-- Humans are in the last 5 years before everyone is connected via the Net
-- We cannot predict all the new services and consequences of the planet all being connected
There are currently three billion people connected to the net. We have seen the greatest sea change in how we connect and transact in the history of the human species in the past twenty years since the net broke out of its scientific niche.
And now we are about to experience another leap forward -- in the next five years almost every human will be connected by a device to the net. Only those under one may escape being connected, although many of them will no doubt be playing with their parents' devices.
The explosion of inexpensive smartphones is unfolding at more rapid pace than predicted. I have just landed from India where there are currently more than 250 million smartphones active. I predict India will reach 650 million active smartphones within the next 24 months.
Companies such as micromax and xiaomi have been driving this fast adoption with less expensive android phones. But now a new set of competitors are disrupting the disrupters. Intex and others are now offering full android smartphones with great screens and two cameras for $40 -- and these are unsubsidized.
Unlike the U.S. and Europe where users often buy phones as part of a plan, this rarely happens in India. Most users have to buy an unlocked phone outright and then add their own SIM card.
Africa is also gaining in smartphone penetration faster than initially predicted. Here is a set of predictions from 2013 which predicted pretty fast adoption - but even these are being surpassed. Jon Evans writing in TechCrunch had predicted that most everyone would have a smartphone in Africa by 2018. The combination of inexpensive smartphones and the range of services that smartphones can provide such as payment solutions had driven smartphone penetration very high.
China will have near universal coverage of smartphones and their access to the net within two or three years. There are already more than 700 million active smartphones in China.
It is curious then that some sources still use old stats and models. This article in the Telegraph predicts that there will be only 2 billion smartphones by 2016 and then only 2.56 billion by 2018. This numbers miss the mark by a wide margin and do not take into account the new low-cost providers and the programs of many mobile operators to upgrade their customers.
While smartphones will be the primary way most people on the planet who never had access will get net access, there will be some who use other devices to access the net. Tablets continue to come down in price. Datawind offers its Ubislate line of android tablets for under $40 dollars with some models coming in at $20. These price points are convincing some governments to issue these tablets to schoolchildren in areas that never had access.
Net net, the net is growing in a non-linear way with near universal coverage coming within five years.
What kind of society will we have when 6+ billion are all connected?
Which companies are well-positioned to serve all these new users?
How will governments far when their people can instantly connect to the world?