Taking the internet everywhere
This post is part of a series of guest posts I've been writing on the Big Green Challenge blog to help individuals and organisations get more out of using the internet, in particular social media tools and services, to create and share content and ideas with a wider audience. Previous posts in the series have discussed photo sharing, making google maps and video sharing.
Not so long ago, if someone wanted to use the internet they'd have to physically plug an ethernet cable into a router or dial in over a phoneline. Nowadays, many people have wifi in their offices or homes - and, increasingly, wifi access is being offered at a small charge or free by businesses and in public places - enabling them to move around, untethered, from room to room whilst using the internet.
The next big thing, and the topic of this post, is the ability to access and share content on the go, wherever you happen to be and whenever you want, using mobile broadband.
Mobile broadband comes in several flavours, one of which is a 3G dongle. I recently purchased one of these small devices that plugs into my laptop's USB port and gives me high speed access to the internet, and have found it particularly useful when I want to do some work on the train. Most of the Big Green Challenge Finalists have projects that involve getting out and doing things within their community and a laptop giving them internet access wherever they are could almost certainly come in handy. You might be surprised that mobile broadband has really come down in price - I bought my dongle for £30 and it's pay-as-you-go tariff starts at £2 a day.
If you're interested in learning more, a friend of mine, journalist Adam Tinworth, recently wrote a helpful review of his experience of installing and using a 3G dongle.
The other type of mobile broadband uses a mobile phone to access the internet. Some will remember the introduction many years ago of WAP which allowed stripped down, text only versions of websites to be viewed on a mobile phone screen. Things have moved on a lot since then, with some current mobiles providing a browser-based internet experience that looks and acts just like that on a desktop or laptop computer. So anything you might be able to accomplish on the web - searching for content, booking a train ticket, sending an email - is now possible using just a mobile phone with a data connection.
Many current mobile phones also allow users to install applications, just like on a computer, that make it possible to capture and share content online including text, blog posts, geo-location, photos and videos. In fact, it's now possible to actually stream live video from some mobile phones to the web - effectively giving individuals much of the live broadcasting capability previously enjoyed only by major news organisations.
In my next guest post here, I'll discuss some of the applications and services that turn mobile phones into powerful tools for capturing moments and creating and sharing content online.