A new United Nations report makes clear that broadband access is surging around the world. By the end of 2013, there will be 2.1 billion mobile broadband connections, or almost three times the number of fixed-line ones, it predicts. Some countries are already completely saturated: Japan and Singapore each had more subscriptions than people, reflecting ownership of multiple devices. Others are lagging: China had 17 mobile broadband subscriptions per 100 residents last year.
Overall, the report is well worth reading for a deep look at what it calls the “far-reaching change brought abosut by the smartphone.” It notes:
Mass connectivity via basic and advanced data access technologies seems assured, with the number of mobile subscriptions set to exceed 7 billion and overtake the total world population in 2014. Mobile subscriptions in Africa and the Middle-East alone exceeded one billion in [the first quarter of] 2013.
Of course, the downsides are also becoming clearer. We’ve have a long string of revelations about the depth of U.S. National Security Agency surveillance of the Internet and mobile communications (see “NSA Spying is Making Us Less Safe”). And in some countries, the Internet operates at the whim of the government, as we were reminded on Wednesday as the Sudanese government apparently shut off of the Internet amid anti-government protests.