A special report from "The Economist" on telecoms in emerging markets

Countries like Haiti have already benefited hugely from mobile phones. Mobile-phone access will soon be almost universal. The next task is to do the same for the Internet.

The reason why mobile phones are so valuable to people in the emerging world is that they are providing access to telecommunications for the very first time, rather than just being portable adjuncts to existing fixed-line phones, as in the rich world. For an American or a Canadian it was incremental. In Haiti it’s revolutionary. According to a recent study, adding an extra ten mobile phones per 100 people in a typical developing country boosts growth in GDP per person by 0.8 percentage points.

In 2000 the developing countries accounted for around one-quarter of the world’s 700 million or so mobile phones. By the beginning of 2009 their share had grown to three-quarters of a total of about 3.6 billion mobile phone users.

At current rates of growth it seems likely that within five years, and certainly within ten, everyone in the world who wants a mobile phone will probably have one. High-speed networks will be widespread in about every countries.

The next task is to ensure that everyone who wants to can use mobile technology to access the Internet. This will be done using low-cost laptops, or netbooks, connecting to the Internet via mobile networks. There could be 1.4 billion mobile-broadband subscribers by 2014.

Internet will be the highway of the masses!

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