6.1. SWOT analysis
One of the main objectives of the workshop and this study was to analyse strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) for the future success of the mobile search domain. SWOT analysis was originally designed as a tool to position a specific company with regards to its competitive environment. The results are typically inputs to the company’s creative generation of potential future strategies. Ideally, it should be carried out by a multidisciplinary team that represents the broadest range of perspectives. SWOT analysis can also be used any decisionmaking situation when a desired objective has been defined, in our case successful development of the mobile search domain. In this report we focus specifically on Europe.
Results from the SWOT analysis are presented and discussed. They are compared with similar findings from the overall search domain. For additional reference, some items that were more controversial or which were considered of secondary relevance, are briefly presented in a separate sub-section.
6.1.1. Main results from the SWOT analysis and discussion
The methodology for the SWOT analysis was the following. First, experts were asked individually to write down points they considered the most important one for each of the four aspects of the analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats). Then they were asked to present them and to justify their choice. Once the round of the individual contributions was concluded, the panel set up a first list of topics comprising all items. Then, similar items were grouped using a commonly agreed nomenclature.
This new list, served further discussion. Table 12 summarises the results of the SWOT that were agreed upon by the panel. Items not having full consensus, or reflecting only minority views are not included, but are briefly discussed in Section 6.1.3.
The SWOT analysis leaves a number of clearcut conclusions.
On the demand side, Europe enjoys a large base of early adopters of mobile search and a huge mass of mobile users with the economic strength to demand and pay for advanced mobile internet services that satisfy their expectations and requirements. On the supply side, Europe’s industry is able to provide users with all the required technology. The industrial tissue is strong and readily available in all required sections of the mobile search ecosystem and particularly strong in some parts of it (telecommunications, handset producers and software and application providers). European companies have significant experience in past success stories (and failures) and, more important, they are increasingly pushed by the market, to simplify mobile tariffs and make them more affordable. Thus, a very positive conclusion is that Europe has both a strong supply and demand side in mobile search. Moreover, European industry is also actively involved in developing countries where mobile devices will become prime means to access the internet. This shared experience could become beneficial in both ways: spreading European innovations and learning from massive usage of mobile internet access.
One specific European asset is that Europe possesses a large collection of high quality information that may trigger advanced mobile search applications at the service of the citizens.
Table 12. SWOT analysis main results
Geo-data (e.g. cadastre), images and pictures(e.g. national libraries), or video (e.g. public broadcasters) are examples of data collections in the hands of public authorities, which have already been digitised to a very large extent, that could add significant value to new categories of mobile search. Note that most of this content comes from public sources and/or has been subsidised in the past by public institutions. It seems therefore that public administrations have not yet fully understood how they can exploit in the best possible way this value and how to get into various partnerships and collaborations to unlock its potential. The prospect of “liberation” of public data could also put governments into a favourable position to enforce an open and “loose interoperability” model to allow data portability across applications and players. Forthcoming disruptions in technology could help to deploy such models.
Finally, the many times used but also many times empty-of-practical application motto of “reaping the benefits of Europe’s cultural diversity” could become true in the mobile search domain. Some of the most promising applications of mobile search pivot around local information, local culture and specific languages, which is supposed to be complemented by the emergence of many niche markets and services.
Civil society is increasingly aware of the need to establish digital identities, which in turn sets the conditions for a stable and firm framework to develop mobile (search) applications, both appealing to users and respectful with them and their preferences and motivations. Europe could be the first to put in place such a light-handed and user-empowered regime that could shift the interest of global innovators in mobile search.
Still there are many challenges and barriers to be overcome. The current mobile ecosystem is largely fragmented in terms of both technoeconomic models and markets. On the technoeconomic side, there are multiple layers (devices hardware and software, applications, networks, development platforms, content platforms, etc) composed of competing, closed and noninteroperable standards. On the market side, the European internal market is far from being established (think on roaming charges, for example) and recent practices (applications stores) keep the tradition of silo incompatible models. Mobile broadband connections are still expensive, particularly in many situations where mobile search would have an extreme value for users (such as finding places in foreign countries), high roaming charges dissuade users from even attempting to connect to the internet. Monetizing mobile search is also still a pending issue. Many business models are possible as discussed through the document (see Section 2.2), but none of them has yet crystallized as the winning one.
