The Winners in Rural Broadband – The Customers
Debra Ruh is the CEO and Founder of Ruh Global IMPACT, a consulting firm that strives to help clients amplify their impact and become disability inclusion leaders. She also serves as the Chair of the United Nations’ G3ict EmployAbility Task Force, which supports information and communication assistive technologies in over 100 countries. Her advocacy for people with disabilities has changed the way technology companies interface with their customers; and she has measurably improved the lives of millions of people all over the world who live on the margins, helping them to compete in the world-wide marketplace and improve their quality of life.
Recently, Ruh has turned her attention to shine the spotlight on a section of society that also is too-often overlooked: rural America. She, herself, is a business owner who lives in one of the many thousands of fringe, distant, or remote rural areas, as designated by Internet Service Providers (ISPs).
What makes an area rural? The U.S. Census guidelines define rural fringe as less than 5 miles from a city or densely populated suburb, or 2.5 miles from an urban cluster (town); rural distance is 25 miles from a city or 10 miles from a town; and rural remote covers everything greater than rural, distant populations.
In a recent article, Ruh shared the following personal experience running a business from rural America:
“I live outside Richmond, Virginia about 100 miles from our Nation’s Capital – Washington, DC, in a small community called Rockville, Virginia. I can attest that access to the internet is still a huge problem all over the world, including here in the United States with rural communities like mine not having access to dependable, affordable and reliable internet services.
“The growth of small businesses and the GIG economy are making it critical to have access to stable, affordable and high-speed internet service… Rural communities do not have the same access options as urban communities.
“To get reliable access to the internet, we had to find a Wireless Internet Service Provider (WISP) that could assemble a solution from very high-end radio equipment. I pay $250 a month for my internet connection. That might seem expensive, but I am running a global business from my home like many in the new economy. All of our work is online, including my two global shows – Human Potential at Work (with audiences in over 86 countries and 113 regions) and AXSChat (one of the largest Tweet Chats in the world). Additionally, many of my employees are technologists with disabilities and they work from their homes from countries all over the world.”
Ruh also noted the work that Huawei has done – and will continue to do – to help connect people in rural America:
“Huawei has a long history of supporting rural communities with affordable dependable internet solutions. The company started by bringing internet to rural parts of China. Huawei was the only corporation to bring the internet to these rural markets, and they have continued to expand into other rural markets, including rural areas in the United States, Canada, Africa, and other countries…
“More than 700 million people in rural areas around the world still cannot make phone calls or access the network (according to GSMA statistics). By the end of 2018, nearly 400,000 villages around the world had no network coverage. The digital gap between cities and the countryside is widening, especially the gap between remote areas and urban areas.”
In rural America alone, there are roughly 23 million people, and many of them do not have access to the FCC’s minimum requirements for inclusive broadband download/upload speeds (25Mbps/3Mbps). However, these speeds are required for many complex tasks, including completing homework assignments, accessing medical services, and running a business.
The real winner when it comes to broadband connectivity in rural America is the customer. Many rural Americans have undeniably benefited from Huawei’s lean and tight strategies, which prioritize making better tech more affordable. In fact, Huawei built its brand by serving rural customers – the people that the larger telecom operators were content to leave behind. Like Debra Ruh, Huawei believes in inclusion, because everyone deserves the same opportunities in this growing digital world.
[Debra’s original blog post is https://www.ruhglobal.com/digital-inclusion-for-rural-communities/ ]
Source: High Plains Reader
10 smartphone features that I’m pretty darn thankful for
It’s Thanksgiving morning, and I have the day off, but my body’s internal clock wouldn’t let me sleep in, nor would my animals, whose bellies are quite used to their normal early morning feeding time. So, as I was lying in bed, thinking about today and reflecting on all of the things that I’m thankful for, I decided to pop online and write this quick blog post.
