Last week, as part of their Mobile Economy Project, the Brookings Institution invited me to participate in panel discussing the universal impact of mobile technology. The event highlighted how mobile technology is affecting economies, politics, education, and healthcare, and only just getting started. In my remarks, I argued three main points:
- The spread and impact of mobile technology is primarily a global phenomenon. There are 6 billion mobile connections in the world, and 5 billion of these are located in the developing world. We need to keep this global reach in mind when discussing how best to leverage mobile technology and telecommunications infrastructure.
- Mobile technology isn’t just a change agent (as the event’s title stated) but a leapfrogging agent. Outside the developed world, mobile technology has provided an opportunity to skip steps in the technology development process; mobile phones have leapfrogged telephone landlines in the developing world and completely changed the velocity of money in places like Kenya, the Philippines and Tanzania.
- The mobile web is the next frontier of growth and usage. Forecasts for 2011 to 2016 estimate that the global mobile internet data traffic will grow 18 fold. This has tremendous implications and needs to be taken into account for growing an inclusive digital economy.
These three trends show mobile technology’s impact as more than an access device to important information but increasingly an authoring device. And the important question that remains is how best to make mobile technology a tool for more meaningful and global contribution.
Check out a summary of the event “Cell-Phone Connectivity Changes Economies, Health Care, Lives Across Globe” in the National Journal and the full video of the event “Mobile Technology: A Change Agent in the United States and Across the Globe“.