“In a lot of foreign markets, people think that the Internet is Facebook,” said Clark Fredricksen, a vice president at eMarketer.
This quote from a recent New York Times article about Facebook’s effort to make the world’s most popular website accessible on feature phones is striking to many who discovered the internet well before Facebook’s arrival. The Facebook for Every Phone project promises to accelerate connections between people in India, Brazil, Nigeria, and other countries where Facebook is the predominant social network. Until very recently, users needed a web browser to join the social network.
Eventually, the company realized that tens of millions of people in developing countries were eager to try Facebook but had no access to a computer, nor could they afford the $600 iPhones or $40-a-month data plans common in the developed world.
A social interaction map developed with third party software Netvizz and Gephi.
In K4Health’s work in Nigeria, we have employed a closed Facebook Group to help promote the project’s Nigerian authored eLearning courses for Medical Laboratory Scientists (MLS). The Group, which has attracted over 4,340 members in six months, has clearly demonstrated the value of meeting people where they are. Many of the Group members join and participate through their BlackBerrys and other smart phones. Facebook access for feature phones will no-doubt increase membership and involvement.
The majority of the interactions in the Group have focused on accessing and navigating the eLearning courses supplemented by questions about course content. Several Group members have responded to other posts by sharing their experiences and thus the Group serves as a community of practice.
The map on this page provides a visual representation of the relationships and social interactions among Group members. Currently, the moderator is at the center of the network with clusters of members siting on the periphery. In the future, we would like to see more and bigger clusters with the moderator playing a smaller role. We hope this will be possible when more MLS have access to Facebook.