Emphasising the rapid increase in the use of cell phones as a means for life and work in South Asia, including seeking information, governing, shopping, banking, advertising and parenting, an academician called for a research within the region on the mobile experience.

The academician, Dr Xiaoge Xu, presented his research proposal ‘Mapping, Measuring and Modelling Mobile Experience in South Asia’ to the participants of an international conference at the University of Chittagong in Bangladesh.

The professor of Nottingham University in Ningbo in China said earlier studies on mobile usage was mostly culture focused, technology-centric, user-oriented, sequential and done with a singular method. “There is a gap in those studies and our joint research would fill those gap.”

Clarifying that he is not associated with the Chinese government or any cell phone companies, he said the research would come up with concrete explanation or prediction that would benefit mobile users and industries.

“Many people follow news on mobiles now and this research would help news agencies too in designing their content for mobile users,” he said. “I am looking for regional cooperation.”

The participants were, however, apprehensive about the project.

Professor C.S.H.N Murthy (PhD) of Media and Film Industries Studies in India said the project proposal has no relevance to the theme of the conference, which is on ‘media, communication and journalism: prospects and challenges in Bangladesh and beyond’.

He asked how it would help in improving subject matters of the theme.

He also raised concerns on data safety and confidentiality. “Data is capital and it is no more information. I consider my data valuable.”

Professor Murthy cited examples of breach of confidentiality by Facebook and other social media platforms.

Most students in media and communication studies in Chittagong University said it is not a doable project in the region.

While Dr Xu said the main aim of his project was to come up with central policies on how to use the data, it would always remain open to all users.

The three-day conference, which started on July 17, discussed various findings of researches in media and journalism in Asia, journalism education in South Asia and its problems and prospects.

It also discussed on media and gender representation, new media and its connection with youth and political engagement, rights to information and media ethics and tradition versus modern media, which focused on professional journalism and new media.

Professor Mohammad Sahid Ullah (PhD) from University of Chittagong said a conference on media is important to gather and share ideas.

“Such an international conference gives a platform to understand the problems journalism face and ensure professionalism in the field.”

Editor of The Dainik Azadi in Chittagong, M.A. Malek, said while the news is necessary to satisfy human curiosity, the future of newspaper is bleak.

The conference also called for personal ethical practices while using social media.

Meanwhile, the 2017 Population and Housing Census of Bhutan stated that 70 percent of the urban population has Internet in their mobiles and 29.9 percent of the rural population has Internet on their cell phones.

It also stated that 83.7 percent of the urban populations own smartphones while 50 percent of the rural population own smartphones.

Tashi Dema | Chittagong