In 2012 global smartphone ownership surpassed PC ownership and smartphones are still seeing massive growth. The obvious consequence is that many people who’ve never owned a computer are starting to own smartphones and that’s having a huge impact on the world. Almost everything will be affected - not just technology but also business, politics, and general culture. As these smartphones get more powerful and pervasive we’ll see applications that we can’t even imagine right now.

What’s not being discussed is the impact this will have on the world’s literacy rate. In 2010, the global literacy rate was estimated to be 84% but increasing smartphone ownership should drive it higher. Having something in your pocket that is both a business and entertainment device will encourage people to learn all its features. Sure one can just familiarize oneself with the various icons and key combinations to achieve certain results but I suspect being exposed to a smartphone’s potential will also serve as motivation to learn more.

Of course, this is just hopeful speculation on my part but I think we tend to view technological change through a tech filter. There’s a whole other world that’s difficult for us to imagine so we tend to not think about it too much. I had a professor, Prof Levent Orman, discuss the impact that the car had on the world. The direct effect was the replacement of horses but the long term effects were the rise of highways and suburbs and a change in American culture. Smartphones are one of the technologies that will have such an impact, it’s just impossible to know what it will be.

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