Check out this hilarious 1995 Newsweek article by Clifford Stoll entitled The Internet? Bah!. Boy did he guess wrong. My favorite excerpt (my comments are in bold):
Then there’s cyberbusiness. What is cyberbusiness? We’re promised instant catalog shopping–just point and click for great deals. We’ll order airline tickets over the network, make restaurant reservations and negotiate sales contracts. Stores will become obselete. Right. So how come my local mall does more business in an afternoon than the entire Internet handles in a month? Malls are going bankrupt all over the country. Even if there were a trustworthy way to send money over the Internet–which there isn’t–the network is missing a most essential ingredient of capitalism: salespeople. Economists have been wrong this whole time, salespeople are the key to capitalism, not competitive free markets!
“We’ll have one mobile phone per child before we ever have one laptop per child.” -Inspired by Jason Grigsby, co-founder of Cloud Four, at a June 2008 presentation Web Visions event (see his blog post here: Going Fast on the Mobile Web)
There are now 3.3 billion mobile phones in use in the world, which means that 1 out of every 2 people worlwide uses a mobile phone. This makes the mobile phone the most widespread electronic device in the world. To put this into perspective, there are 900 million computers, 1.3 billion fixed landline phones, and 1.5 billion televisions. (See Communities Dominate Brands entry on Putting 2.7 billion in context: Mobile phone users)
– from Cloud Four, The Mother of all Markets
The global market penetration of cell phones is noteworthy, but the incredible rate of growth even more so. In 2000, there were about 800 million mobile subscribers (12% of the world’s population). By the end of 2008, there are expected to be over 4 billion subscribers! See a September 2008 article from the International Telecommunications Union: Worldwide mobile cellular subscribers to reach 4 billion mark late 2008 for more details. China already has the most mobile subscribers in the world (see my previous post on Mobile Phones) and by the end of 2008 the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) will have approximately 1.3 billion subscribers, or one-third of all mobile phone users. Last year, Pakistan added more new mobile connections than the USA!
The US has actually fallen behind many countries in Asia-Pacific region with only 80% subscriber penetration. President Bush made widespread broadband and mobile access a priority in 2004 (although did very little to make this happen). President-Elect Obama has also stated that access is a priority of his administration. Ellen Romer of Experian Consumer Research published a report entitled U.S. Closing Mobile Usage Gap in April 2008 with statistics on US mobile usage.
Mobile connectivity is no longer exceptional, even in rural, underdeveloped regions. Mobile phones, broadly categorized as information and communications technologies (ICTs) along with internet and landlines, enable stronger and larger social networks, increase knowledge dissemination and creation, freedom of expression, political, societal, and economic participation, and adoption or creation of new technologies. 3rd-generation networks will become the norm, making internet access possible anywhere in the world without a computer. The increase in individual access to information that the internet provides is perhaps one of the most empowering and capabilities-enhancing functions of modern technology and has the potential to transform the developing world.
Posted in technology
Tagged BRIC, cell phones, cellular, china, cloud four, development, global, growth, information access, international telecommunications union, internet, jason grigsby, mobile phones, research, technology
“This year China overtook America as the country with the largest number of internet users–currently over 250 million… In China, over 73 million people, or 29% of all internet users in the country, use mobile phones to get online.”
-Excerpt from The meek shall inherit the web, The Economist: Technology Quarterly, 9/6/2008
Mobile phones are perhaps the best example of the leapfrogging technology in the developing world. Internet usage has grown every year worldwide since the internet was born, but now that communications infrastructures have caught up in many countries, many of these new users will be accessing the web through their phones.
Many companies are already trying to leverage mobile phones to expand their markets, such as M-PESA for mobile phone based payments, Assured Labor for hiring short-term contractors, or Jott for personal productivity. Banking customers can now check balances via text message. Patients of some hospitals can receive appointment and prescription reminders via text message.
Integration of cell phones into business strategies is still new and companies have just begun to explore this. We are going to see a lot of new companies spring up, especially in countries like China and Brazil where cell phone usage is high but computer-based internet access still relatively low.