With the need for constant communication, consumers are relying heavily on mobile devices. Globally, there are 4.1 billion mobile-phone subscribers, 61 percent of the world, and there are more mobile-phone subscribers than landline subscribers.
The International Telecommunications Union said Monday that at the end of 2008, there were more than three times as many mobile subscriptions than fixed telephone lines. Two-thirds of the mobile users are in the developing world, compared with less than half in 2002, according to the ITU's Information and Communication Technologies indicators.
Since the turn of the century, there has been an increase in mobile subscribers, with yearly growth averaging 24 percent between 2000 and 2008, according to ITU. Penetration was at 12 percent in 2000 but surpassed 50 percent by the end of 2008.
ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré said in New York last September that the billions of subscribers worldwide indicates it's "technically feasible" to connect the world and the indicators can act as a catalyst to reach an even greater target by 2015.
The mobile phone is not only the fastest growing technology in the world, it's also the most widespread.
The Haves and Have-Nots
As with the digital divide that splits countries with access to the Internet from those without, there's also a divide between the haves and have-nots with mobile devices. In developing regions there have been greater strides, with 40 percent penetration by the end of 2007.
Despite its growth, Africa lags behind other nations in mobile connections. Africa has 28 percent penetration, Asia has 38 percent, the Americas have 72 percent, and Europe has more than 100 percent.
Among developing countries, however, Africa has had the fastest growth, with one-fourth of the population now compared to one in 50 people at the beginning of the century, according to ITU.
Tole Hart, a Gartner analyst, said mobile subscribers surpassing landline subscribers was a conclusion that many anticipated years ago. "China and India were so slow and since they have exploded," Hart said. "Emerging countries have grown very quickly and have 20 percent more connections than actual subscribers."
Africa lags behind, according to Hart, because of poverty and a lack of infrastructure. "People in Africa will sabotage and dismantle wiring of cell towers," he said.
Although developing countries are making strides, they still lag behind in Internet connectivity.
The digital divide is measured by people's access to communication technologies. The penetration of mobile phones, the Internet, and personal computers are the measures used.
Internet access is still limited in several countries and, for those that have access, connections often are too slow or expensive, and oftentimes both. The digital divide is slowly closing between countries, according to the report.