First and foremost, I’m thankful for TechRepublic and the IT community that calls this web site their home away from home. Secondly, I’m the editor of TechRepublic’s Smartphones blog, and I use my smartphone a LOT. I would like to say it’s because I take my job very seriously, but it goes beyond that. I’ve been out to eat with a group of friends and colleagues and noticed that everyone was on their smartphone, so I know it’s not just me. In fact, TechRepublic’s sister site, SmartPlanet, recently highlighted a survey about the growing smartphone addiction in the United States (and I’m sure that other countries are quite attached to their devices as well).
So, without further adieu, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I’d like to list 10 things about my smartphone that I’m pretty darn thankful for. I have a Droid Razr Maxx HD that runs Android 4.1.2 (Jelly Bean), but many things on my list are fairly common features that are available on most smartphones, regardless of the OS platform or manufacturer.
- Clock: Over the years, my smartphone has increasingly become the primary way I know what time it is. I’ll pick it up, click the power button to wake it from sleep mode, check the time, and then set it back down. There are even numerous clock widgets that you choose from to make the time more prominent on your home screen display. I used to wear a watch, but not so much anymore.
- Alarm: Just like my watch from days of old, I used to own an actual alarm clock that plugged into the wall and took up space on my bedside table. My smartphone has taken over that duty as well, and I think it does it much better. Not only is my smartphone alarm feature easier to program, and I can select several different alarms to go off throughout the day (either one-time alarms or ones that repeat daily, weekly, or certain days throughout the week), but I can also select from a variety of different tones (less jarring tones than a traditional alarm clock) to wake up to.
- Speaker and Mute: I used to wear a Bluetooth ear piece to talk while driving or whenever my hands were too busy to hold my smartphone to my ear. However, I’ve recently been taking advantage of the speaker instead of siphoning the sound through just one ear. I know that’s not ideal for every situation, but I mostly telecommute, and my animals aren’t disturbed when grandma calls and broadcasts her new favorite recipe. There are also times during phone calls when Mute comes in handy. In fact, I mute approximately 90% of my conference calls – only becoming audible when questions are directed at me or I have something to add to a conversation. I have a teenager in the house that may or may not be a game rager. If he was, believe me, no one would want to hear that (not even grandma).
- Font size: A couple years ago, small text started to get a little fuzzy. Almost everyone over 40 will be able to relate – and everyone younger will get there eventually! One of the best customizations I made to my smartphone was increasing the font size so that I can actually read things without glasses. I went to Settings | Display | Font size, and then selected Huge. I’m definitely thankful for huge font.
- Voice texting: I’m a big texter. For me, sending text messages are sometimes easier and more convenient than making a phone call. However, there are times when texting isn’t possible or safe – like when your hands are busy preparing dinner or you’re driving home from work – but you still need to get a message out about items that are needed from the grocery store. The voice text feature doesn’t always understand my words correctly, but I continue to use it in a pinch. It’s functional, plus there’s potential entertainment value of the auto-correct feature.
- Google Now: I admit that I have Siri-envy, but Google Now has been satiating my need to get information quickly, without having to type. When I click the Google Now microphone and ask, “Where is the closest Starbucks?” it responds with a female voice that says, “Here is a listing of Starbucks within 20 miles.” The information it provides includes address, phone number, web site, reviews, and directions how to get there (with the help of Google Maps). If you’re in an unfamiliar part of town, or another city altogether, information like this is golden.
- Calendar: I use my smartphone calendar for planning just about everything. I’ve synced it to my work calendar, email calendars, U.S. holiday calendar, and even my Facebook account (events and friends’ birthdays). I look at my smartphone calendar every single day, and it lets me know important information, like what work tasks I need to complete. Whenever I’m scheduling an appointment, I’m thankful that I no longer have to say, “Let me check my calendar and get back with you,” because my calendar is always on me and up-to-date with all of my information.
- Contacts: I know this seems like a simple thing, but having quick access to information about the people I know is pretty cool. It used to be that you had to get everyone’s information and then enter all of the individual pieces – name, home phone, cell phone, work phone, address – into your contact list. Now, with the help of Facebook syncing, all of that information automagically appears. I may not have kept in very good touch with some of my high school friends, but there sure are a variety of ways that I can reach them now!
