The report, titled Information and Communications for Development 2012: Maximizing Mobile, found the number of mobile phone subscriptions has grown from less than 1 billion in 2000 to 6 billion now. Unsurprisingly the largest growth in recent years has come from developing nations, where there are nearly 5 billion mobile phone subscriptions. The report also found that people are beginning to own multiple mobile phone subscriptions, and is anticipating that the number of mobile phone subscriptions will exceed the human population.
The report also charted the prominence of smartphones, noting that over 30 billion mobile apps were downloaded in 2011. The press release for the report notes the impact these apps could have in developing worlds, saying, “In developing countries, citizens are increasingly using mobile phones to create new livelihoods and enhance their lifestyles, while governments are using them to improve service delivery and citizen feedback mechanisms.”
“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. The challenge now is to enable people, businesses, and governments in developing countries to develop their own locally-relevant mobile applications so they can take full advantage of these opportunities,” said World Bank Vice President for Sustainable Development Rachel Kyte.
The press release also highlighted specific examples from developing nations using mobile phone technology. India is utilizing an mGovernment program that has facilitated over 3 million interactions between the government and its citizens since the program launched in December 2010. Kenya’s M-PESA mobile payment system has turned the country into a mobile development hub. Palestine’s Souktel’s JobMatch turned the average time a college graduate spent looking for employment from 12 weeks to one week, and raised wages by 50 percent.
The full report is currently available on the World Bank website here