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Why Mobile Technology Is Still Going to Save the World

Nope, It's Not the 'Year of Mobile.' It's Way Bigger

By Published on . 15

Judy Shapiro
Judy Shapiro
I bet I got your attention with that one. Right? Good because I meant it. Not in the annual "this is the year of mobile"-type of chant marketers often sing. Nope, I mean that this is the pivotal moment in history when advancements in mobile technology combined with dramatic, global demographic trends have reached a level of escalating change with the potential to very literally lift the conditions of millions of people.

If it sounds kinda of far fetched -- I don't blame you. But when you dig into this a bit, you will see how this is happening right now and far faster than you might imagine. This trend made itself startlingly apparent to me recently given my recent introduction to HUM News, a news service providing verifiable news from the developing world. When viewed through the dual filters of technology and demographics, we see that this potent convergence is shaping a new reality very quickly and very dramatically.

To understand this perspective better, let's examine three macro trends that are approaching a pivotal tipping point in terms of scope, scale and market adoption.

World demographics are getting younger all the time.

  • Nearly half of the world's population (3-plus billion people) is under the age of 25 and over 85% of this group lives in developing countries (World Population Foundation, 2008)
  • This huge population is quickly using a diversity of mobile emerging technology as a way to connect. Estimates are that globally, a majority of people in the 15- to 25-year segment have a mobile device of some sort.

Mobile technology is more affordable, powerful and accessible than ever before.

  • By 2013, there will be 4.5 billion mobile users worldwide compared to a world population of about 7 billion. (Parks Associates)
  • Within developing countries, 70% of the population is under the age of 25 and mobile devices and internet usage outpaces traditional content consumption by Western counterparts. (Population Media Foundation)
  • In Africa, for example, mobile subscribers have increased from 10 million to over 200 million in just a few years.
  • The total of mobile subscribers in emerging markets is more than twice the number of mobile phone users in developed economies.

Traditional technology infrastructure gaps that previously hampered growth can be overcome with new mobile and mobile computing technologies.

  • The lack of banking infrastructure is driving accelerated adoption of digital wallets, micro-payments and alternate payments technologies worldwide delivered -- you guessed it -- via mobile technology.
  • The lack of wired telecom infrastructure is overcome by internet-based communications networks made "user friendly" via social networks like Facebook and Twitter.
  • The lack of available finances for consumer purchase of computers is mitigated by the emergence of cell phones as the primary computing platform largely focused "in the world's developing countries over the next ten years." (International Telecommunications Union, 2008 Report)

The "so what" of all these stats are obvious, dramatic and revealing. The world is skewing younger (less than 40) and they are very quickly adopting mobile technology to communicate, compute and to access more commerce opportunities than ever before.

And no better region represents this new reality than Latin America, where we can see this dramatic change taking shape before our very eyes catapulting it to economic vitality.

Generally speaking, this region has some pretty strong forces driving this transformation -- an increasingly technologically skilled labor force, deep penetration of mobile technology and accelerated internet market adoption (often delivered via wireless network BTW). For example, internet penetration went from a virtual 0% a few years ago to adoption rates that are scaling very fast. According to ComScore, the number of internet users in Mexico increased 20% in just one year (March 2008 vs March 2009), reaching 15.5 million. The same trend can be seen across the region including Brazil where there are 62 million internet users, represents about 1/3 of the population (source: IAB).

Digging even deeper into Brazil, this country represents how these powerful changes are playing themselves out on a global scale. We see that in Brazil, for example, the relatively high level of internet access created a high concentration of interconnected consumers which then created a receptive consumer market driving a significant increase in ad revenue coming into Brazil (topping $500MM). The net result of this growth engine is that seemingly overnight, Brazil became the world's 10th largest economy. The formula is simple; more access generates more revenue for more citizens (and happily their governments too).

We see these same macro forces working positively in a completely different way in Costa Rico, for example. There a company called Avventa Worldwide has opened a 500-person office as a near-shore digital production services company. According to Meg Walsh, managing director, they create and produce advanced digital marketing programs for global brands using the latest technologies in web development, flash, social and mobile. This type of company simply could not have existed a mere two years ago. The economic vitality resulting from this one company in one country is truly profound.

Connecting the dots gives us a rich, optimistic view of a possible stable world economic system where more connectivity (via mobile technology) leads to more access to information which results in higher adoption of technology which allows for a fast evolution to mobile computing which can permit the creation of commerce and economic prosperity possible at an exponential dynamic never possible before. Joy DiBennedtto, founder of HUM News, explains it this way. "A global economy starts with global visibility and connectivity. The ability to provide 'opportunity' means the world needs 'globility' of information from all countries to connect data points, access untapped resources, ideas and talent."

Nothing gets the job done better than mobile and mobile computing revolution. Do you believe?

(I gratefully acknowledge the significant contributions to this piece by Edvaldo Acir, Business Development at Fox Latin American Channels edvaldoacir@uol.com.br; and research from HUM News)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Judy Shapiro is chief brand strategist at CloudLinux and has held senior marketing positions at Paltalk, Comodo, Computer Associates, Lucent Technologies, AT&T and Bell Labs. Her blog, Trench Wars, provides insights on how to create business value on the internet.
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