The most prevalent technology on the planet? Well, excepting radio, it’s probably mobile, with the 5 billion mobile subscriber mark reached in the second quarter of this year. And a further 620 million subs will likely be added by 2020, taking mobile’s reach to almost three quarters of the global population, according to GSMA Intelligence in its latest Global Mobile Trends report.
Smartphones currently account for over half of total mobile connections. And as with general subscriber growth, the smartphone market is being driven by developing countries. Five markets – India, China, Nigeria, Indonesia and Pakistan – will account for more than 40% of the 1.6 billion new smartphones forecast by 2020.
However, smartphone innovation has pretty much plateaued. What’s new is that smartphones are now serving as gateways into a variety of other devices such as fitness trackers, smartwatches, connected home and virtual reality devices.
However, half of the world’s population does not have Internet access, with India and Sub-Saharan Africa accounting for 42% of the world’s unconnected – over 60% of those market’s respective populations are not yet online.
And while many live outside a 3G or 4G signal and could be considered excluded because they don’t have fast enough coverage, there are other issues. “Africa has the lowest Internet penetration…. and locally relevant content is a particular problem, with hundreds of dialects to cater for,” says GSMA Intelligence. “Basic needs such as jobs information should be prioritised ahead of imported entertainment.”
According to the GSMA’s Mobile Economy, West Africa report, mobile can also empower women, helping them feel more connected, safer, and with access to information and “life-enhancing opportunities, such as health information, education opportunities and financial services”.