Government Technology
By Ulf Wolf: Citizen engagement and responsibility in the digital age.

Digital World View

August 9, 2010 By

An amazing digital world view (the mobile one) is offered in a new article by Tomi Ahonen, the UK mobile phone market guru. Well worth reading.

Among other things he points out that the world now has 5 Billion mobile phone subscribers--yes, that's Billion with a bee. Considering that the world population hovers around 6.86 Billion, that would mean that on paper at least, 72.8% of the world population now has a cell phone! By the way, it is predicted that by 2013-2014 the total number of mobile subscribers will catch up with the world population, yes, at least on paper.

This, of course, does give a slightly skewed picture since many subscriptions are not "unique" subscribers, i.e., someone with one phone may subscribe to two lines, or may in fact have two or more phones, each with a different subscription.

Still, that only accounts for about 1.4 Billion or so, leaving us 3.6 Billion unique mobile phone subscribers with at least on active account and phone.

That is a staggering number.

More Staggering Numbers

Another amazing statistic is that one in seven of the mobile phone owners on this planet now walk around with two mobile phones!

Now, if we compare the Industrialized world--Europe and North America--with the Emerging World (which used to be called the Developing World and before that the Third World), we find that 1.2 Billion people live in the truly Digitized Zone, while 5.6 Billion live on the other side of the Divide--Africa, Latin America, and the less wealthy portion of Asia.

The mobile phone penetration in the Emerging World is 59%, which leaves us 3.3 Billion subscriptions in those parts of the world. And that, in turn, means that we have 1.7 Billion mobile subscribers in that part of the world which boasts 1.2 Billion people, i.e., on average 1.41 mobile phones per capita (men, women, children of all ages). Another amazing statistic.

Digital Divide

Do these portable marvels help us cross the Digital Divide?

Yes and no.

Only 4% of the Emerging World's subscribers are on a 3G network providing high Internet bandwidth. The rest are on the 2G General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) grid, where surfing the Net is at best basic and over the Wireless Application Protocol (WAP).

World's Largest Camera Manufacturer?

Answer: Nokia.

Nokia--this incidental camera manufacturer--now boasts over 1 Billion active camera users. That is more cameras than the entire camera industry (both film and digital) has shipped since its inception 150 years ago.

Also, Nokia is getting serious about pics, including Carl Zeiss optics in its new N8 line and providing 12 megapixels technology--blurring the line between the dedicated "stand-alone" camera and the multi-function camera/phone instrument.

The Bridge

While the Emerging World (the other side of the Digital Divide) is still living on 2G and hand-me-downs (300 Million of all cell phones in use there are second hand sets), as 3G service spreads, so will the ability to properly access the Internet, and with every such access, the bridge across the gulf gains in size and distance.

Stay tuned.


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