On the spot with Graham Chalker - Interview with Sunday Age Melbourne

Organisations including the YMCA, the Royal Lifesaving Society and the Law Institute of Victoria have raised privacy concerns about mobile phone cameras, particularly about them being used to take photographs of people in compromising situations. We spoke to Graham Chalker, Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association, about how mobile phone technology affects our lives.

Do you think the concerns over mobile phone cameras are valid?

We don't condone the inappropriate use of this technology. If it's not appropriate to use a camera in a given situation, then it's not appropriate to use a mobile phone camera. We're reluctant to jump in and talk about bans and new legislation because there's already legislation that covers these issues. It's really up to individual establishments to decide if it's appropriate. It would become very difficult to ban them. For example, someone may go into a gym for an hour and could quite legitimately want to have voice contact with someone. Or, you could have the family having a fun day at the swimming pool and they want to take a happy snap.

What's next for mobile phones?

There are interesting applications coming up in e-learning. Teaching material is being developed, the idea being that students can be sent tests and material via MMS or SMS, then respond to their teachers and get instant feedback. In Japan, where they're a year or two ahead of us, they're moving very quickly to use mobiles to buy movie tickets and book restaurants. Here, we'll be seeing more and more people buying product over the phone.

How will phone manufacturers balance the demand for smaller phones with the fact that new applications work better on larger screens?

Some people will have a couple of devices. They'll have a small mobile used for voice data and perhaps a slightly bigger apparatus, like a smaller version of a laptop, or like a palmtop with much more power in it.

Do consumers really want all this stuff or is it all about as useful as having the Internet connected to your fridge?

People come up with applications and then the market quickly tells them if that's what they want. There are always people who love new technology. They're the ones who are buying mobile phone cameras at the moment and experimenting, but business users are the ones who can add real value. In the real estate valuation business, they're already using mobile phones with cameras to send pictures of properties back to head office. And I've talked to people in the building trade using PDA-type appliances to order supplies without having to leave the building site. One of the great uses of SMS I heard about recently was a service that told you where the fish were biting on a particular day.

How many mobile phones are there in Australia?

There are around 13 million subscribers. The rapid uptake of mobiles over the past few years shows the desire of people to communicate one-on-one, and it shows that people want to be able to communicate any time and anywhere. I think we've seen a tremendous social benefit from this technology. Over half the calls to emergency services come from mobile phones. Anyone who has kids knows the benefits of the child being able to call from sports training and tell you to come and pick them up.

Do you have a whiz-bang phone?

I've got an older phone, but it's very reliable. My biggest use is voice and SMS, most of those in response to my children.

Who does your organisation represent?

AMTA has been in existence for nine years. It represents carriers, handset manufacturers, equipment suppliers and retailers. We've looked at health and safety concerns, and we're looking at privacy issues and consumer-related areas like contracts. We've got a recycling program that encourages people to leave their old phone in the store when they get a new one. The plastic casing can be recycled. Various elements of the chips can be taken apart. About 100 tonnes have been collected over the past few years.

Source:  Sunday Age 22 06 03.