BitDepth 713 - January 12

Some ruminations on technology trends and where they are likely to take us...
Tech trends, 2009-2010

Fixed, wired and wireless Internet subscribers have essentially doubled since 2005 based on these increases (in thousands) charted by TATT. Chart excerpted from TATT's 2008 Market Report.

Futuring technology is a lunatic's game. One is put to mind of that version of Dan Quisenberry's quote: the future will be just like today, only different (Quisenberry thought it would be longer).
Futuring live on TV is an even more slippery proposition. I never got around to really answering host Jessie Mae Ventour's question on CNMG's First Up show recently about the technology trends of 2010 (view the whole segment
Since the TATT Digital Divide survey of 2007 by Watson and Ramlal and TATT's 2008 Market Report, there hasn't been a publicly released evaluation of the state of technology in Trinidad and Tobago. Kenrick Attale, of Lonsdale, Saatchi and Saatchi, was also on the show, with tidbits from an interesting report that he's sharing with his clients. TSTT did their own survey in mid-2009, but except for some seeping of information from it in Government Vision 2020 publications, it also remains confidential competitive information.

With none of the research resources available to Lonsdale and TSTT, I turned to Google Insights and for some information about what Internet users were doing online in 2009.
According to Google Insights, the top search term out of T&T was "trinidad," which makes sense, because the word, along with the number three search term, "trinidad and tobago" is used to narrow online searches. Eliminating them leaves us with "facebook," "youtube" and "games" as the top search terms.
In Alexa's top 100 sites visited from Trinidad and Tobago according to traffic statistics, ten were social networks, with Facebook taking top rank. There are 11 pornography websites and 10 websites offering links and torrent files to "warez," pirated software and video files.

Seven gaming websites are in the list, along with all the major search engines. There are eight websites for local and regional companies (inclusive of the three major dailies) and just three major online shopping sites.
According to TATT's 2008 Market Report, there are 224,000 customers subscribing to the Internet locally using fixed and wireless connections, three quarters of them on broadband. More than 100,000 are listed as having access to the web on their mobile phones.
With the most affluent 16 percent of the population online, patterns of consumption remain aligned with meat world realities. We are, on the evidence of Alexa's profile, a nation of limers and consumers of free media and software online as well as in person.

Twenty percent of the websites in Trinidad and Tobago's top 100 lead to sources of pirated software and video, and the top two websites according to web traffic, after search engines are removed from Alexa's rankings, are Facebook and YouTube.
Somewhere between what people say they are doing on the Internet (research, heh, heh) and the statistics of traffic and searches from this country, is a picture of not just where we are now, but where we are likely to be going.
The potential for tangible national development arising from the growth in Internet connectivity is likely to be heavily influenced by two things. 
What happens when the next tier of potential users begins using the web regularly and what a significant number of young people will be doing after being raised in an environment of growing Internet accessibility.

Year over year, the cost of an Internet connection is dropping. In 2008, TATT reports that subscribers spent an average of $3098 for the year for their service, an 11 percent drop over 2007.
But incremental drops in price alone won't drive technology adoption. The first mobile telecommunications provider to provide broadband to the pocket, a fast link to the web over a cellular connection, is likely to reap the dividends by adding new income earning capacity to the largest revenue producing market in the sector (47 percent, according to TATT).
It remains to be seen whether TSTT's forthcoming introduction of WiMax will plug the cellphone sized hole in their expansive broadband Internet strategy.

We're already seeing some of the potential of that first decade and a half of increased Internet connectivity in initiatives like the entries for Animae Caribe and in very independent, no budget films like Kirk Budhooram's pleasant surprise, "A long day into night." 
This is a
film that speaks from a troubled heart. It's crude, emotional and utterly riveting. It's likely to be an indicator of the kind of creative work that takes digital tools for granted. It's also a reminder that this is a country of people, who after looking at dirty oil drums for a decade or two, turned them into one of the most remarkable instruments the world has ever seen.

This is the original extended version of the column that appeared in the Guardian on January 12, which was cut to meet new story length restrictions.
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