More than 226 million people in Africa have smartphone connections, and more than half a billion are mobile cell phone subscribers, a figure that’s expected to grow to 725 million by 2020. At the same time, 92% of China’s mainland population is expected to have mobile broadband at 4G speeds by 2018. With figures like these, it would be an understatement to say that mobile broadband adoption around the world is on the rise. But the recent trends in cell phone and smartphone ownership are just the tip of the iceberg.
As mobile and smart devices become cheaper, and more people get to experience the array of life-enhancing applications the Internet enables, mobile growth will only continue to skyrocket. A recent report by the Pew Research Center finds that smartphone ownership is surging in emerging economies, but that advanced economies still have higher rates of technology use. Here in the U.S., people use cell phones and smartphones at a rate higher than almost anywhere in the world, surpassed only by Australia, with Canada and the U.K. as close seconds.
While the digital divide remains a real stumbling block for people on the wrong side of the technology access equation, mobile adoption is helping to reduce digital disparities. By providing portable, affordable Internet access, especially for members of rural or low-income communities, mobile accessibility enables access to beneficial, and at times, life saving platforms and technologies. Even where home broadband adoption has plateaued, mobile broadband use over a smartphone or cell phone is allowing people to get and stay connected to the technologies we’ve become some dependent on for daily interactions.
Considering the profound importance of Internet access these days, maintaining affordable options of mobile connectivity is key to reducing the digital divide. Increased mobility is also essential for ensuring that people around the world can access the opportunities made possible by the Internet.