Mobile World Congress: A Look at What's on Tap in Barcelona
The theme of this year's Mobile World Congress, which kicks off in Barcelona on Monday, is "Mobile is Everything" -- but that's not intended as just a feel-good marketing message. In addition to providing a launching pad for many new communication tech products, the 2016 event is putting a focus on the potential of mobile technology to improve the lives of billions of people around the world.
In fact, at the same time the Mobile World Congress is taking place, the event organizers, the GSMA (Groupe Speciale Mobile Association), will also be hosting their annual Ministerial Programme, a platform for discussing "the most pressing issues affecting the future of the mobile industry."
Organized under the theme of "Connecting Everyone and Everything to a Better Future," this year's event will focus on the role of mobile technology in global economic and social development.
The Mobile World Congress will also feature plenty of shiny new product debuts and pre-opening press events. Major launches expected this year include the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge, the LG Pay mobile payment system and LG G5 smartphone, and the Xiaomi Mi 5 smartphone, along with other new devices from HTC, Huawei and Sony.
Mobile Can Help 'Bring the Unconnected Online'
"There are about 4 billion people around the world who still don't have access to the Internet," Matthew Bloxham, head of the GSMA Connected Society, said today in a blog post on the GSMA Web site. "The majority of these people live in developing markets where fixed line networks often have limited reach, meaning that the mobile industry has a key role to play in bringing the unconnected online."
One segment of the global population -- women -- needs special attention, according to a recent study by the GSMA. Released in October, the "Connected Women 2015" report identified a strong gender gap among mobile phone users in low- and middle-income countries, with a total of 200 million fewer women than men owning mobile phones.
"Mobile phones help women feel safer and more connected, save time and enable access to key services such as mobile money and health information," GSMA director general Anne Bouverot wrote in the introduction to the "Connected Women 2015" study. "They offer a cost-effective channel for delivering services and have the potential to increase access to education and employment opportunities, an area where women are still disadvantaged in many parts of the world."
Disruption, AI and More
In addition to emphasizing the potential of mobile tech for boosting economic development around the world, expect this year's congress to also focus more attention on topics like "identity, privacy and security," Forrester analyst Thomas Husson wrote earlier this month in a blog post.
"The value for business leaders and marketers is precisely to look beyond the media headlines: understanding how mobile is disrupting businesses, discovering mobile specialists offering advanced intelligence, attribution and engagement solutions, meeting innovative entrepreneurs gathered at 4YFN (4 Years From Now) connecting startups showcase, figuring out the dynamics of the app economy, and shifting the focus of innovation from the Silicon Valley to emerging countries," he said.
Other areas that will get plenty of attention at this year's Mobile World Congress include 5G connectivity, wearables, virtual reality and artificial intelligence. Among the keynote speakers scheduled during the four days of the conference are Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Qualcomm President Derek Aberle, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich and China Mobile Chairman Shang Bing.
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