Jan Chipcase, Nokia’s user researcher, is the latest contributor in the ongoing series of emerging markets articles that are being published on a weekly basis in Vodafone Receiver’s magazine.

Chipchase stresses that his research is more than just “an attempt to understand the similarities and differences to what we already knew in order to create products and services that are more in tune with local markets”:

Increasingly we’ve had our eyes opened to the sheer ingenuity of people who figure out ways of doing a lot with very little – highly relevant for a planet having to make stark choices about sparse resources. For example the practices around sharing have helped shape our notions of ownership and access – that we’ve applied to the thinking and design of future infrastructures. Our research into illiteracy highlighted the practice of delegating tasks that require an understanding of words and numbers to other people – and that in fact delegation is a solution for many system design problems – what do we expect the user to do, what can be delegated to technology, and especially relevant to the close-knit communities in emerging markets – what can be delegated to other people? The extent and sophistication of the street repair cultures have changed the way we think about how our products are made, distributed, disposed of and recycled. And occasionally we come across something so elegant and in tune with the local conditions that it could never be designed for – like Sente, the informal practice of sending and converting airtime into cash, effectively allowing anyone with a mobile phone to function as a rudimentary ATM machine. Not least if you want to create a service that people value, you’d be hard pressed to find a more critical group of consumers than people with limited and infrequent levels of disposable income.

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