There's a scary stat that I first heard at #SM4NP this year (though apparently it's been floating around for a couple of years): More people in the world own mobile devices than toothbrushes. It was tossed out at this week's BBCON and will probably continue to make the rounds for some time, because, WOW, it's a mind-blowing statistic.
There are a few things to note about this statistic, though:
- The statistic is not about smartphones, but mobile phones of all kinds.
- The statistic is about current mobile subscriptions , not the total number of smartphones in a person's possession. So just because you've owned five (or more) mobile phones in your life and a handful sit in a drawer, only the one(s) you currently have activated would be counted.
- However, people may be counted twice if they have a business and a personal mobile phone under different phone numbers. In fact, the current number of mobile subscriptions in the U.S. exceeds the U.S. population.
- The actual numbers for this stat vary (source 1) (source 2), but the point remains the same. No matter how you slice it, even with conservative estimates, more people own mobile devices than toothbrushes in the world.
- The ownership of a mobile phone isn't necessarily a sign of wealth or prosperity. "About three-quarters of the world now have easier access to a mobile phone than a bank account, electricity, or clean water," according to a 2012 World Bank report. Mobile devices are sometimes the only option for communication in certain regions.
At the end of the day, what this statistic means is that mobile MUST be a critical part of your organization's communications strategy, particularly if you have an international reach. Having an easy-to-use mobile website, including an easy way to join and/or donate to your cause on a mobile phone, is critical for your success RIGHT NOW, and you should consider whether mobile apps could be useful as well. If you haven't jumped on the mobile bandwagon yet, there is no time to waste.