Here’s to the next billion

The summary of “The Next Billion” the latest publication from Portio Research, got me thinking. The first cellphone arrived circa 1988. 16 odd-years later, in 2004, cellphones sales reached the astounding milestone of 1.5 billion people using cellphones. One quarter of earth’s population (source: United Nations Population Division) owned a cellphone. Only four years later (2004 – 2016) the figures have doubled: half of the world’s human population will have a cellphone by mid-2016.

The Portio document argues that – by and large – the first 3 billion users were able to generate high Average Revenue Per User (ARPU). The next 1.5 billion additional users (a group wrongly nicknamed “The Next Billion”) will join the digiride within the next 4 years, meaning that 75% of the world’s population will own mobile phones by 2012. Ponder this: 4.5 billion people, talking, texting, communicating across the four corners of the earth.

The Portio document makes the intriguing assertion that The Next Billion users will comes from the East (and not from Africa.) They will be much less affluent people, mostly from rural areas. When can assume that by 2017 (ten years from now) just about most persons on earth will use a cellphone.

Some of the more influential characteristics of mobile communication are:

  • Mobility: obviously, users are able to have two-way communication while they are on the go.
  • Immediacy: users can reach others and be reached immediately, anytime
  • Accessibility: it is much easier to find someone, or be found
  • Non-locative: actual physical location is irrelevant, as long as one is within reception range.

Probably not since humans found ways to harness fire and, later, the alphabet did an overwhelming majority of our species own and operate an artefact, a device, a tool in such uniformity. Of course, cellphones are highly sophisticated communication tools, allowing us to commune with each other easily and simply. This is a development of Promethean magnitude; in less then 20 years, almost every human being will have access to mobile communication. It is almost impossible to assess the social, cultural, economical and political ramifications of using mobile devices in such hyper-volumes.