Clark Quinn's Learnings about Learning
(The Official Quinnovation blog)

6 December 2010

Brain damage

Clark @ 5:00 AM

I’ve talked before about how mobile ‘accessorizes‘ the brain. Well, here I am in Europe, and I’m suffering brain damage.  In short, the situation with cross-border data access is inexcusable.

It’s been several years since I lasted traveled overseas, and since then I’ve become increasingly mobile-enabled.  I’ve got navigation apps, information apps, map apps, and app apps (ok, well maybe not that last one).  I use them to google information in meetings so I don’t have to stop the flow, to maintain contact, to figure out where I am and how to get places, and more.  It’s what’s mobile is about: solving problems in the moment.

Forget the calls: I paid extra to only pay a dollar a minute under a special plan. Ludicrous, but ok I’m not a big phone person, and I can usually use Skype.  I’m also not a big texter, but again I set up a special plan to have 50 outgoing messages before I started paying $.50 a text.  (Yes, $.50 a text!)  So, I’m limiting my text messages because while the plan is in effect, incoming ones don’t cost.  And I know many people coordinate things through text messages.    Of course, stupidly, once the 50 are up the plan doesn’t have an option to pay another amount to get 50 more.  Once you use those up, your back to the mind-numbing base rate.  C’est la vie.

Now, I asked about data overseas, and the best price going was one dollar a megabyte.  Do you know how fast you go through megabytes?  A colleague got 50 MB, and went through 30 in the first day! At the rate I go through data, I’d be in the poorhouse before I got home!  It’s just not on. I figured I’d find Wifi when needed, and not use cellular data, and turned it all off.  Wifi, however, has been problematic. It’s not out and about with you, you kind of have to find it. And of course the conference wifi was pretty iffy, and the hotel wifi varies from practical to maniacially complex and expensive, and my colleagues have been dragging me hither and yon and free wifi isn’t quite as ubiquitous here as in other places.

So the crux of the matter is, when I’m out and about, needing to find information about where I am, what’s nearby, what that means (translation), and more, I’m functioning like someone’s taken part of my brain.  I’ve come to depend on these capabilities, and yet our global infrastructure hasn’t kept up.  I know that the providers think it’s not in their interest to work and play together well, but they’re missing the point that seamless data access benefits everyone. People will use more data overall, it will drive the growth of mobile business since everyone will be using it, and the world will be smarter place.

It really is an opportunity for governments to step in and demand action. In light of the many problems the world is facing right now this may seem like a trivial issue, but I’d also suggest that making information exchange easier is a step in the right direction towards solving those problems.

As it is, it’s practically criminal to commit brain damage to international travelers. Can we get the UN in on this or something?


  1. Great post,

    I spent two weeks in Italy this summer and I then realised what a fantastic tool my phone actually is. I missed it every single day. Looking up hotels, routes, sights, restaurants, maps, strange Italian words and the list goes on.

    Within EU there is an agreement on roaming prices but only on voice and text messages. But that of course only serves us living within the EU borders.

    So I agree with you, it’s time for UN to step in and make a difference.

    /Mattias (@mattiaskareld)

    Comment by Mattias Kareld — 6 December 2010 @ 12:23 PM

  2. Remember when making a transatlantic phone call was a big deal? The first time I went to Europe, I spoke with my family once during the entire 8 weeks I was a summer exchange student. And then I rarely used the phone the entire time I lived with a family there!

    Comment by virginia Yonkers — 6 December 2010 @ 12:40 PM

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