Blue sky thinking meets green field usability: can mobile internet software engineering bridge the rural divide?

Andrew Morgan1, Alan Dix2,3, Mike Phillips1, Chris House1

1 University of Wales, Trinity Saint David, UK
2 Talis, Birmingham, UK
3 HCI Centre, University of Birmingham, UK

published in Local Economy

draft paper (PDF, 208K)
final version available at doi: 10.1177/0269094214548399


Mobile applications (apps) are becoming more commonplace as mobile phones and tablets begin to replace traditional desktop devices. Software developers are usually located in areas where good connectivity is the norm but large numbers of users are located in other areas where 3G connectivity is at best poor or non-existent. This results in app development which is unsuitable for many areas of the world and, as well as being a problem in rural areas of the UK, has ramifications for mobile app use in third world countries where fixed broadband services are largely absent. Drawing on experiences of users on the margins of connectivity, this paper discusses difficulties of mobile internet access in Wales and recommends changes to app development methodology to maximise bandwidth in areas of limited network coverage.

Keywords: rural economy, mobile internet, digital divide


  1. Aldrick, P. (2012). UK reclaims sixth largest economy slot. The Telegraph,.
  2. BBC. (2011). "3G mobile data network crowd-sourcing survey by BBC News."   Retrieved 23/07/2013, from
  3. BBC. (2011). "Email obsession 'will impact Christmas holidays'."   Retrieved 03/01/2014, from
  4. BBC. (2013). "Should you delete all emails you get while you are on holiday?"   Retrieved 07/01/2014, from
  5. British Postal Museum & Archive. (2013). "Rowland Hill's Postal Reforms."   Retrieved 26/11/2013, from
  6. Brown, B. and M. Chalmers (2003). Tourism and mobile technology. ECSCW 2003, Springer.
  7. Citizens Advice Bureau. (2013). "22% don’t have basic banking services needed to deal with Universal Credit."   Retrieved 29/01/2014, from
  8. Cressman, K. (2001). "Desert locust guidelines: 2 Survey." Rome: Food and Agriculture organization (FAO) of the United Nations: 15.
  9. de Reuver, M., G. Ongena, et al. (2013). "Should mobile Internet be an extension to the fixed web? Fixed-mobile reinforcement as mediator between context of use and future use." Telematics and Informatics 30(2): 111-120.
  10. DEFRA (2013). Statistical digest of rural England 2013: January 2013.
  11. A. J. Dix (1995). "Cooperation without (reliable) Communication: Interfaces for Mobile Applications." Distributed Systems Engineering2(3): pp. 171-181.
  12. Dix, A. (2008, 02/03/2008). "The electronic village shop – update and kit."   Retrieved 29/01/2014, from
  13. Dix, A. (2013). The Walk: exploring the technical and social margins. India HCI Bangalore.
  14. Dix, A. and S. Subramanian (2010). "IT for Sustainable Growth." Journal of Technology Management for Growing Economies 1(1): 35-54.
  15. E.E. (2013). "our network."   Retrieved 23/07/2013, from
  16. Ferguson, J. (1990). The anti-politics machine: development, depoliticization, and bureaucratic power in Lesotho, CUP Archive.
  17. Funk, J. L. (2011). "Standards, critical mass, and the formation of complex industries: A case study of the mobile Internet." Journal of Engineering and Technology Management 28(4): 232-248.
  18. Gerpott, T. J., S. Thomas, et al. (2013). "Characteristics and mobile Internet use intensity of consumers with different types of advanced handsets: An exploratory empirical study of iPhone, Android and other web-enabled mobile users in Germany." Telecommunications Policy 37(4–5): 357-371.
  19. Gerpott, T. J., S. Thomas, et al. (2013). "Personal characteristics and mobile Internet use intensity of consumers with computer-centric communication devices: An exploratory empirical study of iPad and laptop users in Germany." Telematics and Informatics 30(2): 87-99.
  20. Gledhill, R. (2013). Religious couple win fight to file VAT returns by post. The Times.
  21. Goodman, A. and P. Gregg (2010). Poorer Children’s Educational Attainment: How Important Are Attitudes And Behaviour?, Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
