Mobile network systems have become essential, integral part of our existence
By Ray Perryman
Most people probably paid little attention to the fact that Aug. 16 was the anniversary of a day that has since affected all of us. On Aug. 16, 1858, England's Queen Victoria sent the world's first transatlantic cable message to President James Buchanan. Although the system quit working a month later, Victoria's efforts marked the dawning of a new age of rapid international communication.
While Samuel Morse's telegraph system had been invented a couple of decades earlier, its use had been basically limited to a few small companies in the eastern United States, as well as some English and French field commanders in the Crimean War. The personal contact between the two heads of state announced to the world the phrase that Bob Dylan popularized a century later - "the times, they are a-changin.'"
Freshmen entering college this month may not even notice just how far times have really changed since then, especially with regard to communications technology.
Though some folks are old enough to make comparisons between the old and new technologies, for many high school and college students, the new stuff is not all that new to them because it's all they have ever known. To them, we've always been able to talk to the man on the moon as he took his giant steps; today's technology is similar to air - it's always been there. The telegraph, which is derived from the Greek and means "to write far" has effectively been replaced with text messages and social networks such as Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter.
American economist Joseph Alois Schumpeter said back in 1937 that new technology slams into existing systems, often destroying them while creating new ones. That view is certainly true in terms of communications, as nowadays almost 70 percent the world's population has the capability of instantaneously communicating with people on the other side of the globe via the seemingly ubiquitous telephone.
In the summer of 2007, the use of mobile phones had reached 3.25 billion, almost half of all the people living on the planet. Within two years, the popularity of cell phones had spread from the urban areas of industrialized nations to the slums of developing countries.
With the ongoing development of satellite networks over the past three decades, which dramatically facilitated and improved global communications opportunities, mobile network systems have become an essential and integral part of our existence - and not just for talking with friends and family.
In addition to mobile phones, some people rely on the Internet for information and communication. The number with such capability has steadily climbed over the years, and, today, nearly two billion people around the world have access to the World Wide Web, an increase of nearly 1.6 billion since 2000.
With improvements in broadband penetration, greater access will undoubtedly follow. In a fashion similar to the growth in the use of handheld telephone devices, as industrialized nations approach saturation in Internet usage, the developing world will offer new avenues for fresh Internet expansion.
It is little wonder that when the "Person of the Millennium" was selected a decade ago, the consensus choice went to Johannes Gutenberg, whose movable type printing press in the 1500s began mass communications. While progress continues to be made to put the world at our fingertips, thereby enabling greater amounts of information and data to be transferred instantaneously, doors will be opened wider for the creation and fueling of new and not-as-yet visualized economic opportunities. After all, enhanced communications has been the catalyst for progress long before Google became a verb.
Dr. M. Ray Perryman is President and Chief Executive Officer of The Perryman Group (www.perrymangroup.com).