Of course, I did not expect my piece on the end of the Digital Divide as we know it to go unchallenged. Arthur Goldstuck popped in for an e-visit: “The mobile subscriber data is misleading, as it refers to mobile accounts or connections, not users,” he wrote.
“It is the same basis on which South African networks are able to claim 42-million customers out of a population of 48-million. Clearly an absurd proposition. Our research shows around 32 million individuals with 42-million accounts/connections. That said, even if 74% of the world’s population WERE using cellphones, the remaining 26% still represents a massive digital divide.” Goldstuck promised to elaborate further on the definition of Digital Divide soon.
I zoomed over to Portio Research’s John White, who had this to say about the way they define Mobile subscriber numbers: “Generally, we count active SIMs, and we consider active as being used within 3 months, but, of course there is some room for variance, depending on what figures operators themselves publish or report to us when we interview them. When running spot-checks on operator numbers, we are governed by the figures they give us, and as we are all aware, many individuals and companies around the world count their subscribers/subscriptions by a number of different criteria. We refer to “total subscribers” for a network/country or globally, as a count of the total number of active subscriptions those networks have, and as such this can cause a slight distortion of any country-penetration rate.”
The issue is far from setteled. I, for one, am intrigued by Goldstuck’s figures, showing that 32 million users hold 42 accounts/connections. White has similar experiences from a certain Middle Eastern country – “we recently noted that penetration has reached 197% in [that country]. Can you believe that, it seems so high, we have to question if everyone [there] really has 2 subscriptions, or is there some poor reporting of prepaid accounts that are not being used? It’s hard to know, so we report the numbers we are given.”
The fact that so many people hold (or appear to be holding) several mobile accounts flies in the face of balnket division such as Have’s and Have Not’s. To my mind, holding multple mobile devices is an indicating of digeracy – even if it is the most basic form of digeracy. Digeracy is the term that replaces so-called ‘digital literacy.’ Digeracy denotes much more than the ability to read (dictionary definition of ‘literate’.) Digerate persons can seek, obtain, understand, evaluate, store, retrieve, create or re-create information in multiple formats though various electronic digital devices, using various channels, such as the Internet.
I feel that even with 50% of the world using a cellphone, life will get really exciting. The permutations of possible communication nodes are astronomical-personally, I would consider this an invreasingly digitally undivided universe.