Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Calling the World

It was about a decade ago that people were lamenting that over half the world had never made a telephone call, it revealed the sad fact of the digital divide, or at least of the communication divide that existed between the first world and the third world. The countries of the third world were simply not catching up, or were at a disadvantage.

Clay Shirky of Wired wrote:
Half the world has never made a phone call. It's a striking statistic, especially handy when underlining the seriousness of the digital divide between the Western and the developing worlds. Future South African president Thabo Mbeki cited it in a speech he gave at the Information Society and Development Conference in 1996. Vice President Al Gore said it in 1998; former FCC boss Reed Hundt said it in 2000; HP's Carly Fiorina said it in 2001; and — though they were not debating each other at the time — Michael Moore and Newt Gingrich both said it in 2001. As did Kofi Annan, secretary general of the UN, in a presentation at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Not to be outdone, Tatang Razak, a spokesperson for Indonesia's Mission in New York, raised the stakes in April: "After all," he summed up in a speech before the UN, "most of the people in the world have never made a phone call."

This is the kind of factoid that journalists call too good to check.

Let's move forward a decade and consider the most recent news release from the International Telecommuncation Union has announced that telephony growth has meant that 60% of the world has now made a phone call. From a report by the ITU, it was announced there are now 3.3 Billion mobile phones out there and the majority of the news ones are found in the third world. The report demonstrates that while the digital divide is still there, progress is being made.

When you think about it, this makes sense, the beauty of mobile telephony has to be cost, it's far cheaper to build a bunch of towers then put in the infrastructure for landlines. You have to string a lot of wire, run it into peoples' houses, to say nothing about the technology needed to establish a phone company. Consider what is required for mobile phones, towers, radio waves and phone numbers. I know that is an oversimplication, but I think you know what I mean, it's far simplier to establish a mobile network then a land-based network.

Part of the article read:
Africa showed the strongest gains over the past two years and more than two thirds of all mobile subscribers were from developing countries by the end of 2007, the ITU said.

This is 'a positive trend that suggests that developing countries are catching up," the report said.

Mobile subscription growth stood at 39 percent annually in Africa between 2005-2007, and 28 percent in Asia over the same period.

Couple this with the fact that broadband internet access is also expanding, and in some interesting places. One of those places is Senegal, where broadband penetration stands at 90%.

The second reason is that broadband is spreading quickly.
Although in a few countries broadband is offered
mainly to businesses, almost all low-income countries
are starting to provide commercial broadband services
to private end-users. While in 2001, the number of fixed
broadband subscribers represented only 15 per cent of
the world’s total Internet subscribers, this rate increased
to almost 60 per cent by the end of 2007. In a number
of developing countries, including Senegal, Morocco
and Chile, broadband subscribers represent over 90 per
cent of all Internet subscribers.

When you think about it, that is an amazing fact, so now it seems that the Internet is no longer the private plaything of the First World, but the third world is not catching on and becoming involved. Imagine how rich it will be when that expands further.

In other information and news:

I got an email today from Starbucks, touting the new Pike Place Roast coffee. Let me say, I've tried the Pike Place Roast and it is a delight. It is worth the price for a cup of Starbucks.

No comments: