Notes from Mobile Citizen Summit, April 16, 2011

This past Saturday, I attended the “Mobile Citizen Summit,” hosted by Microsoft, at their Washington, DC (actuallly Bethesda-ish) headquarters in the region.

I found out later that it was very quickly put together, like in less than 2 weeks (nice job!); however like a lot of things in DC, this did not diminish the attendance or interest. It seemed to be run relatively well.

In the morning, I attended a “hackathon” (in quotes, because the Health 2.0 community prefers the term “code-a-thon”), which is based on the ideas presented at Applications for Good , which was created by One Economy Corporation , which is about the following (from their About page):

We help bring broadband into the homes of low-income people, employ youth to train their community members to use technology effectively, and provide public-purpose media properties that offer a wealth of information on education, jobs, health care and other vital issues.

Our mission is to ensure that every person, regardless of incomeand location, can maximize the power of technology to improve the quality of his or her life and enter the economic mainstream.

It’s interesting to note how the Apps for Good site describes the need for applicaitons not just in health, but in banking, education, and employment. Many of the problems are similar. I learned from a colleague from the US Treasury about the “underbanked” and the challenges of financial security. The demographics of the most vulnerable groups are similar to those who we think of as having health insecurity, and there’s interest in cross-industry collaboration (why not?).

In the afternoon, I attended a session that I wasn’t thinking to go to, but did anyway, on the FCC and Telecom Policy Developments. This session turned out to be very interesting, because of

  • The framing – as the group presenting (either formerly or with FCC in a counsel role) stated, the AT&T and Tmobile merger is the biggest development in telecom in the last 10 years. Then they qualified that, by saying Apple’s production of the iPhone probably is as well. This made me realize that the two are probably linked, so Apple’s move into telecom really has changed the landscape. This is significant because it was explained that FCC has traditionally not worked with Apple or Google.
  • With regard to the merger, the thought was “will probably go through” although not currently in the form proposed. They stated that the merger is attractive from the perspective of a large American carrier gaining a subsidiarly of an international organization.
  • We learned about recent data roaming rules, which didn’t seem relevant to me until I learned more about them. The FCC has indicated that data roaming must be provided across carriers with certain qualifications (e.g. the technologies must match). On it’s face, this would seem to not change the landscape very much, however, it was brought up that small local carriers like US Cellular (who are marketing Cricket) will depend on this ability as they begin rolling out smartphones to communities who are moving off of land lines.
  • At the same time, the impact of this ruling is likely to slowly favor the large telecom carriers, who may not provide roaming at competitive rates or may slowly (or more slowly) build out their capacity to serve these populations.
  • The overall impact is predicted to be the cycling of a group of smaller carriers into 2 larger carriers over time. The impact on health care could be (my editorializing), an increase in costs for the population, who are now more or less moving to metered service in their telecommunications. This plus “altered” net neutrality requirements for wireless could require more thinking about access for vulnerable populations to unlimited bandwidth, in turn this could create hesitation in service industries, including health care, who either have to subsidize the cost of sending data, or manage the amount that is sent, because it may cost more or be less accessible than if the smaller carriers were still around.

I don’t know if any of the above are going to happen; there was definitely conversation in the room about the role of the consumer in this new landscape (which typically has not been visible).

That’s it from here. Until the next summit…


Ted Eytan, MD