Business Brains

Cellphone subscriptions approach five-billion mark

Posting in Finance

One phone per person: Cheap, ubiquitous cellphone service gives rise to a range of new opportunities in every corner of the globe, from text messaging to financial transactions.

There are now almost as many cell phone subscriptions as there are people on the planet. A New York Times report by Anand Giridharadas describes how cheap, ubiquitous cell phone service is giving rise to a range of new opportunities in every corner of the globe, from text messaging to financial transactions.

"The number of mobile subscriptions in the world is expected to pass five billion this year, according to the International Telecommunication Union, an intergovernmental organization. That would mean more human beings today have access to a cellphone than the United Nations says have access to a clean toilet."

Ironically, Giridharadas concludes, cell phone adoption lags in the United States, where people are more enamored with high-end devices and computers. In addition, developing nations that lacked land-line infrastructures have leap-frogged to wireless technology via cell phone towers.

Examples of cell phone services across the globe include the following:

  • Job-hunting: Babajob, in Bangalore, India, and Souktel, in the Palestinian  territories, offer job-hunting services via simple text messages.
  • Personal finance: Services such as PesaPal and M-Pesa in Kenya convert cash into cellphone money at local businesses. "This money can instantly be wired to anyone with a phone." Such services are not common in the United States.

As mentioned previously at this blogsite, the proliferation of cell phone technology has opened up greater opportunities for workers and companies alike. For example, txteagle, which distributes work to mobile cell-phone users across the globe to handle image, audio and text-based tasks. txteagle is now one of Kenya’s largest employers, employing a 10,000-strong workforce is a network of freelancers.

Joe McKendrick

Contributing Editor

Joe McKendrick is an independent analyst who tracks the impact of information technology on management and markets. He is a co-author of the SOA Manifesto and has written for Forbes, ZDNet and Database Trends & Applications. He holds a degree from Temple University. He is based in Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure