ECSU profs discuss mobile apps, Turkey, Persian New Year

092718 ECSU International

Professor Mehran Elahi, a technology professor at Elizabeth City State University, discusses one of the happiest times of the year in Iran: Nowruz, or the Persian New Year. Elahi was addressing an audience at the International Forum, part of ECSU’s annual International Week, at the Gilchrist Building, Wednesday. “Basically you can think of it as Easter, Fourth of July, New Year, Halloween all at once,” Elahi said, referring to Nowruz.


By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Friday, September 28, 2018

Today’s world is built on millennia of history, ever-mixing cultures, and a panoply of mobile apps.

Those were among the takeaways from Elizabeth City State University’s International Forum, held Wednesday afternoon at the Gilchrist building. Part of ECSU’s International Week, the forum allowed a diverse group of university professors to discuss their home countries, cultural traditions and global trends.

International Week at ECSU concludes today with the annual International Fair & Dinner from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on the second floor of the Ridley Student Center.

Below is a sampling of the professors’ presentations during Wednesday’s International Forum.

Mobile Apps reach deep and wide

If Facebook users were their own country, they'd be the most populous nation on Earth, business professors Kungpo Tao and Paulette Edmunds told the audience.

Tao and Edmunds shared that factoid while discussing mobile apps and global markets. They explained mobile devices are used by growing majorities of people in industrialized nations, with China holding the most device users at 775 million, followed by India at 387 million and the U.S. at 235 million. Given the U.S. is far smaller than both those countries, the 235 million represents higher market penetration, Tao noted, adding the Chinese government's tight control over its citizens' information affects the apps available to them.

The most-used mobile apps worldwide are Facebook, at 1.59 billion users, followed by Yahoo! and WhatsApp, QQ and Facebook Messenger, Tao and Edmunds continued. WhatsApp is especially common in developing countries, where it enables easy communication among rural and/or poor populations, the professors and an audience member from Africa explained.

The professors also noted that mobile device usage varies by age and country. Young users consider Amazon even more of a “must-have” app than Facebook, and tech-savvy South Korea and Japan rely on the devices more for messaging and gaming than any other countries.

Their research even found users vary in preferred devices, with Apple's iPhones more common in developed, affluent countries versus Android devices, which may be more affordable and accessible to developing nations.

To see more of Tao's and Edmunds' research, download their PowerPoint presentation attached to the online version of this story.

Turkey at a crossroads

Turkey is at a crossroads today, business professor Ali Unal told the audience — not that that's a new development. What's now Turkey has always been in a heavily-traveled, strategically valuable location, Unal said. Its history and culture reflect not quite being part of Europe, Africa or Asia, he added.

Modern-day Turkey today still feels the impact of controversial reforms that its founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, made in the early 20th century. He forced Turkey to become a modern, secular state, disrupting 1,000-year-old traditions — even changing the country's language — and sidelining Islamic authorities, Unal recounted. Cultural and religious differences have caused tensions ever since, he said, noting Turkey has faced numerous attempted and successful coups.

Turkey is also struggling with declining performance of its educational system, as well as large income inequality comparable to that in the U.S., he said.

Turkey is also struggling with the fallout from neighboring Syria's long, deadly civil war, Unal noted. Millions of Syrian refugees have fled to the country of 80 million, he said, likening that to a small European nation trying to move to the U.S.

Despite those challenges, Unal said Turkey is a unique, beautiful country where millennia-old historical sites neighbor many modern attractions. Most tourists simply go to Istanbul, a big city worth visiting, but that's far from a complete exposure to the nation, he added.

Persian New Year: Like Easter, Fourth of July and Halloween all at once

Technology professor Mehran Elahi introduced the audience to one of the happiest times of the year in Iran: Nowruz, or the Persian New Year.

“Basically you can think of it as Easter, Fourth of July, New Year, Halloween all at once,” Elahi said. He also noted the holiday's name has numerous valid spellings.

The holiday traces its roots back to Zoroastrianism, a religion preceding Islam by thousands of years. Celebrated in Iran and other nations, it coincides with the Spring Equinox and includes many traditions and rituals to bring about a clean spirit and good fortune in the new year, he explained.

Nowruz rituals include diligent spring cleaning, setting up elaborate “haft-seen” table with symbolic items and foods, jumping over fire as an act of cleansing, and gift-giving. Heralds of the holiday include the soot-covered Haji Firuz and Amu Nowruz, the latter similar to Santa Claus.

Elahi noted that Nowruz ends with people celebrating outdoors — it's bad luck to stay home on the final day — and throwing away greenery, such as wheatgrass, grown for haft-seen.