Category Archives: Musing

Connecting the Middle East

Photo by Jennifer Scully and Nicholas Yates

The people have spoken in the Middle East and we’ve heard them. But didn’t you think it was a little slow? Once the turmoil settles down, one of the first thing that the entire region needs to do is reassess its digital communications infrastructure and play a little catch up to get ahead.

In Thomas Friedman’s (2006) account of globalization, he attributed the rise of India to the heavy investment in fibre optic cable. It is what brought India online and makes them a powerful emerging economy today. The fact that India could keep up and get ahead of the game made them a player on the world stage.

Australia is investing over AUD$40 billion over a period of 8 years in its bid to make the island a digital economy (Oliver, 2009). They’re hoping that the network coverage will improve access, develop innovation, and increase equality for all citizens, businesses, industries, and government departments.

The Middle East needs to build, upgrade, and network their communications infrastructure to make the region competitive on the world stage. We’ve seen recent examples of the power of social media to raise their voice against those they oppose, Egypt, and we’ve seen the digital world aid those in need and to make their voices heard, Japan.

The key is reliable fast access to the networks that region needs. The United Arab Emirates ranks highest at #35 with an average download speed per household with 9.73 mbps but next is Saudi Arabia at #74 with 4.4 mbps. Qatar is #82, Bahrain #106, Egypt #149 and Iraq, Iran and Lebanon occupy the spots #166 – #168 with an average 0.56 mbps between them (Ookla, March 28, 2011) .

South Korea is a prime example as they have invested heavily in digitizing their lives and are steadily progressing towards their digital future (Rushkoff & Dretzin, Feb 02, 2010). Incidentally, they are downloading towards this future at 33.45 mbps and sit at #1 on the list. They are educating their 6 year olds to be Netizens and are hoping they will develop instinctual innovative, yet positive, behaviors that will transfer into their secondary and tertiary education and beyond into the workplace.

Back to India. The flattener moved their population onto the global network and this enabled them to access things they couldn’t dream of before; information, jobs, prosperity. This seismic shift upwardly moved a large section of the Indian community and transformed their economy at the same time.

Could this happen in the Middle East? Some countries are using petro-dollars to invest in its future. They are trying to diversify their economy away from solely relying on oil to education, trade, and services. Other countries without this rich natural resource are struggling. They don’t have government investments and their capabilities to compete within the global network are limited.

Millions are waiting to get connected in the digital social network but until more reliable and better quality infrastructure is built, their voices may or may not be heard.

Original Post: April 03, 2011

Rushkoff, D., & Dretzin, R. (Feb 02, 2010). Digital Nation . Retrieved March 04, 2011 from

Ookla (March 28, 2011) Household Download Index. Retrieved March 28, 2011 from

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Being Mobile

Integrity Laundry

From writing short novels on your mobile (cell) phone in Japan, to the location driven craze of mobile apps like FourSquare in cities around the world from Sydney to New York. Being mobile isn’t just a fad, it is a passion and phenomenon. It is about accessibility that we love so much.

Accessibility is a broad term sweeping up many affordances of mobile devices. It could be giving a student a chance to access information no matter their location. On the way to or from their place of study, or even sitting at any café with wifi. This could be as simple as a poll, completing a reading, or replying to an online discussion post. Mobiles in this way extend the learning beyond the physical four walls of the classroom.

Accessibility could also entail having access to your education regardless of the time of day. Once I started using online resources that have a timestamp on it, I realized the varied times that students would post things. In Japan, it was mostly late evening or early night and in the UAE students often post things late in the evening or past midnight on occasions.

Simply having access to this information is another affordance of our latest mobile technology. Students with any smartphone or tablet computer (and yes of course even laptops) can get access to information they may not have in that time or location. Students want to clarify or know something right there and then? They can.

Having seen the mobile phone phenomenon in Japan first hand and experiencing now the ability for men and women of the UAE to do everything one handed, as their other hand is using their phone, I realize that educational institutes should take a proactive stance of incorporating mobiles into our students education

In my teaching of ESL, I’ve always believed that learning takes place both in and out of the classroom. In Japan, students would study and complete all homework but wouldn’t interact or use English outside the classroom. In Abu Dhabi, local Emirati students do interact with English speakers (often non-native) but very rarely study or finish all homework. The answer to me is in their hand. I’m generalizing a number of language learning theories here but the more language that the students are receiving, using, or interacting with, the chances are increased that acquisition might take place or the better the chances of learning in English.

Ever heard about the interactive Othello performance by ACU? ( They encouraged the audience to bring their phones and to keep them on. The actors were back stage sending updates or giving scene summaries to aid understanding. We can use this in our favor. I am thinking of times when a university lecturer could scaffold during a lecture for some first time ESL students where they get given pieces of useful information, definitions, or websites to follow up on. I’ve got to admit that even I would want that sort of information during some of my old undergrad lectures. For other university lecturers, they could keep students motivated by providing useful articles or sites with Twitter.

Original post April 3, 2011 on

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