- Camera: Smartphone camera capability has increased over the years, and this feature alone is how a lot of people base their new smartphone purchase. My smartphone takes really good photos, and I use it more than I ever used a regular camera, because my smartphone is with me wherever I go. However, I don’t just take selfies or cute photos of my animals. I also take pictures of receipts, error messages on my computer screen, and other things that I want to remember but don’t want to spend the time writing it down or have to hold onto a piece of paper.
- Apps: There are numerous apps on my smartphone, and many of them are addictive. Some are functional and some just provide countless hours of entertainment. Currently, I’m most thankful for the following apps: Facebook, Google Maps, Grocery IQ, Local Places, and Bitstrips (which is connected to my Facebook account).
What other smartphone features – ones that you possibly take for granted – are you thankful for? Share your thoughts in the discussion thread below.
Touch screen, app addiction, and Angry Birds elbow
Back in 2006, I wrote about an ailment called BlackBerry Thumb. This stress-related injury, caused by repetitive thumb movements from the over-use of PDAs or smartphone, sparked the Hyatt hotel chain to offer “BlackBerry Balm” hand massages for business travelers at most of its North American spas.
Not surprisingly, the use of smartphones has increased a great deal since then, especially with the popularity of touch screens and free entertaining mobile apps. In fact, I witnessed the transition from dumb phone to smartphone when my partner in crime, Krista, decided to upgrade her LG EnV3 (which coincidentally has the tag line “Make Your Thumbs Happy”) to the Samsung Stratosphere (a 4G Android device that has an outer touch screen and a QWERTY slider keyboard).
The physical keyboard was an important part of the smartphone selection process, since — like quite a few folks, especially those who text regularly — Krista had apprehension about making the complete switch over to a touch screen. However, it didn’t take long before she was exclusively using the touch screen for all of her phone needs, including making calls, sending texts, and playing games.
In fact, the free games available from Google Play became her regular pastime, a de-stressor from work obligations and other life responsibilities. However, it didn’t take long before she started experiencing pain in her forearm and elbow — a repetitive motion injury — to the point where it hurt even when she wasn’t on her phone.
One weekend, she asked her sister-in-law, Barb, why she was experiencing so much pain. Barb is an Occupational Therapist (OT) and certified hand therapist. After asking a few questions and manipulating her arm a bit, Barb said that Krista was suffering from tennis elbow. The closest thing to tennis that Krista plays is a ping pong app — but seriously, she’s much more addicted to SCRABBLE Free, Words with Friends Free, Draw Something Free, Solitaire, and Angry Birds. As such, this particular affliction should more appropriately be called Angry Birds elbow.
After several weeks of increasing pain, to the point where it was affecting her job, Krista made an appointment with her physician, Dr. Lach. After a brief exam and consultation, he also said that she was suffering from lateral epicondilitis, which is the fancy medical term for tennis elbow.
According to Dr. Lach, there are several ways to treat epicondilitis, including rest, ice, stretching exercises, forearm/wrist braces, and anti-inflammatory medication. He said that, with treatment, it could take up to three weeks to get rid of the pain.
Wireless Emergency Alerts: Legit service or spreading fear and panic?
Before I really dig into Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA), I need to disclose that my level of anxiety has definitely increased with age. I didn’t used to be scared of flying on airplanes, heights, or tornadoes, but over the past few years, these fears have instigated full-fledged panic attacks.
So, when I received a WEA on my Motorola Droid Razr yesterday, warning me about a possible flood in my area, you’d think that I’d be grateful — you know, so that I’d have time to batten down the hatches, build an arc, and double-check my living will. Well, I wasn’t. In fact, after I received the second flood warning, I spent the next half hour trying to figure out where the heck these alerts were coming from and how they could be disabled!
What are Wireless Emergency Alerts?
