A few weeks ago I was doing a workshop with a telecoms company. We were looking at some of their thoughts around global expansion, especially into developing markets and across Africa.
Then they showed me something that is going to change the world. It’s pictured below. It is a fully functioning smartphone that costs about US$ 35 per unit. Hauwei, the Chinese mobile phone manufacturer has indicated that one of their key focus areas is on capturing the “bottom of the pyramid” mobile phone users, but I had always had a number of about $ 100 in mind. This is still quite expensive for someone living in poverty. But a $ 35 phone is accessible to almost anyone (it would be provided for free on a small contract). This is the future. But it’s happening now.
Add to that the fact that Google is investing about $ 1 billion into over 180 satellites that are aimed at bringing Internet access to the world’s unconnected (and poor). Wired and the Wall Street Journal recently reported that as part of Google’s recent acquisitions and hiring spree, it brought on board Greg Wyler, the founder of a satellite communications startup called O3b, as well as its chief technology officer. Google was an early investor in O3b, which was working on improving broadband access using satellites. Wyler has a team of between ten and 20 engineers with a background in satellites working on the project at Google.
Facebook are also working on this, as part of a coalition aiming to connect a further 3 billion people to the Internet. Read about it here.
If we can get the world’s poor connected to the Internet with cheap hardware, affordable data plans and reliable technology, we will change the world.
We truly do live at a moment of disruptive change in history. I wonder if we’re anywhere near ready for all of this?