Mobile Phones Soon To Oust Humans: A Gain Or A Pain?

by Sohini Bagchi    Sep 08, 2014

mobile apps

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has recently indicated in its new report that mobile phones will outnumber human population by the end of 2014, reaching a staggering 7.3 billion from the current 6 billion. The global population will be nearly 7 billion during the specified time. The report is interesting not only because it indicates that mobile devices are becoming more powerful generating tons of data traffic, but also because ‘end of 2014’ is just a few months away and we may have to face the reality too soon.

While mobile devices have undoubtedly changed our lifestyle and apparently brought relief to the connected enterprise, making them more efficient and agile, these have also raised concerns time and again in the area of security, connectivity and accessibility. Experts believe, as mobile phones look to outnumber human population soon, they should be leveraged carefully and effectively so as to avoid the pain and emerge gainful.

The gains of mobile

In an earlier report, analyst firm Gartner also noted that tablets will reach 1 billion users by 2015 and smartphones will also reach more than 2.5 billion around that time and its adoption will continue to surge in the enterprise.

Mark Roden, CEO of ding, the international mobile top-up provider, said mobile phones have the ability to drastically improve lives in some of the poorest parts of the world where communications are restricted. However, he warns the announcement may not be as sweet as it sounds. “No matter how many mobiles exist - they are a useless tool unless they have credit. We are excited at the growth of mobile phones across the world and our mission now, is to help ensure these phones stay topped-up,” he mentioned, adding that with more than $400 billion transferred in money remittances every year, international top-up is an easy, fast and safe alternative to support home.

Social media is yet another driver of mobile devices and vice-versa and social media giants do not want to be left behind. For example, Facebook is prepared to spend billions of dollars to reach its goal of bringing the Internet to everyone on the planet, Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said recently in his blog post. ”What we really care about is connecting everyone in the world,” he said adding that ”I believe that… when everyone is on the internet all of our businesses and economies will be better,” Zuckerberg said.

In an earlier report, Brahima Sanou, Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau said, “Every day we are moving closer to having almost as many mobile cellular subscriptions as people on Earth. The mobile revolution is ‘m-powering’ people in developing countries by delivering ICT applications in education, health, government, banking, environment and business,”

The recent ITU study has found that over 100 countries have the number of cell phone accounts exceeding their population. Russia, with almost 250 million cell phone accounts, has 1.8 times as many cell phones as people, and Brazil, with 240 million accounts has 1.2 times as many cell phones as people. Mobile phones play an important role in developing countries where, despite 60 percent of people living on less than $2 a day, the majority own mobile phones.

 “This impressive growth in mobile traffic will be driven by more powerful devices, notably smartphones and tablets, using faster networks,” says Jaideep Ghosh, Partner at KPMG.  He believes technologies such as 4G and Wi-Fi, will increase greater access to more applications, particularly data-intensive videos in the coming days.

Overcoming the pain

While on one hand, the surge of mobile devices are offering newer capabilities, the ITU report also indicates that the situation demands greater attention to mobile security, compliance and manageability of mobile devices and applications that are constantly susceptible to threat.

Holger Schulze, founder of Information Security Community on LinkedIn states that users bringing downloaded apps or content with embedded security exploits into their organization, as well as malware infections, lead to top BYOD security concerns.

Enterprises will have to invest considerably in security solutions and practices such mobile device management (MDM) and mobile applications management (MAM) as well as approach a trusted security vendor to safeguard their corporate data and network, believes Schulze.

There are other concerns too. As Osama Manzar, founder-director of Digital Empowerment Foundation said in a recent interview that a country like India might be topping the charts in terms of the number of mobile Internet users, but the country’s web ecosystem is still immature. “The challenge is to find a sustainable way to deliver attractive returns for content companies at affordable prices for consumers. India differs from other Asian mobile-Internet leaders, such as Japan and even China, where access charges generate enough revenue for operators to finance the ongoing creation of value-added services, he says.

While mobile proliferation brings exciting opportunities for businesses, OEMs, solution providers and partners, further, encouragement effort from government and academia would result in the formation of a strong mobile ecosystem, believe experts. As Ghosh comments, “The mobile phenomenon will be successful only when more lives are touched in a meaningful way.”