On Friday the International Telecommunications Union stated that by the end of the year cell phone subscriptions will reach four billion. That's billion with a B. Subscribers reached 3.3 billion at the end of 2007.
The implications of universal, unhampered connectivity to each other coupled with collective access to the internet are staggering. When you combine a pervasive, pernicious cell phone technology with affordable computers, access to the internet, throw in a few disruptive technologies such as Google, YouTube and Wikipedia, you unleash the most potent, powerful of all human assets: Knowledge.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy was right when he said, "In a time of turbulence and change, it is more true than ever that knowledge is power."
What a small world it was just yesterday. Three television networks, a smattering of FM radio stations, and door to door encyclopedia salesmen. They all provided a variation on a theme: Access to knowledge. We were at the mercy for most of our history to what "others" deemed newsworthy. Affordability was a key factor in whether or not you had access to information. If you could not afford a television, if you could not purchase a set of encyclopedias, you were left out. Dumbed down. Out of the loop.
The advent of new technologies has had a profound and wonderful impact on cultures everywhere when allowed to grow and advance unfettered.
The richest and poorest man now get the same Google results, the same access to massive, exponentially growing databases.
If you doubt just how much people want to communicate and count, consider that social networking recently surpassed pornography as the most active category on the internet. Remarkable.
While the growth of cell phone subscriptions is itself an amazing statistic, it speaks to a larger and more important lesson: communication and access will not be denied. There appears in the human condition a desire, indeed a desperate need, to communicate with others, even as the world changes each morning when we wake.
I applaud and embrace the technology that has always risen to the challenge to find a way for people to have access, to communicate, to feel a sense of identity and belonging. I especially applaud the many unacknowledged "misfits" who in garages and on kitchen tables everywhere have been able to maintain parity with the "state" to ensure people have something more than guns to protect them in a world so frightening and new.
Half the world is now connected! My friends, we're halfway there.