A recent article on ICTWorks asked whether smartphones were making SMS development projects obsolete. It’s an interesting question and one that begs a whole host of related issues: is radio really necessary when we have TV, is TV really necessary when we have online streaming, do we need newspapers in an age of digital news? The ICTWorks article was written specifically in the context of Papua New Guinea, but the question can be asked of almost any country and almost any technology (well, except maybe Betamax, the Mini Disc and the teleprinter). Actually, scrap that bit about the teleprinter – they’re still used widely in the aviation industry and, in an adapted format, for the hearing impaired.
Things are complicated by the fact that people may move from one platform to another and some forms of tech may drop out of popularity before making a comeback or dying altogether. You’ll never be able to reach everyone all of the time, but that’s normally fine. Any technology comes with its own particular barriers and problems, but recognising and accepting that is part of the solution. Some people won’t be able to afford your chosen tech, others might not have the necessary literacy skills and some will just decide that a particular platform isn’t for them. But ultimately it comes down to understanding what people do use and how – in this case, a little research upfront can help keep the wheels on your tech project.