American and Australian experiences of the internet

Mark Haddley, Geneva's new media manager has shared some reflections with me on the different 'experiences of the internet' and the need for a unique strategy for Geneva to best serve Australians:

1. Connectivity - the majority of Americans have access to far higher bandwidths in a greater variety of advanced forms. Cable was standard five years ago and is currently being replaced in various cities by fibre optic; wireless in the form of WiMAX can be relied upon in most country areas.

2. Ubiquity - the above has led to internet services being integrated into many more devices and contexts than Australians currently experience. Web browsing via the mobile phone has been a common experience for a number of years; e-readers have made significant inroads into the reading community; Amazon operates as an online department store, selling toilet paper and groceries etc. 

The upshot is that Americans are far more likely to look to an internet platform for a solution to a problem than Australians. It is an expectation that networks will provide an increasingly mediated community that can be checked in with regularly, from portable devices at any point. And the number of people involved means that there is no shortage of personal contacts to talk to when they do...

So, my belief is that when Acts 29 gave interested parties outside of the US access to the City, they did not consider that they would have to encourage people to use it. They were simply providing an approved platform for what is happening at most levels of society already in the US. Australians, however, are not that committed to their devices, though Gen Y is shifting that somewhat. Consequently they needed reasons to use such a device and when they arrived at it and found it did not contain relevant content or community they did not stay around. 

Now, it may be that this was simply a product that arrived too soon for the Australian market. Alternatively, it may have been too narrowly focussed given that it's dominant community is American, or too strange given that the majority of its users are already used to things like Twitter parlance. Whatever the case, the aim of The Geneva Push will be to build up an online network that reflects current Australian access and usage, provides content that is specific to our context and links people regularly with respected local church planters. 

My gut feeling, though, is that it is more likely to be a 'push' experience (we send the content out via a number of channels) rather than a 'pull' experience (people are drawn in by our flashy services) for at least the first 12-18 months, until the community builds something of a self-sustaining critical mass.