Bridging the digital divide

Mobile phones have never connected us to the world as much as they do today. As the Internet of Things gains ground in developed countries, mobile phones have become an integral link in this chain. In developing countries, the growth in sales of mobile devices and the use of them to connect to the World Wide Web is showing exponential growth.

An upcoming report from telecommunications supplier Ericsson predicts that mobile subscriptions in Sub-Saharan Africa will grow by an average of 6% a year to just under 1 billion, up from the current 700 million, between now and 2023. It is important to note that the same report forecasts a 16% rise in mobile broadband subscriptions in the region, which will put these at 880 million by 2023, compared to 350 million today.

Similarly, research done by Statista shows that the majority of people in India and Indonesia use the internet exclusively on mobile devices – 70% and 67% of people in these countries, respectively.

Why it’s important

The internet has evolved from its humble roots as a mere tool of communication, to being increasingly necessary to find jobs, to keep in touch with the people in your circle, for education purposes and for business. The digital divide is the gap between those who have access to computers and the internet, and those who don’t. This divide is increasingly being bridged with mobile phones connected to the internet – and this is happening in developing nations more than anywhere else.

Take, for example, our neighbouring country, Zimbabwe. Almost half of all internet traffic in the country goes to WhatsApp, and just last month president Robert Mugabe blamed the country’s economic woes on “saboteurs of the state”. Today the country is in the midst of what would seem to be regime change, and Bitcoin rates in the country have soared.

In Kenya, the leader of the opposition recently called for a boycott of key companies, including Safaricom, and in effect also M-Pesa, the world’s leading mobile money service, to protest the outcome of the last presidential election in the country. Every year the equivalent of nearly half of Kenya’s GDP flows into M-Pesa, which makes a boycott of this kind rather challenging.

Furthermore, the CEO of Niti Aayog, Amitabh Kant, recently announced plans to make debit cards, credit cards and ATMs technologically redundant in India within the next 3 to 4 years, with mobile technologies replacing them.

The influence of mobile internet is far-reaching, and its full impact is yet to be seen in developing countries. Meanwhile the IoT is gaining traction in developed countries every day, and technology relating to mobile is getting better with the release of every new device. Not adapting will mean you’ll stay behind, no matter where in the world you find yourself.

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