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mocoNews - Report: 4.1 Billion Mobile Subscribers Worldwide Helps Reduce Digital Divide (Slightly)

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James Quintana Pearce
mocoNews.net
Monday, March 2, 2009; 7:00 PM

There are now 4.1 billion mobile subscriptions in the world, a global penetration rate of 61.1 percent: This compares to 1.270 billion fixed line subscribers, corresponding to a penetration rate of 18.9 percent. The really impressive part is the growth rate of mobile subscribers over the last 10 years, which can be seen in the graph below. These figures were released by the International Telecommunication Union, which released its ICT Development Index (IDI) for 2008.

The index includes access and use of fixed and mobile telephony and households with computers and internet, and found that access is growing much faster than actual usage. The strong increase in the number of mobile subscribers in developing countries has helped narrow the gap between countries in the "high" ICT group and those in the other groups. Mobile isn't the only thing increasing countries' rankings though?strong movers such as Pakistan, Saudia Arabia, China and Viet Nam also have an an increase in internet users.

There has been a lot of talk about the benefits of mobile technology to developing countries, and the uptake has been rapid (Reuters notes that "while just 1 in 50 Africans had a mobile in the year 2000, now 28 percent have a cellular subscription"), but while voice calls and text are incredibly useful the real benefits will come from more sophisticated digital technologies?and they are on the way?thinks like mobile banking, mobile health assistance and so on are just beginning to take off, and the next ICT Development Index should show a strong increase in the level of access to digital information and services through the mobile networks in developing countries. However, it seems to combine different types of digital access, so I think it needs to be careful to take into account people that access the web and digital services only through mobile devices, but nevertheless have access to the services they need and want. ITU Release.

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