Connecting the Mobile Dots

Chris Sleath is a Brit, that lives in Texas and is the Director Of Virtual Movements for Africa and the Middle East. One of the things I love about working for CCCI is that this isn’t all that odd ball a mix around here. Virtual movements or virtually led in CCCI speak are movements that involve remote interaction. Chris has some information that is going to help me connect the dots with some of the stuff about the proliferation of mobile devices. I was in a meeting with Chris a bit back and he had a presentation he shared with us about Virtually Led Movements. You can download it from his blog and look at it yourself if you have software that can open pptx files. I’ll give you a few highlights.

His vision is

“Building spiritual movements so that everyone who has a TV, radio, internet access or cellphone in AFRICAME knows someone who truly follows Christ.”

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Chris has put together an impressive amount of information about the penetration of various types of media across Africa and the Middle East. He also compares the way each media can fit into our strategic goals and plans. It’s pretty fascinating reading if you are interested in that kind of information on a nation by nation basis. Then Christ gets down to brass tacks. There is a lot of budgetary information next, which would probably be quite an eye opener for many. But I want to leave you with something that drives home my excitement about what cell and internet coverage world wide means.

Chris summarizes our field experience as this: In our Paris communications center 85% of the messages coming in are from internet based evangelism. TV and radio together generate the other 15%. Setting up a web site costs less than 1/10th as much as the studio and equipment required for TV and radio. Almost 600% higher response rate for 10% the cost.

Do we ditch radio and tv? No, we want to use every tool available. But we are working hard to be in the front end of what is happening with phones for the very simple reason that it is going to provide unparalleled access and impact to the people of the world. The internet and mobile phone tools we are developing will help us get going quickly, in a cost effective way so that we can build up movements that can benefit even more from radio and tv. I’ve got more to share on this, but we have a good start here.

Telecoms in emerging markets

The Economist ran a special report last month, “Telecoms in emerging markets”. As the name of the magazine would indicate, the focus of the report is on trends and their economic impact. I’m not so concerned with economics, though in very poor places I do like to see people gain the tools to improve their situation. But what really hit me as I read the report are the implications for anyone with a message they want to get out. I’m one of those people :) I’m in the information business, the Good News business to be exact.

Here are some key quotes.

In 2000 the developing countries accounted for around one-quarter of the world’s 700m or so mobile phones. By the beginning of 2009 their share had grown to three-quarters of a total which by then had risen to over 4 billion.

These are estimates because the growth rate makes it tough to get decent numbers. Here’s information on the first 3 months of 2009,

…an additional 128m signed up in India, 89m in China and 96m across Africa… India is adding the biggest number each month: 15.6m in March alone.

Those numbers are so huge it’s tough to get my head around them. On top of that consider this,

A study by the World Resources Institute found that as developing-world incomes rise, household spending on mobile phones grows faster than spending on energy, water or indeed anything else.

People in the developed world may see this as foolish since a phone could be viewed as a luxury item or something trivial. In a world lacking in other infrastructure a mobile phone represent unprecedented access to information, increased communication and a new ability to make decisions based on knowledge. The second section of the report quotes nobel prize winner Muhammad Yunus,

When you get a mobile phone it is almost like having a card to get out of poverty in a couple years.

Let’s hop to the last section of the report, “Finishing the job”. It begins like this,

How long will it be before everone on Earth has a mobile phone? ‘It looks highly likely that global mobile cellular teledensity will surpass 100% within the next decade, and probably earlier,’ says Hamadoun Toure, secretary-general of the International Telecommunication Union…

The world has been getting smaller for some time and this is that process becoming even more rapid. They estimate that “…within 5 years and certainly within 10 – every person that wants a cell phone will probably have one.”

With that outlook, how important is it that we are able to engage people via mobile devices? Following right behind it will be broadband over those service; the Internet everywhere. The entire world will literally be connected in a type of two way conversation that has never existed before in the history of mankind. We are seeing God connect people and resources to put us right at the front of this revolution in communication. I’ll have more specifics on that next post.

Coming, Going and Living

I’ve been a slacker on keeping this site up to date. Once the kids got back into school things got a lot busier. September slipped right on by and October is going too fast. God has been good and everyone is doing well. A lot of my time has been spent thinking about mobile phones, I’ll be writing more about that soon, maybe tomorrow.

Next month I’ll be in Singapore, talking about mobile phones among other things, with technology leaders from all over the world. There are some amazing things happening that are, I believe, truly game changing.

We are busy and blessed to have so much great work to do.