I had the honor of attending Chirp, Twitter’s developer conference in San Francisco. Developers from no fewer than 28 countries showed up. For a tech conference in San Francisco, the developing world was mentioned quite a few times. Here’s a brief recap on mentions related to global topics:
- The CEO of Twitter, Evan Williams, discussed how important SMS is to the Twitter platform. Twitter continues making deals with carriers around the world to support SMS. It’s so important because there are approximately 1 billion internet users, but 4 billion mobile phones, most of which have SMS capability. A decent amount of Twitter activity takes place in the developing world where SMS is a primary means of connectivity. For entrepreneurs who really understand developing world markets, there are great opportunities to develop apps that leverage SMS. Mary Meeker was even quoted as saying that the desktop internet explosion is just a warm up for what we are about to see on mobile!
- Some of Twitter’s proudest moments have been when people were helped by the open communication it enables. Two stories mentioned were the freeing of a photojournalist in Egypt, as well as helping activists organize in Iran.
- The conference had a very interesting panel on using Twitter to ‘do good’. An awesome NGO/startup called Ushahidi out of Africa allows for crowd-sourced monitoring of crises. For example, an orphanage in Haiti communicates that they are low on water, or a citizen in Haiti tweets that they are injured. Then people anywhere sift through these realtime messages and help NGOs on the ground target their efforts where people need the most help. This type of realtime crisis management is one example of how technology can solve critical issues in the developing world.
- Katy at the State Department used SMS to raise $33M in a single week after the Haiti earthquake. Much of the marketing was done via Twitter and the social media world. That’s some innovative fundraising, especially impressive since it was initiated from within the U.S. government.
- Twitter is still trying to figure out China. They are planning to translate into Chinese but not planning to operationalize in China, meaning they don’t plan to open an office there for now.
- And finally, Hugo Chavez from Venezuela called Twitter users terrorists. He wasn’t at the conference – this was an anecdote. 🙂 Evan Williams said censorship sucks and that they believe in the open exchange of information.
It will be interesting to see if we start to see successes from Twitter app developers in the developing world.