Mobile spread, the internet, and the digital ecosystem

There is a rapid technology migration trend across the globe as users adopt smartphones and other connected devices, and shift to higher speed mobile broadband networks. It is estimated that mobile broadband connections will have reached 70 percent of the globe by 2020, which will account for a 40 percent increase from the end of 2014.

The adoption of smartphones is reaching critical mass in developed regions, with the mobile devices accounting for 60 percent of connections, mostly driven by the increasing affordability of the devices. The estimated 40 percent increase in smartphone ownership by 2020 translates to 2.9 new smartphone users.

The new mobile driven digital ecosystem

Mobile devices continue to disrupt and affect more aspects of business and consumer life, increasing the potential for collaboration. Players in the digital ecosystem, including mobile operators, existing players, and even recent entrants will increasingly begin to realize the need for collaborative innovation rather than competition in order to realize the full potential of mobile.

In 2014, revenues from apps and related products and services generated $86.3 billion in revenues, which was an incredible 26 percent increase from 2013. It is not unusual that most of this growth came from emerging markets, such as China and India. Additionally, one-third of the total global mobile developer population of 2.3 million in 2013 came from Asia.

90 percent of the global market for smartphones is dominated by three platforms and their broader ecosystems, namely Google with 1.4 million apps in its Play Store, Apple with 1.2 million apps in the Apple Store, and Amazon with 293,000 apps. They have grown remarkably in recent years, even as other operators form hubs and partnerships across the globe to boost innovation and the development of new technologies. Some recent approaches include:

  • The establishment of a new incubator partnership in Niger by Orange in May 2014, making it the third in Africa. The project titled CIPMEN is an incubator for small-to-medium businesses that will encourage innovation in Niger. It provides support from the launch phase, up to when they become stable enough to sustain their operations themselves.
  • In June 2014, Vodafone decided to move its research facility from Silicon Valley to London, where it will provide incubation and investment services for startups aimed at mobile technologies for some of the largest markets in Europe, Africa, and India.

The mobile ecosystem is driving economic progress

The trends for mobile technologies are driving economic progress and welfare universally. In 2014, the mobile sector generated 3.8 percent of the global gross domestic product (GDP), which translates to over #3 trillion of economic value across 236 nations. This figure includes direct, indirect, and productivity impacts of the mobile ecosystem, but not the broader socio-economic effects.


The mobile ecosystem has contributed to the direct employment of about 13 million people in 2014 alone, and is expected to rise to over 15 million by 2020. The industry also indirectly supported about 12 million jobs in the broader economy in 2014, and contributed $410 million to the state in the form of general taxation.


Mobile is driving innovation and the development of new services in areas such as online commerce, social networking, and digital content. This vibrant ecosystem is based on advanced mobile devices, mobile broadband networks, and an increasing range of other connected devices, like the wearable gadgets.

Business opportunities:

Mobile has led to the creation of a range of new business opportunities and services. Consumers are beginning to acknowledge the transformative potential of the Internet of Things (IoT), with an increasing number of services and launches focused on wearables and the smart home.

Opportunities for growth in emerging markets

The mobile ecosystem is also helping to provide poverty stricken, underserved, and underdeveloped regions with opportunities to overcome the socio-economic challenges affecting them, especially in areas of health, disaster response, financial inclusion, and education.

The future of the mobile ecosystem

The full potential of the mobile is yet to be realized, until more people are able to access mobile broadband networks and affordable devices and services. The unconnected population is mostly rural, with low household income, and high levels of illiteracy, creating barriers to mobile internet adoption.

With a supportive regulatory structure, the mobile sector – comprising operators, governments, regulators, and other ecosystem players – will continue to drive socio-economic progress for the benefit of local folk, companies, and governments.

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