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.