Launch Of New Research Agenda On Social Impact Of Mobile Telephones

Australia’s leading social scientists have joined with the mobile telecommunications industry in a world first to develop a research agenda to gain a wider understanding of the social impact of mobile phones.

Today, the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia (ASSA) joined with the industry peak body, the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association, to launch a discussion paper setting an agenda for future research into the impact of the mobile phone on our society.

AMTA CEO Graham Chalker said despite its rapid adoption, too little is known about the impact of the mobile phone on Australian society and institutions.

“The mobile phone, on any measure, has had a profound impact on us all. Only 11 years ago, there were just 635,000 analogue phones and fewer than 4 per cent of Australians used one,” he said.

“Now, we have an estimated 16 million subscribers representing a mobile penetration rate of 80%.

Mr Chalker said the research agenda had identified some key areas for study, such as how has the mobile telephone affected the interface between work and home?

“For example, does it contribute to the breakdown of boundaries between family and work, enabling work to spill-over into family time but also enabling better family co-ordination – both between spouses and across generations?

“It is very important that any informed debate on the impact of mobiles phones on our society has access to research so we can be confident that we are getting an accurate assessment and that we are maximising the social and economic good for all citizens.”

The Executive Director of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia, Dr John M. Beaton, said one of the key aims of the partnership between AMTA and ASSA would be to throw new light on the social impact of the mobile telephone.

“This will provide society, industry and government with a much more substantial perspective on which to develop effective and responsible uses for the mobile telephone in Australia,” he said.

“The joint discussion paper released today says that a guiding principle should be to place the various requirements of mobile phone users at the centre of research and development, to ensure that the needs of individuals, social groups and institutions are considered with at least equal weight to that given to technology.

“The research will consider ways that technology can better consider how to fit with people’s needs rather than requiring the behaviour of people to fit the technology.”

The sets of research questions in the discussion paper are grouped into four sections:

The structure of social groups and the impact of the mobile phone

Work, home and leisure

Social innovations in digital content

Patterns of use of the mobile phone

To see the discussion paper, “The Impact of the Mobile Telephone in Australia: Social Research Opportunities”, go to: www.amta.org.au