Mobile Future

A global “app-ortunity”

Wow.

That’s
probably an understatement when describing the recent reports about the growth
of mobile phone use around the world.  First there’s a new United Nations
study
concluding that six in ten people (4.1 billion) around the
world now have cell phone subscriptions compared with only about one billion in
2002.

The
change is most noticeable in developing countries, which now account for about
two-thirds of cell phones in use.

As if
to amplify that, a new LightReading analysispredicts that
global telecom investment will decline this year to about $300 billion but
rebound to about $350 billion by 2012.  

But
here’s the good news: In this new environment, the apps will rule.  Companies
that see this global wireless growth as an opportunity to create mobile apps for
new markets have a remarkable chance to prosper.  A few
examples:

Banking.
By one estimate,
there are about 1 billion mobile phone users worldwide who do not have bank
accounts.  The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation just donated $12.5 million to
help bring cheap mobile financial services to people in developing markets. 
Citibank is already moving into Africa with a
program that allows people to pay utility bills through their phone.
 

Entertainment. 
Today, it’s text
on mobile phones.  Tomorrow, it will be video on smartphones.  With royalty and
distribution issues being worked out, U.S. entertainment companies are
poised to be within easy reach of billions of new customers.  Not too shabby
given Tinseltown’s doldrums these
days.

Healthcare.
 Last December, a
doctor in war-torn Congo
performed a complex amputation to save a boy’s life by following instructions
sent by text message from London.  In Afghanistan, hospitals use
international wireless video consultation to assist with diagnosis, treatment
and training.  Wireless healthcare apps are a boon to medical care regardless of
whether the person using it is in the African Delta – or the Mississippi Delta.

In
every challenge, there is an opportunity.  The recent news about the growth of
global wireless is excellent news for anyone – even a couple of basement
entrepreneurs – who can write code for a popular app.  That’s what two fellows
named Gates and Allen did about 30 years ago and their company employs about
100,000 people.