Three quarters of the globe now has access to mobile phones acording to a new report from the World Bank and infoDev. There are now more than 6bn mobile subscriptions worldwide, with many people having multiple subscriptions, suggesting that the number of devices in operation will soon exceed the human population.
The report, Information and Communications for Development 2012: Maximizing Mobile, suggests more than 30bn mobile apps were downloaded in 2011 to extend the capabilities of handsets.
World Bank vice president for sustainable development Rachel Kyte says: “Mobile communications offer major opportunities to advance human and economic development – from providing basic access to health information to making cash payments, spurring job creation, and stimulating citizen involvement in democratic processes.”
The proliferation of mobile devices signals a step-change in the way mobile technologies are used, says report author Tim Kelly, lead ICT policy specialist at the World Bank. “The mobile revolution is right at the start of its growth curve: mobile devices are becoming cheaper and more powerful while networks are doubling in bandwidth roughly every 18 months and expanding into rural areas.”
Examples include India’s mGovernment initiative in the state of Kerala which saw the launch of more than 20 apps that have generated more than 3m interactions between the government and citizens since its launch in December 2010. Kenya, meanwhile, has emerged as a leading player in development via mobile, largely due to the success of the M-PESA mobile payment ecosystem.
In Palestine, Souktel’s JobMatch service helps young people find jobs. College graduates using the service reported a reduction in the time spent looking for employment from an average of 12 weeks to one week or less, and an increase in wages of up to 50 per cent.
Report sponsor infoDev has set-up five regional labs with the Finnish Government to explore how mobile innovation can be used to fast-track development. These are located in Armenia, Kenya, Pakistan, S. Africa, and Vietnam.