Considering that it’s barely 25 years since the first mobile phone call, the growth of the cellular phone has been spectacular. If they seem ubiquitous, it’s probably because they are, a fact dramatically highlighted by a new UN report from the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).
The report reveals that 4.1 billion people around the world – half the global population – now have mobile phone subscriptions. That’s a sharp rise from the one billion reported in 2002, and represents about 60% of the world’s population.
The greatest growth has been in Africa, where figures have risen from 2% to 28%, but developing countries in general account for around 66% of all mobiles in use. Everywhere, mobiles have surged ahead, leaving landlines in the dust – figures for them have just risen from one billion to just under 1.3 billion in the last seven years.
The ITU said:
"The spread of mobile cellular services and technologies has made great strides towards connecting the previously unconnected."
The report also noted the swift rise in Internet use, growing from 11% globally in 2002 to 23% today, although there was a discrepancy between the developed and developing countries. Globally, fewer than 5% have fixed line broadband access at home, although in the developed countries that stands at 20%. In Africa it was 0.2%.
It remains to be seen whether mobile broadband can help bridge the digital divide, but the report remains hopeful:
"Despite the economic downturn, current global ICT developments are unlikely to change drastically, given the pervasive nature of information and communication technologies."
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