|Chapter 1:||The Evolution of Mobile Internet Communications|
probably dwarf the volumes of other Internet-capable devices, such as PCs,” wrote one anonymous participant.
There are 6.6 billion people in the world, and the United Nations estimated that 1.4 billion have access to and use the Internet (2008 figures). Wireless Intelligence, a market database, reported that it took 20 years for the first billion mobile phones to sell, just 4 years for the second billion, and 2 years for the third billion. It is expected that there will be 4 billion cell phones in the world by the end of 2008 or in early 2009; about 11% were Internet enabled in 2007, and it is expected that this could rise to 15% by the end of 2008. (It is important to remember that some people own more than one mobile phone—in 2007 it was estimated that 700 million people owned more than one—so 3 billion phones do not equate to 3 billion people who have and use mobile phones.)2
Several survey participants noted in their written elaborations to the survey question that connectedness serves humanity in so many ways that even people who are struggling to make a dollar a day in the world's least developed nations find the economics of mobile telephony to be manageable and, sometimes, even vital to their lives.
“Communication is a basic human need,” responded Howard Rheingold, Internet sociologist and author of Virtual Community and Smart Mobs. “People who are trying to scrape by have immediate need for connection to information about local labor and commodities markets. Public health and disaster relief information can be an Sms [short message service—or “text”] message away. People in Africa turned paid telephone minutes into an ad hoc, grassroots e-currency, because they had the need to transfer small amounts of money. Billions of squatters might live in slums but still ingeniously and often illegally deliver the construction and utilities services they need. There are already reasons why people at the bottom of the economic system need and can use cheap telecommunication. Once they are connected, they will think of their own ways to use connectivity plus computation to relieve suffering or increase wealth.”