According to a recent post on eWeek:
“The Federal Emergency Management Agency and wireless carriers are rolling out emergency alerts, called the Wireless Emergency Alert, or WEA, system, via text-like messages on mobile phones to allow federal, state and local governments to issue critical alerts….
“WEA is also referred to as Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS), which the FCC initiated in 2006 under the Warning, Alert and Response Network (WARN) Act. The FCC set April 2012 as the deadline for carriers (AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon Wireless) to begin sending the alerts.”
Verizon started Wireless Emergency Alerts on April 7, 2012. They have a handy FAQ page that gives all the details, but here’s the skinny version:
“Wireless Emergency Alerts are free wireless notifications that are delivered to your mobile device (currently, this includes only a select number of capable devices, like the Droid Razr) as part of a new public safety system provided by Authorized Senders. They are designed to inform you of imminent threats to safety (such as severe weather) or missing persons (AMBER Alerts) in your area.”
These alerts don’t sound like your typical text message. They have a distinct repetitive tone that’s accompanied by a vibration. This alone succeeds in alerting you, because you’re wondering what the heck is going on with your phone! When you receive the message — which, by the way, you will receive, even if you have an SMS Block feature enabled, because WEA alerts don’t travel over SMS — it tells you information about the alert category, event type, response, severity, and urgency.
Honestly, the flood alerts I received yesterday freaked me out, and I’m not even scared of heavy rain… yet. I checked the local radar map, and I didn’t see anything significant for the 6-hour forecast in my area. Relax. False call. An hour later, when I heard that same beeping sequence and vibration, I knew I had to disable the WEA feature. It might work for you, but it certainly doesn’t work for me (without a Xanax).
How do you disable Wireless Emergency Alerts?
Here are the steps to disable WEA on a Droid Razr. Please note that the directions may vary for different carriers and mobile devices. Also, you can not disable the Presidential Alerts, which provides news of national authority concern. Let’s hope we never receive one of these!
- From your home screen, press the Apps icon
- Select Emergency Alerts
- Tap the settings icon
- Deselect all of the options (except the Presidential Alert, which is mandatory)
What are your thoughts about WEA? Do you appreciate the extra warning, or would you prefer the choice of voluntarily signing up? Please share your thoughts in the discussion thread below.
10 Android apps that could get you fired
Mobile apps are huge right now, and their popularity is only going to increase over the next few years. There literally is an app for everything, but that doesn’t mean that you should download every app that you run across on the Android Market – or other app marketplace, if you don’t have an Android device. This is particularly true if you were issued a smartphone or tablet through work. Hopefully, your organization has a usage policy in place, which will give you some guidelines to follow. If not, use common sense, folks.
We’ve put together a list of some Android apps to watch out for or completely avoid altogether. There are many more examples out there, but we thought this sampling would give you a good idea of ones you should stay away from. This is not a post about moral or ethical beliefs, and we are not promoting or condoning the usage of any of the apps on our list. In fact, you can download all the apps you want on your personal phone. Our message here is simple: downloading some apps on your business phone could get you in hot water at work.
NOTE: The following is just a bulleted list. To read the full post with descriptions of the apps, visit the website source below.
- Weed Farmer
- KG Dogfighting
- Serial Killer Quote of the Day
- Serial Killer Quote of the Day
- Pocket Girlfriend
- Backtrack5 Linux Installer
- kWS – Android Web Server
Galaxy Nexus facial recognition doesn’t recognize me when I’m drunk
I’d like to start off this post with a couple disclaimers. First, I’m not a lush. A Samsung Galaxy Nexus was sent to Florida where I was vacationing over the holidays, so I could spend some time using it before writing a review. There were a few family gatherings, and wine was served. Not only does my family have excellent taste in wine, but I wasn’t driving, so I enjoyed myself and imbibed.
The second disclaimer is that this isn’t an official review of the Galaxy Nexus. Jason Hiner wrote a first impressions post, and Bill Detwiler cracked it open. There will also be plenty of review coverage as more of our tech bloggers get their hands on this device. However, this particular post is primarily about the Galaxy Nexus facial recognition, my interesting experience with the software, and the implications it could have on a larger scale.
