WEF: The Future of Mobile Communication

At the upcoming Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos 2009 the future of mobile communication is one out of many challenging topics at this years Global Agenda. You can be also part of the discussion by joining the Davos Debates on Youtube.

Future of Mobile Communications
Excerpt from the Global Agenda 2009

Eric Schmidt, Chairman of the Executive Committee and Chief Executive Officer, Google, USA, captured during the session 'Convergence on the Move' at the Annual Meeting 2007 of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 26, 2007. Approximately 60% of the world’s population has a mobile device used predominately for voice communication;data still remains a small component. Mobile communications are a delivery and transactional vehicle that fosters job creation in emerging economies and can transform other industries such as health, banking oreducation. Adirect correlation exists between increased mobile phone penetration and increased macro-and micro-economic development.

The vision for the future of mobile communications is a fully interconnected world where every citizen will access, create and use content. This is the fastest growing technology in the history of mankind and is also the most effective technology known to date to enable individuals, particularly those at the base of the pyramid, to participate in the global economy.

The Davos Conversation Corner run by YouTube at the Annual Meeting 2008 of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 21, 2008. The nearly 4 billion mobile phone subscribers in the world are realizing multiple macro- and micro-economic and social benefits. This will only continue as more individuals become connected to the global economy and more products and services are deployed. Council Members coined the phrase “Humanity’s Nervous System” to describe this interconnected and highly personalized world.

As an industry, mobile communications are relatively recession-proof and will continue to experience growth, create jobs and unlock innovation. Economic crises result in change – as such, mobile communications will play a huge role in reducing current inefficiencies and raising the productivity of both individuals and businesses.

Three fundamental dimensions impact the future of mobile communications:

1. Access: the ability for individuals to utilize both voice and data mobile communications ubiquitously

  • • Key enablers for access include:
    – cost reduction of services (infrastructure sharing, handset recycling)
    – a global regulatory framework with the removal of mobile specific taxes and over-
  • • Key uncertainties include:
    – whether universal access is a fundamental human right
    – whether we should strive for regulated universal access or defer to market forces

2. Applications/Platforms: the value added services and capabilities available to end-users
which would be an extension of the larger public Internet

Key applications for improving the state of the world would include health, education and financial services.

  • • Key enablers include:
    – an open and interoperable system which creates opportunities for “bottom-up”
    – the increasing sophistication of handsets and user experience
  • • Key uncertainties include:
    – why there hasn’t been greater uptake in health, education and financial service mobile
    applications given rapid global subscriber adoption
    – regulation with mobile banking and financial services
    – who pays: financing for health and education
    – the literacy challenge of those who only require a phone for voice services

3. Data Ownership (and Associated Personal Rights): the information generated and gathered on individual behaviours and transactions.
This wealth of information holds tremendous transformative potential but clear rules and
transparent regulatory frameworks are needed to ensure personal wealth creation and
the prevention of abuses.

  • • Key enablers include:
    – ownership: you own your own data
    – accountability: a “post-privacy view” using watermarks to create an audit trail of who
    uses it
    – use of anonymous and aggregated data to create new socially intelligent applications
    (i.e. health, urban logistics, government services)
  • • Key challenges include:
    – establishment of a global framework for data usage and protection
    – general awareness of this dimension and its broad and fundamental power
    – privacy and security of data and application
    – liability of data ownership or managemen
  • t

Of these issues, three are not sufficiently addressed by existing stakeholders or global governance institutions: (1) the standardization process could be streamlined to be more effective and efficient; (2) inter-industry challenges and regulatory constraints (particularly in banking, healthcare) are not sufficiently addressed; and (3) an international framework for personal data ownership needs to be created. If these issues are not properly addressed, fragmentation will continue and a unique moment in time to realize an integrated approach could be missed.

The World Economic Forum has unveiled the programme for its 39th Annual Meeting in Davos-Klosters. Under the theme “Shaping the Post-Crisis World”, more than 2,500 participants from 96 countries will convene, including a record 41 heads of state or government. Key finance, foreign affairs, trade and energy ministers will also join heads of non-governmental organizations, social entrepreneurs and religious leaders at the Meeting.

Sessions in the Annual Meeting programme related to the Future of Mobile Communications include:

  • Digital Asia: A World unto Itself
  • Power to the People — Politics in the Internet Age
  • Update 2009: Digital Convergence Continues
  • Social Computing — Transforming Corporations and Markets?
  • From Adoption to Diffusion: Technology and Developing Economies
  • Mobile Revolutions in the Developing World
  • Reality Mining: Changing Behaviour
  • Global Industry Outlook 3

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