The New Face of Globalization: Cell Phones

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Last updated April 12, 2019

A new survey from Pew Global has made it clear that of all the digital technologies that exist, cell phones are rapidly becoming one of the most universal. While people in fully industrialized nations have long assumed that everyone probably has a cell phone, the surprising thing is that nations we do not normally associate with advanced technology also have a high predominance of the devices.

In part, this is due to the simplified infrastructure needed to support cell phone use. Imagine an emerging nation whose people have very little access to phone service. Which route makes more sense: stringing telephone wires far and wide, millions of miles worth, so that every house and business can have landline service, or building the occasional cell phone tower to blanket the nation’s area with service areas? The cell phone option is both faster and cheaper in nations that have never constructed a full landline infrastructure to begin with, which is the case in much of the developing world.

Twenty-one nations were included in the survey, and of them, only Pakistan had not reached the threshold of half or more members of the adult population being cell phone owners. Even so, Pakistan was not far from that benchmark since 48% of adult Pakistanis do own a cell phone. That figure was 93% in China and a whopping 96% in Spain.

Millions more phones, of course, mean millions more opportunities to pollute landfills, but this can be avoided if consumers know about used cell phone recycling programs.