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5 billion mobile phones by the end of 2010 -- but where are the apps and games?

A research group has just released an astonishing figure: at the end of the first quarter, 2010, there were 4.8 billion mobile phone connections across the world. The same report says that by the end of the year there will be no less than 5 billion connected mobile phones.

To put this into perspective: there are only 7 billion souls on this planet. That means 71% of the entire world has a mobile phone -- a computer, a potential lifeline -- in their pocket.

As you'd expect, those missing 2 billion are mostly from the developing and third world, namely Africa and the Asia-Pacific regions. But those are also the areas of fastest growth -- just last year, India and Indonesia have connected 150 million new phones. If adoption continues at such a rate, which it surely must, we will soon have a world where everyone, except newborn children, has a mobile phone in their pocket.

But where is the software? Where are the games?

There are families with 10 children, living in mud huts with no running water -- but they have a mobile phone. Instead of water wells dotting the horizon there are telephone pylons. Try to get your head around this picture: a child, unfed and uneducated, slumped against a ramshackle outhouse somewhere in sub-Saharan Africa. He's playing Snake on his Nokia phone.

Now, I'm sure running water and schooling would be a better long-term solution, but wouldn't it be great if people living tough lives in even tougher conditions had a better array of games and apps on their 'dumbphone'?

We're pouring billions of dollars into 3D games and gee-whiz apps that simulate the drinking of beer or the sound of a pistol being fired. What if we spent a little more on text-based educational games for children, or apps that assist in agricultural planning? How about an English-Their Language dictionary? The Bible?

I don't actually know what games and apps would be well-received in developing countries. Nokia, Ericsson, LG and Samsung, please find out. You might not make a lot of money, but you would be doing the world a huge favor.
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Tags: apps, asia, asia-pacific, cellular, connectivity, developing world, DevelopingWorld, games, mobile, phone, sub-saharan africa, Sub-saharanAfrica, third world, ThirdWorld, world

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