I’ll be applying some of my more practical social media skills on our behalf. The slight twist? Every one of those 2,200 miles will be covered in a laughably mechanical unreliable Tuk-Tuk.
As well as regular updates here on the Blue Latitude blog, we’re keeping people informed through posting our ongoing visa and vaccination progress on Facebook, our latest philosophical musings on Twitter, and detailed logistical and team information on our Website (the YouTube/Flickr accounts capturing the inevitable jubilations and tribulations are coming soon!).
We’ll be maintaining all of these throughout the expedition – from the starting line in Shillong, to the finish line in Jaisalmer – and supplementing them with regular SMS enabled GPS updates on our location to allow our followers to track our progress in close to real time. I’ve actually pointed out to some of my more concerned friends and family that they’ll have more regular and up-to-date information on my welfare, location and general disposition when I’m in India than when I’m at home.
This highlights a fact that’s been increasingly clear through my professional experience – that, despite BRIC countries often being viewed as less digitally developed than Western Markets, the reality is that many of the building blocks for development, such as simple access to the Internet, are already in place.
Having access, of course, is only half of the equation. The necessary hardware costs are (obviously) prohibitively expensive for the 2.7 billion people that are currently living on less than $2 a day. However, hardware is becoming increasingly affordable, driven by reduced costs of production; specially targeted initiatives to provide wider access to technology (PDF); and programs such as the excellent One Laptop Per Child.
For our part we’ve actually teamed up with the Flat Stanley project and will be handing out iPod Touches as we cross India to promote international literacy and community through the use of technology.
And Internet capable devices such as the iPod Touch highlight another trend in these markets – nowhere is this lowering cost of technology being more keenly embraced than with wireless/mobile phone use.
BRIC nations now constitute four of the five top mobile enabled populations in the world and Indian Telecommunications is one of the world’s fastest growing sectors. This is a trend that already has both speed and scale. There are actually more mobile phone users in India than there are people in the US, Russia, Germany, Italy, France, Spain and the UK. Last year, even the UN reported that more people in India have access to mobile telephones than basic sanitation.
So hopefully coverage shouldn’t be too much of an issue (though clearly access to other types of facilities may be…).
Over the course of the next few months I’ll continue to merge my professional and personal lives by diligently posting on my adventures in social media implementation, digital in emerging markets, and the nonsensical, borderline masochistic adventures of three men in a Tuk-Tuk. I hope you’ll be back to find out more, as well as checking out some of the charities.
Frank Water is the official race charity and specializes in funding clean water projects to those areas below the poverty line. With 2.2 million people dying every year from drinking dirty water, Frank has helped hundreds of thousands of villagers across India and Africa get access the most basic of human necessities. Donate.
Embrace also works to help the developing world. They provide low-cost infant warmers to areas that often don’t have access to innovations in modern medicine. A key driver of infant mortality is simply that for low-weight and premature infants, room temperature still feels freezing cold. With 20 million low-weight and premature infants born every year, four million of which die within their first month of life, this is a very real but addressable problem. Donate.