According to a report from the European Information Technology Observatory (EITO), by the end of 2009, almost two-thirds of the world's population will be using mobile phones.
"The strongest growth in the use of mobile phones now comes from newly industrialized and developing countries," EITO chairman Bruno Lamborghini was quoted as saying in a press release on Friday. The number of mobile phone users in India is projected to increase by 32 percent this year to 457 million; In Brazil, by 14 percent to 172 million; and in China by 12 percent to 684 million.
Cell phone growth is slower in the developed countries, of course, where the markets are nearly saturated, but the overall global growth rate for 2009 is pegged at 12 percent.
When it comes to the smart phone segment, Japan is the clear world leader, with over 90 percent of all mobile phones connected to fast 3-G data networks, roughly twice the figure in the U.S. It is notable that Japan adopted 3-G standards starting in 2001, long before any other country, and today its phones are so advanced now that they are too sophisticated for the relatively backward infrastructure employed in the U.S. and Europe.
Writing at 160 Characters, U.K. journalist Mike Grenville has this observation about the meaning of the explosive growth in the use of mobiles: "The full implications of two-thirds of the world population using a mobile phone have hardly been understood. In a way that has never happened before in the history of humanity, we are truly becoming connected. This inter-connection is right down to the individual level and puts the power literally in each of our hands, not withstanding the attempts by some governments to filter and restrict information flow."
To which I would note that #iranelection continues to place among the top trending topics at Twitter, day after day. The titanic battle between and among the clerics who run Iran and the significant portion of its population that is tech-savvy and politically active, continues to provide a daily reminder of the power of new technologies like smart phones and social media to transform even the most oppressive societies, not to mention every single aspect of the media industry.
Thank you to Peter Brantley for alerting me to this research report.