TREND: Mobile will become the primary platform for access to information content and services which will empower new socio-economic groups through transforming access to healthcare, education and government/financial services.

Mobile has already become the primary means of accessing the Internet across the world. Increasing speeds and adoption rates of mobile broadband will transform access to healthcare, education and empower new socio-economic groups. Since 2010 mobile broadband subscriptions have overtaken fixed broadband subscriptions and January 2012 global mobile broadband subscriptions serve over a billion users (World Economic Forum 2012, page 67-68). Forecasts suggest that by 2016 more than 80% of broadband subscriptions will be mobile, with a further 1 million connections being added every day fostered by the rollout of 3G and 4G technologies (Ibid). 

According to Cisco’s Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast 2011-2016 (see page 3) by 2016 there will be over 10 billion mobile devices connected to the Internet with the Middle East and Africa experiencing a 104% increase in mobile data traffic (followed by Asia and Eastern Europe at 84% and 83% respectively). A 2012 report from McKinsey (see page 41) notes that more than 50% of global Internet users are now in developing countries and their number is projected to grow at five times the rate of users in the developed world. Most of this growth will be driven by mobile Internet access in a context 70% of Egyptian internet users, 59% of Indian internet users and 50% of Nigerian internet users primarily access the web through their mobile phones (see page 42).

This projected expansion of mobile Internet access, alongside the expanding availability of mobile content, applications and services will transform the lives of millions of people across the globe. In the field of health mobile broadband will expand public access to information, reduce costs and inefficiencies whilst facilitating remote care and communication with medical professionals – with further implications for the management of chronic disease, elderly care and the training of health workers (Qualcomm – Healthcare). A recent case study from Qualcomm shows how the Wireless Heart Health Project in China is distributing 3G smartphones equipped with cardiovascular monitoring sensors to under resourced community clinics which transmit patient heart data to heart specialists in Beijing who can then provide real time feedback to patients. In a context where the World Health Organisation has projected that China stands to lose an estimate $558 billion between 2005 and 2015 from cardiovascular diseases (World Economic Forum 2012, page 72) the benefits of mobile sponsored health services, particularly in remote or underserved areas will be substantial. For further case studies covering Egypt, the Philippines and South Africa please click here.  A 2010 report by McKinsey and GSMA “mHealth: a new vision for healthcare” (see page 5) estimates that remote monitoring through mobile devices could save $175-$200 billion in annual healthcare costs for managing chronic diseases in the OECD and BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries.

In the field of education, previously identified trends towards online learning and MOOCs will be significantly amplified by mobile Internet access. A report from the European Commission’s e-learning portal (see page 2) claims that mobile learning (or m-learning) was at the top of the agenda of leading e-learning 2012 conferences in London, Sydney, German and Switzerland. A report forecasting trends in m-learning during 2010-2015 (see page 6) predicts that the global market will rise to $9.1 billion by 2015, with the highest growth rates in Africa, Latin America and Eastern Europe. A 2011 study by the Mastercard Foundation and GSMA, focused on Ghana, Morocco, Uganda and India emphasised the “rich promise” of m-learning in a context where 75 million young people in the developing world are unemployed and many lack access to basic education and employment opportunities (see page 2).

In a survey of 1,200 young people across these countries 63% believed they could learn through even a basic mobile device, with 39% most interested in m-learning services which develop their professional skills, and 27% most interested in language lessons (see page 5). A 2011 report from Alcatel Lucent “M-Learning: A Powerful Tool for addressing Millennium Development Goals” (see page 7) highlights that while only 25% of homes in developing countries have computers, one of the most important benefits of m-learning is “its inherent capability of reaching people through devices which before long will be in the pockets of every human being on the planet”. The study also stressed that through m-learning students were able to access the most up-to-date content from anywhere through a range of video, audio and text-based applications which can be repeatedly reviewed to increase comprehension and understanding (Ibid).