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Mobile Communication, Gambling, and Policy-Making in India and Beyond

Tuesday, February 23, 2016, 11:00 am – 12:00 pm

In the past decade, a handful of developing countries (China, India, Indonesia, Brazil, and others) have become some of the world's largest markets for mobile phones. These countries offer contexts to study the social effects of mass mobile communication and new policy questions that have emerged in newly connected societies. India, for instance, now has nearly 1 billion mobile users, a competitive telecommunications sector, and a sophisticated approach to regulation. India's 'mobile revolution' has given most of its people access to new connectivity and services, but this has also created new challenges for policy-makers. This talk will focus on one of these challenges: gambling and the new possibilities for illicit movement of capital via mobile networks. Drawing on an ethnographic study of mobile phone users across India, this talk will expose the ways that criminal syndicates have made use of mobile technology in sports gambling. Several features of mobile communication create challenges for policy-makers: the low cost of usage, ease of achieving anonymity, jurisdictional limits, and use of coded messages that defy efforts at surveillance. As developing countries continue to go mobile, gambling will be a pressing challenge for governments around the world. And as criminal networks continue to make use of mobile technology, policy-makers will need to grapple with a host of new challenges in mobile governance.

Colin Agur is Postdoctoral Associate at the Information Society Project at Yale Law School. He received his PhD in Communications from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism, where his dissertation examined mobile phone networks in India. He is editor of a forthcoming volume (2016) on education and social media, to be published by MIT Press. He has published articles in Information & Culture, the Journal of Asian & African Studies, Journalism: Theory, Practice, Criticism, and Media, Culture & Society. His interests include information and communication technologies, telecommunications history and policy, political communication, and network theory. Originally from Canada, he has also lived in Australia, India, Mexico, the United Kingdom, and the United States.