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Mobile Internet: Envision the Socioeconomic Impact

February 25, 2013 - 0 Comments

I admit it; there are times when I have been shortsighted. While I try to keep an open mind about the upside potential of networking applications for socioeconomic advancement, I’ve had my share of moments where I’ve missed the obvious — by not seeing the full spectrum of opportunities for advancement.

Case in point: when I started to publish my research, thoughts and observations online I was myopically thinking that my market reach would most likely be limited to people within North America.

Of course, I knew that the Internet enabled my content to be available anywhere there was access to the World-Wide Web, but I didn’t fully comprehend the significance of finding a highly focused online community of practice across the globe.

One of the first things I shared online was a perspective about the apparent connection between long-distance phone call traffic data and international trade patterns. It occurred to me that someone with similar interests may contact me and share their point of view. However, I was not expecting an email from an economics professor in Russia.

That simple interaction — an exchange of local contacts and empirical research — expanded my understanding of the Internet as a commercial enabler, thereby establishing a pathway for me to explore the then emerging Global Networked Economy.

We’ve come a long way since those early Web experiences of the mid-1990s.

The Global Internet User Survey Findings

A worldwide survey of more than 10,000 Internet users in 20 countries, conducted by the Internet Society, has revealed some very interesting insights – in particular, within the realm of economic development and education.

“Today’s online users have high expectations for the Internet and its impact on our lives and society, while also expressing concerns over censorship and excessive governmental controls,” said Lynn St. Amour, President and CEO of the Internet Society.

Addressing Economic and Societal Issues:

  • Nearly two-thirds of survey respondents agreed or agreed strongly that the Internet would play a significant role in solving global problems, including reducing child mortality (63 percent), improving maternal health (65 percent), eliminating extreme poverty and hunger (61 percent), and preventing the trafficking of women and children (69 percent).
  • An even higher percentage of respondents agreed or agreed strongly that the Internet would increase global trade and economic relationships (81 percent), improve the quality of education (80 percent), and improve emergency response during a natural disaster (77 percent).
  • A majority of respondents felt strongly that the Internet plays a significant role in making improvements to business, science, and technology in areas such as: expanding the availability of goods and services (66 percent), allowing entrepreneurs to conduct business across all countries (65 percent), and advancing science and technology and creating a technologically recognized workforce (61 percent).

Gaining Access to Educational Resources:

  • Ninety-eight percent of users agreed or strongly agreed the Internet is essential for their access to knowledge and education.
  • More than 80 percent agreed or agreed strongly that the Internet plays a positive role for their individual lives as well as society at large.
  • Nearly 75 percent of users strongly agreed that access to the Internet allows them to seek any information that interests them.


The Next One Billion Internet Users

It has been previously reported that many of the next one billion people to connect to the internet will likely do so via a mobile network service provider. Moreover, the mobile internet demand in some of the high-growth regions will be much greater than the saturated broadband markets around the world.

According to the findings from the latest Cisco VNI Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast, the following are the key regional growth projections. In terms of mobile data traffic growth rates over the forecast period, the Middle East and Africa region is projected to have the highest regional growth rate.

Here’s how each of the regions rank in terms of growth rate by 2017:

  • The Middle East and Africa: 77 percent CAGR (17.3-fold growth)
  • Asia-Pacific: 76 percent CAGR (16.9-fold growth)
  • Latin America: 67 percent CAGR (13.2-fold growth)
  • Central and Eastern Europe: 66 percent CAGR (12.8-fold growth)
  • North America: 56 percent CAGR (9.4-fold growth)
  • Western Europe: 50 percent CAGR (7.6-fold growth)

An Unprecedented Economic Opportunity

As I’ve mentioned before, in the early days of the internet it was very difficult to practice strategic foresight – because we had few meaningful points of reference to use for comparison. Today, we can look back over time and see the apparent exponential growth patterns.

While there’s much to be learned from studying past experience, even when we base our assumptions on deep historical data the forward-looking outlook may never become totally predictable – because new use cases with accelerated adoption cycles can have a dramatic impact on market projections.

All we can do in those situations is make some initial broad assessments, then follow the trial market applications and observe the apparent outcomes. Cisco’s current thought leadership about the Internet of Everything may be one of the most useful examples of this phenomenon in action.

During the course of this week, at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Cisco and others will share some additional insights that may help us all be better prepared for what the future holds in store for us. Based on what I’ve seen announced thus far, I can imagine lots more opportunity for further advancements in the global marketplace.

What new internet-related topics are you pondering? Can you foresee the related socioeconomic impact?

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