mobile and social media users in emerging markets have more diverse social networks – gpgmail


The latest study from Pew Research Center takes a look at the impact mobile technology, including the use of smartphones and social media, is having on the diversity of people’s social network in emerging markets. For the purpose of the study, Pew surveyed mobile users in eleven key markets: Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, South Africa, Kenya, India, Vietnam, the Philippines, Tunisia, Jordan, and Lebanon. It found that users in these markets had broader social networks than those without smartphones and social media.

In the U.S., we’ve been concerned with social media’s ability to create “filter bubbles” — meaning how we surround ourselves online with people who hold the same opinions as us, which is then reinforced by social media’s engagement-focused algorithms. This leads us to believe, sometimes in error, that what we think is the most correct and most popular view.

According to Pew’s study, emerging markets are experiencing a somewhat different phenomenon.

Instead of isolation, the study found that smartphone users in these markets, and particularly those who also used social media, were more regularly exposed to people with different racial and ethnic backgrounds, different religious preferences, different political parties, and different income levels, compared to those without a smartphone.

In Mexico, for example, 57% of smartphone owners regularly interacted with people of other religions, while only 38% of those without a smartphone did. And more than half (54%) interact with people who supported different political parties. They were also 24% more like to interact with people of different income levels, and 17% more likely to interact with people of different ethnic or racial backgrounds.

These sorts of trends help up across the nations studied, Pew noted, with a median of 66% saying they interacted with people with different income levels, 51% saying they interacted with a those of different race or ethnicity, 50% saying they interacted with those having different religious views, and a median 44% saying they interacted with those who supported a different political party.

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The use of social media and messaging apps was found to be a huge contributor here, as it made people more likely to encounter people different from them, the study also said.

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The report, however, isn’t claiming that smartphone and the related social media use are the cause of this increase in diversity in these people’s lives. There may be other reasons for that. Smartphone owners, in general, may have more resources and money — they own a smartphone, after all — and this alone could help expose them to a more diverse group of people.

That said, smartphones are helping people stay connected to distant family and friends, and build out online networks of people they don’t ever see in person.

More than half of people in most of the surveyed countries said that only see half — or fewer — of the people they call or text in person. 93% said they keep in touch with far-flung contacts. And a median of 46% said they see their few or none of Facebook friends regularly.

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All this connecting isn’t seen as being fully positive, however.

An earlier Pew report found that users in these 11 countries believe the internet and social media are making people more divided in their opinions and only sometimes more accepting of different views. Exposure to diversity and acceptance of it are different things.

The new report also gets into how smartphones are used. For example, a median of 82% said they texted, 69% took photos or videos, 61% looked up health information, 47% looked up news and political information, and 37% looked up information about government resources.

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It also examined smartphones’ impact on digital divides, noting that people with access to these devices and social media, as well as younger people, those with higher levels of education and men, were gaining more benefits than others.

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The study is based on in-person interviews conducted by D3 Systems, Inc. and the results are based on national samples, notes Pew.

The full report is available here, with deeper dives on activities and data by individual countries.


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Google’s lightweight search app, Google Go, launches to Android users worldwide – gpgmail


Google Go, a lightweight version of Google’s search app, is today becoming available to all Android users worldwide. First launched in 2017 after months of beta testing, the app had been designed primarily for use in emerging markets where people are often accessing the internet for the first time on unstable connections by way of low-end Android devices.

Like many of the “Lite” versions of apps built for emerging markets, Google Go takes up less space on phones — now at just over 7MB — and it includes offline features to aid those with slow and intermittent internet connections. The app’s search results are optimized to save up to 40% data, Google also claims.

Beyond web search, Google Go includes other discovery features, as well — like the ability to tap through trending topics, voice search, image and GIF search, an easy way to switch between languages, and the ability to have web pages read aloud, powered by AI.

At Google’s I/O developer conference this spring, the company announced it was also bringing Lens to Google Go.

Lens allows users to point their smartphone camera at real-world objects in order to bring up relevant information. In Google Go, the Lens feature will help users who struggle to read. When the camera is pointed at text — like a bus schedule, sign or bank form, for example — Lens can read the text out loud, highlighting the words as they’re spoken. Users can also tap on a particular word to learn its definition or have the text translated.

While Lens was only a 100KB addition, according to Google, the updates to the Go app since launch have increased its size. Initially, it was a 5MB app; now it’s a little more than 7MB.

Previously, Google Go was only available in a few countries on Android Go edition devices. According to data from Sensor Tower, it has been installed approximately 17.5 million times globally, with the largest percentage of users in India (48%). Its next largest markets are Indonesia (16%), Brazil (14%), Nigeria (6%) and South Africa (4%), Sensor Tower says.

In total, it has been made available to 29 countries on Android Go edition devices, including: Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, Gabon, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Mali, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Philippines, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Google says the app now has “millions” of users.

Today, Google says it will be available to all users worldwide on the Play Store.

Google says it decided to launch the app globally, including in markets where bandwidth is not a concern, because it understands that everyone at times can struggle with problems like limited phone storage or spotty connections.

Plus, it’s a lightweight app for reading and translating text. At Google I/O, the company had noted there are more than 800 million adults worldwide who struggle to read — and, of course, not all are located in emerging markets.

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Google Go is one of many lightweight apps Google has built for emerging markets, along with YouTube Go, Files Go, Gmail Go, Google Maps Go, Gallery Go and Google Assistant Go, for example.

The Google Go app will be available on the Play Store to global users running Android Lollipop or higher.


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