If the World Was a Village – Tech Edition

on September 3, 2014

Bob’s column yesterday brought back into attention some of the things I discussed in this article called Computing’s S-Curve. We are on the path to connect the planet via a pocket computer. This is so incredibly significant it is difficult to overstate.

In many of the presentations we give at Creative Strategies, we emphasize we are still early in the technology age. We point out that the first 25 years of computing was focused on bringing computers to business. The next 25 plus years will be focused on bringing computers to every person on the planet. Much of this is driven by Moore’s Law. When presenting to the more PC focused audiences, this is a favorite slide to emphasize Moore’s Law in bringing computing to the masses.

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We still have a long way to go but as Benedict Evan’s points out, this opportunity to connect the planet is hugely beneficial from a humanity standpoint.

So where are we in connecting the planet today? Using a range of statistics I gathered, I made a chart showing a few of my favorite data points from the point of view, “If the world was a village of 100 people, how many would be using what technology?”

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What strikes me about these statistics is only one of them is over 50%. The mobile phone (not smartphone) is in use by 63% of the global population. Many of those mobile phone users have multiple subscriptions which is why the latest data from the ITU pegs total mobile subscriptions at nearly 7 billion.

What makes the mobile phones, with 63% percent of the global population owning one, interesting is by 2020 those will all be smartphones. To help drive that transition, we now have smartphones that cost $33 dollars and we will have $10 smartphones by 2020.

Yet, we still have a long way to go. I made this chart from some new data from the TNS Connected Life survey

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This chart shows the percentage of smartphone users and non-smartphone users in each of these large global markets. I’ve added their respective population as well in order to see the opportunity for growth and scale.

As we embrace this shift, we realize how valuable these mobile phones are, particularly to those in emerging markets. Mobile phones connected to the internet have given rise to the WeChat business, Instagram businesses, Facebook businesses, and more. People like to argue you need a PC to do work. Tens of millions of consumers, and growing, in emerging markets prove this wrong every day.

As we empower billions of new consumers with pocket computers ubiquitously connected to the Internet, it is bound to have an impact on the economies of these emerging markets. Economists’ estimate bringing connectivity to a market can increase the GDP of that region anywhere from 1-3%.

The Internet has been one of the most critical and disruptive inventions of our era. Bringing the Internet to nearly everyone on the planet may be even more disruptive when all is said and done.

Connecting the Planet, Reshaping Industries

Mobile’s impact will be widespread. Note this chart from Chetan Sharma Consulting.

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There are 14 global trillion dollar industries and mobile has the potential to invade, change, and impact them all. Chetan lays out in this white paper that we are entering a new era of connected intelligence. He is correct and it will be driven by two fundamentals: the connecting of the planet via mobile devices, and the connecting of nearly everything else to the Internet.

When we state that the technology industry’s best days are ahead, it is for the reasons I touch on above and more. While we explain the next 25+ years will be focused on bringing computing to the masses, the next 50+ years will be bringing computing to nearly everything.