So, the evening started with me showing off the phone’s capabilities. As Jason mentioned in his post, Android 4.0 is really amazing, the display is crisp and beautiful, and Verizon’s LTE 4G speeds are lightening fast. I had set the phone’s security to Face Unlock, and so I passed the device around, letting everyone try to unlock it by looking at the forward-facing camera.
Now, I was pleasantly surprised that the phone was able to decipher me from my family members who truly do have similar facial features. My sister, for example, should have gotten in — but instead, she received the message, “Sorry, don’t recognize you.” I took the phone from her, looked into the camera, and it unlocked right away. We did this several times, where a family member would receive the “Sorry” message, and then I’d look at it and immediately get in. Fun and quite amazing, right?
Well, my real amazement came about an hour or so later, after two glasses of wine (when you don’t drink often, it doesn’t take much). I was going to take some photos and video clips, but when I looked at the camera, it wouldn’t let me in! I tried again. “Sorry, don’t recognize you.” My son told me to stop smiling, because I guess alcohol gives me an incredibly cheesy grin, but me trying not to smile didn’t look like me either! Or perhaps my eyes were glossed over and wonky. Whatever the reason, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus wasn’t budging.
The implications here are pretty great. For starters, this would completely eliminate any kind of drunk texting. Of course, you could always use the pattern or pin backup to unlock your phone, but the facial recognition feature could definitely still serve as a indication of whether or not you should drive home or call a cab. If your phone doesn’t recognize you, I highly recommend the latter.
My name is Sonja, and I’m a nomophobic
Nomophobia is the fear of being without your mobile phone, and according to a recent poll by SecurEnvoy, two-thirds of 1,000 respondents admitted to suffering from this phenomenon. Now, I’m sure there are varying degrees of nomophobia, and the definition of “fear” can range from worrying if you lost your mobile device, being concerned that you’ll miss an important call, apprehension that someone will read your text messages, or having a general sense of uneasiness when your phone isn’t in your possession.
Here are some of the additional findings:
“More women worry about losing their phones than men – 70% of the women surveyed compared to 61% of the men, yet it is men that are more likely to have two phones – scoring 47% and 36% respectively, perhaps in an effort to stay connected. When split by age, it is the younger age group (18 – 24) that are more nomophobic at 77%, with the 25 – 34 age group second at 68%. Perhaps a little more surprisingly is that third most nomophobic are the 55 and overs!”
It makes sense that the younger generation is admittedly the most nomophobic, because a lot of the functionality of newer phones is “cool,” the devices themselves are associated with status, and they provide a lifeline to social networks. And lifeline might be a big reason behind the nomophobia in folks age 55 and older, plus the increased reliance on smartphones as data repositories. Seriously, if I didn’t write down things in Evernote or Grocery iQ, I wouldn’t remember them. With a decrease in memory comes an increase in smartphone usage. I think there’s a physics law that explains that relationship much better.
Personally, I have to have my cell phone on me at all times. It’s my calendar, camera, grocery list, GPS, fact keeper/finder, entertainment, and connection to the rest of the world (yes, I even use my phone to make and receive calls). Over time, I’ve become increasingly dependent on my smartphone, simply because it is so much more than a device for making calls. Without it, I’d literally be lost — and I wouldn’t be able to phone anyone for help, because I stopped memorizing phone numbers a long time ago.
I also have the luxury — as the editor of TechRepublic’s Smartphones blog — of testing and reviewing different smartphones when they first hit the market (thanks, Verizon). That means, on any day of the week, I might have two or more phones on me, which is a nomophobic’s dream come true. The biggest challenge I’ve found with having multiple phones is not falling in love with any of the review units. My heart is still broken over the Samsung Stratosphere. Dear Stratie-poo, with your Super AMOLED display and slider keyboard, if you’re reading this… (sniff)… I miss you.
Do you suffer from nomophobia? How much do you rely on your mobile phone throughout the day? Share your experience in the discussion thread below.