Sent from my pocket computer. That is my signature for any email sent from my iPhone. When most people think of their smartphone they don’t necessarily think of it as a pocket computer. Yet that is exactly what this device is.
In 1949 Popular Mechanics famously stated: “Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons.” What once fit in a rather large room, now fits in everyone’s pocket.
Have we yet wrestled with the implications of this reality? I don’t think so.
1 out of 7
Today, approximately 1 out of 7 people on the planet own a smartphone. That comes out to just over a billion smartphones in use in the world. You may think 1 out of 7 sounds like a lot but in the big picture we still have a long way to go.
Bringing a computational device in the form of a smartphone to every person on the planet is a potential reality and the promise of the future. But even more profound and perhaps even more important to future of humanity be these devices to the Internet. I would argue that the Internet is the most valuable feature of any smartphone. By bringing the Internet to every person, by way of a smartphone, will drive it to be the primary computational device for more people than any other piece of hardware. For the masses in the developing world a smartphone is not just a pocket comptuer, it may be their only computer.
Over the last decade, the Internet has already transformed the developed world in ways never imagined. It has transformed how we communicate, how we learn, how we play, how we work, and how we are entertained. All these and more will continue to undergo radical transformation. But most of the innovations we can point to are all coming from first world perspectives and solving first world problems. Often, innovation from a first world perspective is generally more about convenience. From a third world perpsective, innovation will play a key role in survival.
When the developing countries get their hands on the profound power of the Internet in their pocket, it will not transform how they work, play, and learn, it will revolutionize it.
Knowledge is Power
There is simply nothing like the Internet. The collection of knowledge and information on the world wide web is unparalleled. Of course the web contains its share of stupidity but it also contains quite a bit of valuable knowledge which is more readily accessible today than at any point in history.
It is fascinating to look at this by using the analogy of good old fashioned libraries. Once upon a time in history the library (a storage facility of valuable information) was reserved for kings, nobles, and high class citizens. Over time they shifted from private access to public access. The printing press drove this shift and mankind entered into an era where knowledge became accessible in ways it never had before. I believe when the masses have the Internet in their pockets, it will have as profound of an impact as the printing press–perhaps even more.
Think about all the free knowledge we can glean from the Internet. I myself have been amazed at the things I have learned and experiences I have engaged in that came from the web alone. Things I would most likely never have ventured to try or do without the Internet at my fingertips. For example, I learned how to roof an addition on my house all to contractor code. I learned how to milk a goat, play the drums, string a tennis racket, how to tie fly fishing flies, and a plethora of other things.
Today, pocket computers are already transforming key parts of the developing world. In some cases they are providing a new tool in the fight for survival. For others they are transforming how they do business or engage in local commerce and even banking.
Agriculture is another area the mobile web is revolutionizing rural parts of the world. It is fascinating how smartphones are being used in Africa to negotiate prices for certain crops, get seasonal growing advice, and learn how to better manage their crops and grow new ones.
The health industry is being transformed as people can get treated or diagnosed remotely where doctors are scarce via the web and a pocket computer. In some areas doctors are even remotely training and sharing information about how to fight disease and promote better health among villages.
Remember the Arab Spring? A civil uprising by freedom fighters was powered by the mobile web. What kind of activism will pocket computers empower as more and more people get the Internet in their pockets?
A first class education can be brought to any person. Or they can simply glean knowledge as I did on subject matters of interest which is freely accessible online.
On every continent the mobile web is positioned to revolutionize banking, health, activism, disaster management, education, communication, and even entertainment.
Future generations from every part of the globe will grow up drastically different then the generation before them. Some parts of the world have gone from poverty to at least middle class luxury in less than 10 years. Many of them have been in China. Parts of India and Africa are equally undergoing drastic changes and accelerated growth thanks to technology. Many of us will watch as before our very eyes some of the largest populations and societies will be transformed by pocket computers and the Internet which will power them.
The Internet revolution will cause more profound global change than the industrial revolution ever did. And the crazy thing is, we have barely started this quest to bring the Internet to everyone on the planet and give them the power of a PC in a device that fits in their pocket.