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Media (R)evolutions: Skipping the landline, going straight for a mobile phone

Roxanne Bauer's picture

New developments and curiosities from a changing global media landscape: People, Spaces, Deliberation brings trends and events to your attention that illustrate that tomorrow's media environment will look very different from today's, and will have little resemblance to yesterday's.

Back in the late 1990s, a traveler from Lebanon to London would have noticed something interesting about telecommunications in the two countries: while many people in Lebanon owned a mobile, London was still accustomed to using red telephone boxes to make calls on the run.  During the Lebanese Civil War, all land-line infrastructure was destroyed, and the Lebanese leapfrogged to owning mobile phones. Fast-forward fifteen years to today, and one can see a similar pattern in many developing countries, where landlines and personal computers are bypassed for mobile internet.  

In places with bad roads or unreliable land lines, mobile phones allow people to determine price data, reach wider markets, participate in mobile money, and obtain news and entertainment.  Since poverty is linked to isolation and a lack of access to education, health services, and government services in some places, mobile phones are already having a huge impact on how people manage their lives.

The graphs come from a recent Pew Research Center study on Communications Technology in Emerging and Developing Nations and show the percentage of people who have a working landline in their house and who own a cell phone.

Landline use worldwide Cell phone use worldwide