An Apple on every desk and a Blackberry in every hand

26 Sep

Pop Quiz:  Of the over 6 billion people on our planet, how many mobile subscriptions exist globally? Wait for it…wait for it…give up? 4.6 billion according to the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals Report.  That means that there’s a cell phone plan for 67% of the world’s population.  But don’t let the good news fool you. Think about it…how many of your corporate enslaved friends carry around an extra Blackberry on the weekends in case “Harry” at the office can’t find the blah-blah file and needs to reach them? I see a lot of hands going up.  The bottom line is that the majority of this technology abounds in the first world while the rest of the planet continues to struggle to compete with an increasingly developed developing world.

Although, according to the Report, mobile “penetration” (creepy choice of words, fellas!) exceeded 50% in the developing world by the end of last year.  What’s more, in sub-Saharan Africa, the development community’s barometer for how well they’re doing, over 30% of the population owns a cell phone.  All these statistics tell me one thing: the land line is about to die a quick death.  Until, of course, some study comes along confirming a link between brain tumors and cell phone use.  Then, we’ll have us a good old-fashioned cell phone burning bonfire! And I’ll be forced in to taking Time Warner up on it’s Triple Play, Triple Pay plan 😦

In terms of human rights however, the real issue to be focusing on is continual access to the internet or digital inclusion as they call it.  In developing  nations, about 68% of the population has access to the internet.  In Latin America, 29%; in Southeast Asia, 14% and just 6% of the populations of Southern Asia, Oceania and Sub-Saharan Africa have access to the web.  Nevertheless, these numbers were significantly lower just five years before at around 1%.  Statistically, considerable progress is being made. 

Let’s not break our arm patting ourselves on the back just yet. There is still the problem of broadband capabilities not just in the developing world but everywhere.  In January of last year, President Obama pledged to include broadband expansion in his overall economic growth plan and has since delivered on that promise, extending funding to various regions around the U.S.  The majority of the world, however still uses dial-up internet which can run painfully slow.  The U.N. says that by the end of 2008, fixed broadband penetration (again?) around the developing world was less than 3%.  Life is hard enough in developing nations; a slow dial-up internet connection would make me homicidal!  Strengthening broadband capabilities around the globe should be a top priority for all development projects in progress or still in the planning stages.  Technological advancements in the developing world could in just a few short years achieve the same goals of development that most other projects take decades to accomplish.  Then, the world would finally be on a (relatively) even playing field…and perhaps look more like this:

and less like this:

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