The mobile search market will remain to be heavily influenced by the web search engines.
Given that the most influential ones have all their headquarters abroad, many of the strategic decisions that would influence the evolution of the domain are going to be taken outside Europe’s frontiers. To compensate such an effect, a more supportive framework (cultural, institutional and business-like) for entrepreneurs and innovators in Europe would be needed.
The potential delay in the adoption of appropriate regulation regimes (electronic communications, spectrum management, content, consumer protection, etc) will slow the adoption of mobile search. In this sense, a stable, clear and forward-looking framework is desirable which would address the new issues coming from adva
Finally, there is a risk of a mobile digital divide. Next generation mobile infrastructures may not reach some geographical areas in the short to middle term and the prices both of devices and mobile connections are not affordable for many citizens. Also the skills and physical capabilities to use a mobile device in a search scenario need to be further addressed.
In summary, the main messages raised from the SWOT analysis are:
- Availability and affordability of mobile broadband connections is the main enabler of mobile search. Europe has a good position in this emerging market and several key industry players are well prepared, but a number of issues remain to be solved to this regard: market fragmentation, roaming charges, mobile digital divide, interoperability and institutional and regulatory framework.
- An open ecosystem for mobile search is desirable for innovation to thrive. This openness refers to the adoption of open standards and to putting in place a “loose interoperability” concept similar to that of Web 2.0 solutions.
- There is an ample role for public action in the mobile search domain. Potential actions refer to the “conventional” regulatory approach but also, and maybe more relevantly, to the use of the wealth of public data with potential high added value in various mobile search scenarios. The role of public administrations as deployers of applications could be the key, since they are the natural playfield for the convergence of the many stakeholders involved in mobile search applications.
- Users have a definitive role to play in the success of mobile search applications. They ought to contribute to innovations but they also need a granular and easy control of their mobile digital identities and personal data.
6.1.2. A contrast with findings in the generic search domain
It is interesting to contrast these findings with similar ones from the evolution of the generic search domain:
The availability and affordability of connections to broadband infrastructures is not seen as an issue in the general search perspective.
There is an agreement of the necessity for a high degree of interoperability that would increase the rate of deployment of applications and the user acceptability.
In the general search domain, the desirable degree of interoperability is unclear, from experts arguing that loosely coupled heterogeneous systems are sufficient to those saying that tightly coupled fully standardised systems will be necessary. The experts in the Chorus project thought that, in general, at this stage it appears that the risk of damage, in term of killing innovation and creativity, through too early introduction of mandatory standards, is higher than potential lost opportunities by lacking standardisation. Note that this could be compatible with the movement towards open standards where possible.
On the public side, it was identified that there is room for international cooperation and possibilities for common platforms to exchange data and content. It was also suggested, given that some datasets are scarce, that a special effort could be devoted to expand and share (minority) language resources. On the regulatory side, it was thought that it would be desirable to advance to find best practices of implementation of rules related to privacy.
The users role is regarded as (arguably the main) important upcoming trend, in particular for recommendation, ratings mechanisms, folksonomies and usergenerated content. However, it seems that this user role will be more relevant in the mobile search domain due to the personal and pervasive relationship between the user and their mobile device.
6.1.3. Additional results of the SWOT analysis
Table 13 summarises some additional results of the SWOT analysis. These particular results were either highlighted by some of the experts, in spite of not reaching a complete consensus, or were thought of secondary relevance but somewhat important.
The vision that emerges from these additional results is the early stage of development (technical, market, regulatory) of the domain, the controversy about the role of the existing industries in the new mobile applications domain and the huge barriers for use of data belonging to different domains (user, public, internet) in a seamless experience.
