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Over 6bn cellphone users worldwide

ISLAMABAD, July 28: Around three-quarters of the world’s population now have access to a mobile phone, and the mobile communications story is moving to a new level to how the phone is used, instead of being about the phone, according to a World Bank report.

The number of mobile subscriptions in use worldwide, both pre-paid and post-paid, has grown to over 6 billion, from fewer than 1 billion in 2000, out of which nearly 5 billion are in developing countries.

In developing countries, citizens are increasingly using mobile phones to create new livelihoods along with enhancing their lifestyles, while governments are using them to improve service delivery and citizen feedback mechanisms.

“Mobile communications offer major opportunities to advance human and economic development — from providing basic access to health information to making cash payments, spurring job creation, and stimulating citizen involvement in democratic processes,” said World Bank Vice President for Sustainable Development Rachel Kyte.

Ownership of multiple subscriptions is also becoming increasingly common, suggesting that their number will soon exceed that of the human population, says the report released by World Bank infoDev, its technology, entrepreneurship and innovation programme.

The new report, the third in the World Bank’s series on Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) for Development, analyzes the growth and evolution of mobile telephony, and the rise of data-based services, including apps, delivered to handheld devices.

More than 30 billion mobile applications or “apps,” were downloaded in 2011 — software that extends the capabilities of phones.

The report also highlights how mobile innovation labs, shared spaces for training developers and incubating start-ups, can help bring new ‘apps’ to market.

InfoDev, in collaboration with the government of Finland and Nokia, has established five regional mobile innovation labs in Armenia, Kenya, Pakistan, South Africa, and Vietnam.

It is also using mobile social networking to bring grassroots entrepreneurs together with other stakeholders in mobile hubs.

“Most businesses based around mobile app technology are at an early stage of development, but may hold enormous employment and economic potential, similar to that of the software industry in the 1980s and 1990s. Supporting the networking and incubation of entrepreneurs is essential to ensure that such potential is tapped,” said Valerie D’Costa, Programme Manager of infoDev.