HIMALAYAN NEWS SERVICE
KATHMANDU: Around three-quarters of the world’s inhabitants currently have access to a mobile phone and mobile communications story is moving to a new level, which is not so much about the phone itself but how it is used, according to a new report released today by the World Bank (WB) and infoDev, its technology entrepreneurship and innovation programme.
The number of mobile subscriptions in use worldwide, both pre-paid and post-paid, has grown from fewer than one billion in 2000 to over six billion now, with nearly five billion in developing countries.
Ownership of multiple subscriptions is becoming increasingly common, suggesting that their numbers will soon exceed that of the human population, it said.
According to Information and Communications for Development 2012: Maximising Mobile, more than 30 billion mobile applications, or ‘apps’, –– software that extends the capabilities of phones, for instance to
become mobile wallets, navigational aids or price comparison tools –– were downloaded in 2011.
Similarly, in developing nations, citizens are increasingly using mobile phones to create new livelihoods and enhance lifestyles, while governments are using them to improve service delivery and citizen feedback mechanisms, it added.
“Mobile communications offer major opportunities to advance human and economic development from providing basic access to health information to making cash payments, spurring job creation, and stimulating citizen involvement in democratic processes,” said World Bank vice president for Sustainable Development Rachel Kyte. “The challenge now is to enable people, businesses, and governments in developing nations to develop locally-relevant mobile applications so that they can take full advantage of the opportunities.”
The new report — the third in the World Bank’s series on Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) for Development — analysed the growth and evolution of mobile telephony, and the rise of databased services, including apps, delivered to handheld devices.
The report explored the consequences for development of the emerging ‘app economy’, especially in agriculture, health, financial services and government, and how it is changing approaches to entrepreneurship and employment.
Information and Communications for Development 2012 also highlighted the transformative potential that mobile applications hold for different sectors of the economy like health, agriculture, financial services and the potential they bring for stimulating economic growth and entrepreneurship in developing economies, and engaging a citizen-centric approach to the delivery of government services.
The report positioned mobile applications as more than just software code running on a mobile handset but rather highlights the need to develop an ecosystem of supporting services to ensure that mobile applications achieve their full development potential.
The report is a biannual publication of World Bank Group, and has become WB’s flagship publication on ICT policy and market trends. The first volume — Global Trends and Policies — was published in 2006 followed by the second issue — Extending Reach and Increasing Impact — in 2009.