My interest in South African university students and the possibilities of mobile technologies means forms part of the research we continue to do through the Access and Use Project. It also means that I continue to keep an eye on whatever stats are to be found on mobiles- in developing countries, in Africa, in South Africa, and by South African students. These stats are a bit erratic, with different levels of rigour and purpose, and certainly difficult to compare with one another. But they provide valuable indicators of the trends which frame the student experience, and changing universities.
The most evident shift is the move away from mobiles for calls to mobiles for Internet access. Really, mobiles can be redefined as sim-enabled devices. This would include tablets, which (at present) don’t even support calls, but are important because they are web enabling.
In any event, the spread of even the most humble cell phone is relevant to the growth in connectivity. The ITU (Information Communications Union) is always an invaluable source, and the 2011 Report (Measuring the Information Society ) is no exception:
The steep curve in the graph above (ITU p1) showing the global growth in cellular subscriptions is compelling, and forms a contrast to the decline in fixed telephone lines. Also of note is the recent rise in mobile broadband subscriptions.
The contrast over time between fixed broadband and mobile broadband is even more stark in this image (ITU P 1)
The cost differences are also stark. In developed countries, people pay about 2% of monthly salary for cell phone services. In developing countries, people pay about 11%% of monthly salary for cell phone services (although prices are decreasing faster in developing countries (also ITU 2011).
As for mobiles in Africa, Jenni Parker (2011 Mobile Learning for Africa) illustrates the key points beautifully:
Yes that is 500 million subscribers, and yes that is 200 million more mobile phones in Africa than in the USA (of course the USA has the kind of fixed line broadband connectivity that Africa does not have).
The fact that mobiles are used more for web access than computers is observed repeatedly, these being two examples. The first graph comes from the latest Opera State of the Mobile Web Report, which is shaped by those using Opera Mini but interesting anyway. Only in the US and Germany are there equivalents in access (with Poland being an interesting anomaly).
A related graph from MobiThinking shows the percentage of mobile users by country who frequently/never use the desktop Web: