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Nokia has recently launched this service in India. Nokia Life Tools are rich iconic applications that use SMS as the backend on inexpensive (sub $50) models such as the Nokia 2323 and 2320 classic.

As Mr. D Shivakumar, Managing Director, Nokia India says,

We believe this is the beginning of a historical journey that will take mobility to grassroots and make a positive difference to the lives of people in the areas that are crucial to them.

This is an interesting development. Nokia is a leader in the India market. It has got the support of  a state government and has companies like Pearson ready to share content apart from a host of other partners. It has also first established viability and utility through prior pilots and made the service relevant. It is also affordable in that income group (Rs. 30 per month or little over half a dollar a month).

I also read about SMS Gupshup from Webaroo (Gupshup means conversation/gossip in Hindi) making waves with its tie-up with Facebook India – the core idea being that SMS could replace/augment computer access to the website seamlessly. Similar companies include Google smschannels, Vakow and myToday.

So, in principle, the social network can now go to the grassroot level without Internet access. That’s how I see it anyways. This could be the greatest advantage in the educational space. So the best kind of Learning 2.0 applications would be those with small footprints (data size) and high on sharing and connecting, especially with established social networking sites like Orkut and Facebook.

At the higher end, this could be supplemented by PC-based or smartphone-based access to richer internet educational services such as collaboration tools, learning management systems etc. for those who do have the access, even in rural or semi-urban settings.

I agree with Pradeep at watblog who is worried that voice recognition/activation is not a core feature in Life Tools. This could be a key differentiator.

I am not seeing voice as a key element in online “2.0” conversations using the mobile phone. I am surprised because it seems like such an obvious idea. Let us say you are having a discussion with friends. In the physical space, you would share points of view around a topic with one speaking after the other (like in a discussion forum online) or in response. In a discussion forum, you would scan through and write your interjection in response to someone else’s comment etc.

Why not on the phone? It is very natural. So you could get an SMS or call that someone replied to your comment on a  topic and you could call back with your reply. Someone accessing online could seamless see your response coming in and respond through a text message or a voice one. Anybody else could replay/watch your conversation in the form of a podcast and add her own notes.

Leverage connectivity. Leverage voice. Leverage small byte sized content for learning. Leverage tools and Web 2.0 technology. Leverage new instructional models. Rethink the paradigm and come up with new thoughts. The space is dynamic and challenging and there seems to be no dearth of companies or individuals taking the plunge to cover it!

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