AQA Computer Science GCSE
Ethics - the use of Mobile Technologies
As well as widespread wireless networks, mobile internet networks are increasingly part of people’s lives - 3G, 4G and, soon, 5G networks allow internet use on a much more mobile basis than ever before.
This brings many of the same advantages and disadvantages as the use of wireless networking and you should consider the key points on that page as related to this - as well as the related legal issues.
Summary Slides - a quick summary
The mobile technologies we have available make it possible for us to live in a much more “connected” society.
- we can stream video and music anywhere we want
- we can connect to the web and receive e-mail whenever we want
- technology can allow the monitoring of automatic systems - for example, systems such as streetlights can be connected to a network so that they can be switched on or off automatically (saving money and increasing safety) as well as report faults in the system (so they are fixed quicker)
- driverless cars will rely on new 5G networks to get the information they need about their surrounding area
- smart meters can be used to report electricity usage, which can help reduce the use of power, saving money and carbon emissions
- systems in cars can report the position of vehicles automatically in case of a breakdown or crash - sensors can tell if a vehicle is likely to have crashed and the position transmitted to the emergency services or a breakdown service
- drone delivery services will use a combination of a mobile network and GPS systems to move safely and effectively - drones are being used to deliver medical products, including blood and vaccines in Ghana, a country in West Africa
A number of these link to the autonomous vehicles section of this unit.
Some parts of the country have enough problems with getting a reliable broadband service - for example, residents of Cwmystwyth in mid-Wales who have concerns that copper-cable networks will be removed by 2025. The area is so remote that it still relies on these much slower cables and suffers significant connection issues as a result - BBC article (February 2022)
The Costs of Mobile Technologies
Network security is a major issue related to this. The controversy caused by Chinese firm Huawei wanting to be involved in the provision of 5G networks in the UK highlighted this. If we’re going to rely on these sorts of networks then they need to be 100% reliable as well - if the network goes down, what happens to those driverless cars?
How hackable are our cities? - BBC video from 2014 (so a bit out of date perhaps)
There are other issues with regard to privacy. Mobile technologies rely on knowing where you are and what you’re doing. This data should be private, but where will it be stored and who will have access to it? There have been issues with companies having access to, for example, voice recordings from systems such as Alexa. See The Google city that has angered Toronto for an even wider issue.
Networks have a significant cost to put in place and don’t yet have complete coverage. If you don’t have access to 4G you can’t do as many things quickly enough. There’s also the ongoing problem of network saturation - too many people trying to use the network at once.
Networks will tend to put in place where more users live. This means that big cities such as London will get better coverage more quickly. If systems start to rely on networks, what happens to more remote rural areas such as the north of Scotland? In these sorts of areas there may also be issues with the strength of signal due to the landscape (mountains get in the way).
If people rely on access to mobile technologies to access systems, what happens when they can’t access the network because it’s not as reliable where they are? Or what happens if they can’t afford to access the network?
24/7 access to networks also comes at other costs. If I’m expected to access my work e-mail on a phone, that can mean I’m always available to do things for work - which has costs in terms of stress and mental health. It’s easy to say that people should just ignore this, but it’s a very real issue for many people.