  22. Gov.UK (2013). Broadband Delivery UK. M. S. Department for Culture.
  23. HistoryPoints. (2013). "Bringing local history to your mobile phone."   Retrieved 09/12/2013, from
  24. Irani, L., J. Vertesi, et al. (2010). Postcolonial computing: a lens on design and development. Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, ACM.
  25. Kellaway, L. (2013). Must I check my work emails while I'm on holiday? Financial Times. London (UK): 10.
  26. Kim, D. Y., J. Park, et al. (2008). "A model of traveller acceptance of mobile technology." International Journal of Tourism Research 10(5): 393-407.
  27. Lin, W.-Y., X. Zhang, et al. (2013). "From the wired to wireless generation? Investigating teens’ Internet use through the mobile phone." Telecommunications Policy 37(8): 651-661.
  28. López-Nicolás, C., F. J. Molina-Castillo, et al. (2008). "An assessment of advanced mobile services acceptance: Contributions from TAM and diffusion theory models." Information & Management 45(6): 359-364.
  29. Macfarlane, R. (2012). The old ways: A journey on foot, Penguin UK.
  30. McCaskill, S. (2013a, 27/06/2013). "Government Pledges £250m For Almost Total Superfast Broadband Coverage By 2018."   Retrieved 09/12/2013, from
  31. McCaskill, S. (2013b, 07/10/2013). "Mobile Operators To Attend Government 4G Meeting."   Retrieved 09/12/2013, from
  32. MCIT (2013). UNIVERSAL SERVICE OBLIGATION FUND OF INDIA. I. Ministry of Communication and Information Technology.
  33. Mobile Operators Association. (2013). "Stats and Facts."   Retrieved 08/12/2013, from
  34. mobiThinking. (2013). "Global mobile statistics 2013 Part B: Mobile Web; mobile broadband penetration; 3G/4G subscribers and networks."   Retrieved 08/12/2013, from
  35. Ofcom. (2013, 24/10/2013). "UK Mobile Services Map 2013."   Retrieved 08/12/2013, from
  36. Okazaki, S. (2006). "What do we know about mobile Internet adopters? A cluster analysis." Information & Management 43(2): 127-141.
  37. ONS (2013). Statistical Bulletin: Retail Sales, Office of National Statistics. O. o. N. Statistics.
  38. Porritt, R. (2012). Shingle Street: Hamlet gets its own super fast broadband. East Anglian Daily Times.
  39. Poslad, S., H. Laamanen, et al. (2001). "Crumpet: Creation of user-friendly mobile services personalised for tourism."
  40. Qraqrbox. (2013). "Welcome to Qraqrbox."   Retrieved 24/09/13, from
  41. RSE (2013). Spreading the benefits of digital participation: An interim report for consultation. Edinburgh, Royal Society of Edinburgh: 22-24.
  42. Ryan, C. and U. Rao (2008). "Holiday users of the Internet — ease of use, functionality and novelty." International Journal of Tourism Research 10(4): 329-339.
  43. Schwinger, W., C. Grün, et al. (2005). "Context-awareness in mobile tourism guides–A comprehensive survey." Rapport Technique. Johannes Kepler University Linz.
  44. Sherman, J. (2013). Half of benefit claimants lack skill to complete online forms - This report is based on a Citizens Advice Bureau survey. The Times. London: 6.
  45. Srinuan, C., P. Srinuan, et al. (2012). "An analysis of mobile Internet access in Thailand: Implications for bridging the digital divide." Telematics and Informatics 29(3): 254-262.
  46. Stevens, W. R. and G. R. Wright (1994). TCP/IP Illustrated: The protocols, Addison-Wesley.
  47. Tomaszcynk, S. (2012). "Three to provide free WiFi for tourists in Wales."   Retrieved 27/07/13, from
  48. Townsend, L., A. Sathiaseelan, et al. (2013). "Enhanced broadband access as a solution to the social and economic problems of the rural digital divide." Local Economy 28(6): 580-595.
  49. UK Government (2013). Stimulating private sector investment to achieve a transformation in broadband in the UK by 2015. M. S. Department for Culture.
  50. W.G. (2013). The impact of ICT on pupils’ learning in primary schools - July 2013. Estyn.
  51. W.G. (2013). Next Generation Broadband Wales.
  52. Wakefield, J. (2011, 24/08/2011). "3G mobile data network crowd-sourcing survey by BBC News."   Retrieved 08/12/2013, from
  53. Wroblewski, L. (2011). Mobile First, A Book Apart.



Alan Dix 31/7/2014