6.2. Policy options
The methodology followed for the policy recommendation has been the following. The authors of this report explored possible policy actions at the EU level. This list of actions wasappropriately introduced in the questionnaire to receive feedback from the respondents. The proposed actions were discussed with the experts in the Mobile Search Workshop (Seville, April 2009), with the aim to arrive at a minimum consensus on the policies more feasible and with a higher positive impact in the mobile search domain (“prioritisation”). A methodology for “convergence” of the discussion was used. The policy recommendations were re-elaborated following the workshop results and additional consultation with experts by authors of the report.
The main potential policy actions are presented and discussed.
Table 13. SWOT analysis additional results
6.2.1. Potential policy actions
The list of potential policy options that were considered in the prioritisation exercise is presented below, grouped in relevant areas of action:
- User-oriented policies aimed at the demand side of mobile search (policy options U): Enhance user-awareness of opportunities and risks (policy option U.1) Create (policy-push) tools for user empowerment, i.e., for granular management of privacy or electronic identities (policy option U.2)
- Innovation-support policies (policy options S):
Supporting innovators and entrepreneurs through an improvement of the institutional framework, i.e., access to venture capital, taxes, education, etc (policy option S.1) Promoting living labs, in particular, for mobile applications and open access to them (policy option S.2)
Promoting research projects focused one missing technologies and enablers, i.e., FP-type (policy option S.3)
- Regulatory policies (policy options R):
- Reforming the mobile search regulatory framework, i.e., in electronic communications, e-commerce, privacy,consumer rights, etc (policy option R.1)
Promoting self regulation of the mobile search industry, i.e., codes of conduct (policy option R.2)
Harmonisation and enforcement of EU internal market (policy option R.3)
Mandate data portability suitable for mobile search applications (policy option R.4)
Creating and enforcing an independent agency, i.e., a watchdog for mobile datausage (policy option R.5)
- Industrial-type policies (policy options J):
Promoting standards and interoperability (policy option J.1)
Promoting content production suitable for mobile search (policy option J.2)
Supporting a European champion in mobile search (policy option J.3)
Setting up a multi-stakeholder platform(policy option J.4)
Helping accelerate the deployment of 4G mobile broadband infrastructures (policy option J.5)
- Public involvement in the supply side of mobile search (policy options P):
– Development of mobile search public services, i.e., for cultural purposes in cities (policy option P.1)
Public procurement, i.e., public administration as buyers and users of mobile search applications (policy option P.2)
- No public involvement at all
Figure 33 shows the result of the discussion to prioritise potential policy intervention. It positions the policy options with respect to their relative importance to the mobile search domain in Europe and the feasibility to put them into practice. Policies in the upper-right quadrant are considered candidates to be implemented.
The options are presented with respect to their relative importance to the domain and the feasibility to put it into practice. The nomenclature used is described in the text.
The overall vision on policy action is very balanced among the different possible options or, in other words, it is regarded that the mobile search domain requires a combination of different types of policy actions to thrive and succeed and the experts do not think that a sole type of policy will suffice to achieve this aim
Looking in detail into each of the potential policy measures, in the first place, there is a need to impel the demand side of mobile search, raising the awareness of users and then empowering them with the tools to manage their data.
Figure 33. Policy options for the mobile search domain
This should be complemented with reinforcing all polices aimed at innovation: from the support to innovators and entrepreneurs, to the use of living labs and the more traditional research programs.
On the regulation side, it is considered that the existing frameworks should be quickly reviewed and adapted to the new needs of advanced mobile applications. However, there is no much faith amongst experts in the selfregulation of the industry or in other actions beyond the regulatory framework like specific agencies or decisions.
From the industrial policy perspective, the idea of promoting the use and adoption of open standards and the achievement of a reasonable level of interoperability, including, if needed, a platform to gather all the stakeholders involved has considerable support by the experts.
Helping to develop content for added value mobile search is also highly regarded. However, it is thought that neither supporting a European champion in the mobile search domain nor forcing a swifter deployment of 4G-type mobile communications infrastructures would be helpful.
Finally, it is thought that for some niche mobile search applications public administrations can have a leading role, setting the conditions for their deployment or even becoming their providers.