Are you Mobile Ready?

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The International Telecommunication Union’s (ITU) released an interesting report this week called Measuring the Information Society 2010. This report is interesting for many reasons, not the least of which is because it contains some remarkable statistics.

According to the ITU report at the end of 2009, there were 4.6 billion mobile cellular subscriptions globally. In developing countries, mobile cellular penetration has more than doubled since 2005, from 23 per cent to 57 per cent at the end of 2009. At the same time, although Internet use globally continues to grow, only 18 per cent of people in the developing world are connected. In the developed world, this number jumps to 64 per cent. There’s a huge divide here amongst who’s using mobile, and it’s one I think we need to explore.

I pointed out a few weeks ago in a presentation to high tech Ottawa CEOs that many people in the developing world will never use a computer as we do in the developed world. Instead of accessing the Internet on desktops and laptops like most of us do in Canada, they’re going directly to mobile.  In fact, Ericsson reported last month that mobile data traffic has overtaken voice after growing 280 per cent each of the last two years.  This is due in no small part to smartphone use in the developing world, which is growing at an incredible fast pace.  Ericsson predicts that by 2020, there will be 50 billion mobile devices worldwide.

In Canada, we’re not big mobile users. Canadians lag behind the rest of the world when it comes to mobile use: just 60 per cent of Canadians use a mobile phone, according to comScore Inc. and that number hasn’t changed y much in the past couple of years. Compare that to nearly 90 per cent market penetration in the U.S. and over 100 per cent Europe and some developing countries and some pretty interesting questions emerge.

In my last blog, I wrote about how new technologies and applications in the social media world are revolutionizing society. Some of the most powerful tools on the Internet are optimized by use on mobile devices – Twitter, location-based services, etc. This week HP bought Palm for more than $1 billion, and ACER plans to launch a full line of mobile Internet devices next month.

What’s the net result of this?

Clearly, mobile is growing. I predict that soon it will be the way in which most of the world’s population access the Internet. What does that mean for Canadians? Are we going to be left behind when it comes to harnessing the real power of the Internet – how it can mobilize people in the physical world – to the rest of the world?  Are Canadian businesses ready to shift the way they communicate with their customers using mobile-ready web sites and applications?  Are Canadian businesses ready to provide applications and technology for this brave new world?  Are Canadian networks ready?  Are you ready?

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