Redux: Elaborating on Four Factors Driving Technology Adoption in SE Asia Reply


My previous and admittedly very brief post on four factors driving social media adoption in SE Asia seemed to evoke a minor response which was enough to please almost any academic (the actual number of people who read academic works is….well….small).  Friend and colleague Jon Russell in Thailand wrote this nice follow post expressing the view that mobile is the most important of the four factors.  Another good friend John Kerr was kind enough to share his disagreements as well. 

It seems the least I can do is take a moment this Saturday morning to expand on the short post.

Technology Adoption

My first assumption is around technology adoption and the many emerging markets in SE Asia.  Countless reports of Facebook's growth in Indonesia and Thailand, just as a lone example, were running through my mind as I searched for patterns.   Looking at the s-curve portrayed above, I was looking primarily at adoption triggers on the far left.

Four Factors

I would agree strongly with Jon Russell that mobile is the most important driver.  We are seeing different development patterns in emerging markets where the traditional home broadband which thrives in mature markets like Singapore and South Korea is being skipped in favor of direct-to-mobile Internet access.  So rather than simply using a set of bullet points with no particular order, let me organize the factors a bit more clearly.

  1. Mobile (continuous trigger).  For everything you need to know regarding mobile adoption, please read Jon's post.  He says it better than I can.

  2. Gaming (continuous trigger).  Online gaming, perhaps because for reasons of market structure (i.e., many markets with poor IP protection), is quite popular in Asia.So as people go online to game, they invite their friends.  Extremely popular games such as Farmville and Mafia Wars have  been quite successful when it comes to driving people onto Facebook.  The importance of gaming as an adoption trigger should not be overlooked.

  3. Politics (episodic trigger).  Here is one place where admittedly my good friend John Kerr and I might disagree.  John suggested that perhaps following celebrities online is a more popular use of social media than is politics.  Point taken and I cannot argue, if we are looking further to the right on the adoption curve.  With my focus on the extreme left, I am hard pressed to see any pattern that says following celebrities is a cause for adoption.  Meanwhile, the number of people adopting digital media during Malaysia's election fiasco a few years back, during the Thai protests, or as a part of protests in Indonesia seem to be a clearer examples of a data-driven pattern illustrating adoption. The difference is that the adoption pattern is one of intense episodes that later fade rather than being more continuous or on-going in nature.

    Now if there is data I am missing, I am happy to be a humble blogger and take a close look.  I would love to identify more patterns.  But for now, without data which reasonably appears to be an adoption pattern, I am sticking with politics.

  4. Business Internationalization (corporate adoption).  Here I am drawing from the recent Burson Marsteller report in addition to the large research study I did last year for APEC on SME internationalization.  While internationalization will not drive adoption int he general population, I do think we have a very strong academic research and corporate IP data set which would substantiate this claim.  Just keep in mind that this claim is aimed specifically at corporate adoption.

Though I explicitly passed it over in the original blog post, the peer-to-peer incentive of "hey, why aren't you on [name your social media site] yet?" is of course a very strong driver as well.  This also helps explain tipping points and why people switch from one preferred site to a new one.

So there you have it.  My apologies for writing such a short and potentially cryptic post in the first place.  I am making an effort to write less like an academic, but that comes at a cost from time to time.

Of course if you think I am missing something, don't feel shy.  We can all benefit from greater insights and sharing.

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