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This week the BBC made an interesting announcement about BBC Janala, a service that is using mobile to teach the English language in Bangladesh. Janala (which means "window") is a relatively low-tech solution, using SMS and voice on mobile phones, and for me underlines that there are still a lot of application areas for mobile technology that haven't yet been tried. The author and strategist Tomi Ahonen, has pointed out before that the mobile has a reach that far exceeds any other medium on Earth. There are 3.4 billion unique mobile phone accounts in the world, and this reaches more people than TV, the Internet, newspapers and fixed-line phones.
BBC Janala has already served-up over 1 million lessons via their mobile platform (each call costs little more than one cent, half the cost of a standard call in Bangladesh), and over 130,000 quizzes have been taken via texting. There are 50 million mobile phone accounts in Bangladesh, so it's clear that in countries like this, this is the most powerful way of connecting to a wide audience. Handsets have basic capability today (voice and text), but we can expect that other services like the web and video will extend to a lot of these users in the next few years. In many cases this will be the only form of Internet access that a user will have seen, and as a video viewer, it will have a bigger reach than conventional TV (once more, according to Tomi Ahonen on average 5 people share a single TV, where a mobile is a very personal item).