Mobile internet to surpass desktop web use in four years

Within four years the number of people using mobile internet will be higher than those accessing the web through desktops.

The prediction comes from former advisor to Barack Obama, Professor Manuel Castells.

According to The Guardian, Professor Castells told attendees at a web science conference this week that the number of mobile web users would surpass the number of people accessing the internet on desktop computers by 2014.

Speaking at the Web Science: A New Frontier event at the Royal Society in London, he added that the internet was a “key technology of freedom” for those able to access it.

Castells, an adviser to Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign and, according to his biog on the Royal Society, a former member of the United Nations Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Information Technology and Global Development, predicted the world would achieve “quasi-universal coverage of internet access as my generation fades away”. 

He added that “the deepest social transformation of the internet came in the last decade with social networks”. He described social networks as “living spaces” and forecast that we had only seen the “tip of the iceberg” when it came to the number of social network users around the globe. 

He told the conference: “Increasing sociability, increasing happiness, an increasing feeling of being autonomous – all this relates to use of internet. The most important thing in this is that it’s not anonymous – this is real people doing real things, sharing things. They’re not just friends, they’re contacts also. They’re doing things together, they’re not just chatting.

“Social networks are living spaces. People share with limited emotional effort. This is a constantly networked world that evolves with human experience, and individuals choose the terms of their co-evolution. Entrepreneurs build these sites, not corporations. The important thing is that even if people go into these sites, they can’t do whatever they want. People will create another and take all their friends with them. The entry barriers are so low, the capital [outlay is] almost nothing, and [the barriers to entry are] so diffused.”

Castells said it was unlikely that Obama could have been elected if it hadn’t been for the internet. The campaign used sites like Facebook – where Obama had more than two million supporters – and YouTube to try to connect with voters.

Tim Hodkinson, head of mobility marketing in BT Global Services, agreed with Castells’ prediction, saying: “Castells is spot on, mobility is an unstoppable trend and we see this in the business and public sector worlds too.”

In a statement, Hodkinson told TechEye: “Just as social networking and mobility are transforming society and politics, they’re also transforming the way we work. 

“We use mobility and social networking extensively inside BT and we’re also helping our customers mobilise their people, workplaces and processes.

`’BT has developed a comprehensive set of mobility solutions to address the specific needs of corporate and public sector organisations in the UK and abroad. We call our approach ‘Work Anywhere’ and it embraces mobile voice and data (often bundled with traditional telecoms services), expense management to help them control the spiralling bills they’re getting from all of their mobile users using smartphones and tablets at work, flexible working, mobile security and mobile business applications.”

He said mobile internet helped companies increase productivity, offer a better work-life balance and have happier customers.